Russia completes debut flight of upgraded Su-57, its fifth generation fighter

But, how many can it produce?
Ameya Paleja
Sukhoi Su-57s
Sukhoi Su-57s flying at Avia parade in Moscow.


Russia has successfully completed the debut test flight of the upgraded version of the Su-57, its fifth-generation fighter aircraft, Russian news agency, Tass has reported.

The Su-57 is a multirole fighter designed to take on land, naval and aerial targets and boasts stealth technology that can help its evade radars. The supersonic flight-capable aircraft also has the capability to carry a broad range of weapons and features advanced avionics systems like powerful radar, infrared search, and an ultraviolet missile approach warning system, a 1945 report said.

The Sukhoi Design Bureau at the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which is part of the state-owned tech corporation, Rostec, has been involved in the design and upgrades of the Su-57. The debut flight was conducted at the Gromov Flight Testing Institute’s airfield and lasted 56 minutes. The flight also tested other onboard equipment, which will provide artificial intelligence (AI) support to the pilot, the agency report said.

Russia's tryst with Su-57

Russia's attempts to manufacture the Su-57 date back to the late 2000s when its engines faced compressor stalls. The designers went back to older, Saturn AL-41F1 engines that were used on the Su-35s.

However, a test flight in 2010 saw cracks on the airframe, meaning the aircraft went back to the drawing board, and new composites and improved aircraft design were brought in. One aircraft crashed during tests in 2019 and the program that was supposed to go into serial production in 2017, delivered the first aircraft in 2021. The following year was marginally better with the Russian Air Force receiving two more aircraft in September 2022 and the delivery of two more aircraft expected before the end of the year.

The upgraded version that debuted this month has been dubbed Su-57M and offers the possibility of installing a second-stage engine. The codename for this project was Megapolis, Business Insider said in its report. Media reports also suggest that UAC has installed the "izdeliye 30" engines that provide a greater thrust compared to the AL-41F-1 engines on the Su-57.

How many aircraft can Russia produce?

Russian Air Force prefers a large fleet of the Su-57s, the aircraft that will put it in an advantageous position over the U.S. F-15, F-16s, and F/A-18s. To this effect, it plans to acquire 22 such aircraft by 2024 and increase its tally to 76 four years later.

However, the recent Russian aggression in Ukraine may severely impact these ambitious targets. Sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia are meant to cripple its aerospace industry. An advanced aircraft like the Su-57, which relies on AI to support functions, will need a large number of advanced microprocessors.

Since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has struggled to supply chips to its land-based vehicles. Together with restrictions on aerospace collaborations may mean that Russian 57 will struggle to fly off the assembly stage of its production. The AI capabilities of the aircraft may just remain a pipe dream.

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