Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Good riddance to Russia’s wannabe “stealth fighter” — the problem-plagued Sukhoi Su7-57 – which the Kremlin cancelled because it had neither the money nor the technology to support the mass production of this dinosaur.
The cancellation of the Su-57’s production came only 11 months after the Kremlin baptized the aircraft with the designation, Su-57, and nine years after the first flight of its first prototype. In that lengthy span of time, Russia only managed to produce 12 prototypes good only for propaganda photo shoots.
Long regarded by Western experts as a fourth-generation fighter masquerading as a stealth jet, the Su-57’s cancellation confirms the West’s worst assessments of this fighter.
At best, the Su-57 was a juiced-up, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter powered by inferior engines. At worst, it was an embarrassing symbol of the high-level corruption and bureaucratic bungling so pervasive in a Russian defense industry dominated by cronies of dictator Vladimir Putin.
Russia always bragged the Su-57 would be cheap — only $40 million per plane – compared to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which cost up to $100 million per plane when production was in its early stages.
The true cost of the Su-57, however, was placed by Western analysts at over $100 million per aircraft. This made the Su-57 the most expensive fighter in Russian and world history, more expensive than even the F-35, of which over 300 have been produced since 2006.
It was the collapse of the co-production deal with India, however, that ultimately sealed the fate of the Su-57. Without India to share the enormous cost burden of developing and producing the Su-57, cash-poor Russia was unable to do this on its own. India now shows strong interest in acquiring the F-35.
In announcing the death of its “F-35 killer,” the Russian military made the incredibly silly excuse the Su-57 was axed because it was so good, Russia no longer needed to produce it.
“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov. “The Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft.”
Borisov’s comments “could be charitably described as an unreasonably optimistic reason why they stopped production,” said Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a British defence and security think tank.
“Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter,” said Bronk.
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