Russia will deploy the Su-57, its most modern fighter jet

The Sukhoi Felon, a fifth-generation fighter commissioned in 2020, will be used by Russia for air-to-air or air-to-ground missions, according to British intelligence.

In Ukraine, Russia is not only using ancient Soviet-era tanks and guns, but is also deploying its best weapons to the battlefield, the UK says. “Since at least June 2022, the Russian Air Force (VKS) has almost certainly used the Su-57 Felon to carry out missions against Ukraine.said the Defense Ministry in a press release published on the Channel on January 9. The Felon is Russia’s most modern fifth-generation supersonic fighter, using highly advanced stealth and avionics technologies“.

The fighter, which made its first flight in 2010 and officially entered service in 2020 with Russian forces, will not fly directly over Ukrainian territory. “This mission may be limited to launching long-range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine from Russian territory.“, wrote the British. In particular, Russia risks seeing their air force flagship shot down by Ukraine, which would seriously affect their reputation. “Russia’s priority is most likely to avoid reputational damage, diminished export prospects, and the sensitive technological compromise that would come from the loss of Felon in Ukraine.», Analyzing British ministries.

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“risk aversion”

If this is important for the Su-57, this caution has been observed more commonly among Russian aviators since the start of the war. In February 2022, the first strike did not allow Moscow to destroy the Ukrainian fleet, however old and poorly supplied, and especially Kyiv’s entire air defense, which could still rely on the original Soviet S-300 or Buk systems, to which many Western short-range missiles such as the American Stingers were added. Despite overwhelming air superiority, the Russians are therefore not yet in control of the air skies and their fighters are cruising shallowly into Ukraine.

The use of the Su-57 is part of this logic, noted the UK: “This is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk aversion to its air force work.“. The Russians must have had a massive use in the front lines of their old and powerful Su-25 ground attack aircraft, not without risk as the Oryx website lists 25 Sukhois of this type destroyed – compared to around 200 in service. Su-57 destruction would have had an entirely different political impact, especially since VKS only has a dozen of these fifth-generation fighters.

Image taken by a commercial satellite of the Akhtubinsk base on December 25. British Ministry of Defence

Recent footage shows five Outlaws stationed at the Akhtubinsk Air Base, which hosts the 929th Flight Test Center. As this is the only known Felon base, these aircraft were most likely involved in operations against Ukraine», analyzes British intelligence, which published commercial satellite images dating from 25 December. “Akhtubinsk is not ‘the only known Felon base’ and even if it were, it would not constitute evidence that the Su-57 was used operationally in the Ukraine war.“, the feel of a special site War Zone who still believe thatif the Felon was used in combat, the UK MOD must have far more convincing evidence than what has been shared so far“. Another Russian air base, in Lipetsk, also received a copy of the Su-57, defense media said.

The idea that the Su-57 could be used in Ukraine is not new. To quote a “defense industry resources» anonymous, agency submission Mugs confirmed in early May that “the use of the Su-57 in Ukraine has started two to three weeks after the start of special operations“. And in October, General Sergey Surovikin, the commander of the Russian operations in Ukraine, also called Felon, explaining that the plane, which “possessing a wide range of weapons, with each exit solving the multifaceted task of destroying air and ground targets“. Russian warplanes had already briefly deployed in Syria in 2018.

A fifth-generation aircraft, the Felon is more stealthy than its predecessors even if stealth is less desirable to the Russians, who prefer the maneuverability of their aircraft, to the Americans, such as their F-22 or F-fighter.

Situation change?

The Su-57 also implements the “tactical data linkwhich allows it – on paper – to interact and coordinate with aircraft or other military equipment. “This can help provide intelligence and support other operations in real time“, comment War Zone. However, we have seen this since the beginning of the war, which we call the three “VS” – to “Command, Control, Communication– is an acute weakness of the Russian army.

The warplanes are also deploying new missiles, particularly long-range air-to-ground or air-to-air weapons that may be useful in combat from Russian territory. A Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot, quoted by American media, for example mentioned the R-37M air-to-air missile with a range of 200 kilometers, which he described as “very dangerous” weapon. The Kh-69 stealth cruise missile could also be useful to Russia for precision strikes, as Moscow struggles to renew its missile stockpile to continue its bombing campaign deep into Ukraine.

Even so, the use of the Su-57″won’t make much of a differencein the War in Ukraine, pay attention War Zoneeven if it iscombat deployment, even on an experimental basis, can provide invaluable results for Russia in terms of evaluating aircraft performance“. The question: the low number of devices, which can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the conservatism of their use. And the situation is not going to change in the short term as Russia has already ordered 76 Su-57s for delivery in 2028.

The main question lies elsewhere: beyond the tip of the sword represented by a few Outlaws, will Russia be able to deploy more of its air force? VKS has about 200 Su-30 and Su-35 fighters, modern aircraft descended from the old Soviet Su-27. And dozens of Russian bombers, threatened by Ukraine’s DCA, fired their missiles from long distances, unable to cover Ukrainian soil with bombs outright. More than the Su-57 itself, this increased commitment to Russian air assets will be one of the key challenges for Ukraine in 2023.

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