Kremlin Confirms Su-57 Commitment as Foreign Orders Loom

 - January 28, 2020, 4:14 AM
Russia is currently buying 76 Su-57s for its air force, and will also receive some development aircraft after they have been upgraded. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

High-ranking officials rushed to support the Sukhoi Su-57’s manufacturer this month, claiming that the program remains on track following the crash of the first deliverable example late last year. Deputy chairman of the Russian government Yuri Borisov and defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Su-57 remains at the heart of the ongoing re-armament of Russian Air and Space Force (VKS) tactical aviation units and so the industrial program will go forward, regardless of whatever findings are made by investigators looking into the causes of the December 24 crash. “Everything is all right; [the program’s] on track,” Borisov told journalists.

Apparently, this confirmation of the Kremlin’s commitment to the program has been expedited to encourage potential foreign customers to proceed with their plans to acquire the latest Russian fighter. Following the first public presentation of the exportable Su-57E at MAKS 2019, and the statements by top-ranking politicians, including President Putin himself, about the release of export clearance for this version, a number of long-standing overseas clients for Russian defense equipment have indicated their interest.

Victor Kladov, director of international cooperation and regional policy at Russia’s Rostec industrial giant, told journalists, “China has recently taken delivery of 24 Su-35S aircraft. In the next two years or so it has to make a decision either to procure additional Su-35s, build the Su-35 in China, or buy a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. So, there is one more opportunity for the Su-57E.”

Meantime, Chinese media has published a number of articles with a positive assessment of the Su-57 and the suggestion that some should be purchased for the People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force (PLAAF). Additionally, various news outlets have recently reported on the intentions of Vietnam and Algeria to procure about a dozen each. Other nations that are said to be considering the Su-57E are Myanmar and Peru. Also, the Kremlin has offered the type to Turkey and Malaysia.

Even though India terminated the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project with the Russian industry on joint development and production of a customized two-seat version about two years ago, it is said to be evaluating an option on the procurement of a small number directly from Russia.
So far, the Su-57 has won only one major qualitative order, that from the Russian Air and Space Force for 76 airframes. They will be supplemented by a handful of experimental prototypes that are being upgraded to production standard for subsequent delivery to fighter squadrons.

Russian media estimates the value of the contract to be 170 billion roubles, ($2.75 billion). Since this sum probably does not take into account the development and testing costs covered separately, foreign customers are understood to be offered the Su-57E at around $100 million apiece, a figure once discussed between the Russians and the Indians within the framework of the FGFA project.