Politics: Russia says it’s getting Su-57 fighter jets in 2019 — but the program is still likely a failure

Russian Deputy Russian Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko announced that the country’s air force would recieve its much-hyped Su-57 “stealth” fighter jets by the end of 2019, according to Russian media.

But Krivoruchko didn’t specify how many of the jets Russia would build, and a report from The Diplomat’s Franz-Stefan Gady tracked other Russian media reports as placing the figure as low as two aircraft by the end of 2020.

Russia has built 10 prototype Su-57s for testing and even deployed two to Syria. In Syria, the Su-57s, which Russia calls a “fifth-generation multirole fighter jet,” dropped bombs on unarmed Syrian rebels and Islamists before being quickly flown back home and deemed “combat proven.”

At the time, Business Insider spoke to combat air experts who called the brief deployment a publicity stunt and a marketing ploy. This falls in line with the Su-57’s history of inflated claims.

Business Insider interviewed a senior scientist that builds US stealth aircraft who examined pictures of the Su-57 and found that Russia likely didn’t even seriously attempt to make the plane stealthy. As early as 2016, IHS Jane’s said the jet was fifth-generation “in name only.”

Since then, Russia has backed out of serial production of the Su-57, but perhaps for good reason.

Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider in July that Russia likely realized the Su-57 it didn’t have the potential — even with upgrades and maturation — to ever work out to be worth its cost with Moscow’s shrinking economy. At about $40 million a unit, Russia’s Su-57 is less than half the price of an F-35, but considerably more expensive than its other jets.

“Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter,” Bronk said.

While Russia intended the Su-57 to defeat US stealth fighters like the F-35 and F-22, which have both seen mass production and actual combat engagements, Bronk said the Su-57 doesn’t make sense in that role.

Instead of clinging to a failed stealth airframe, Bronk said Russia can simply put newer radars and better missiles on its older jets to better confront US forces.

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