Moscow’s efforts to develop, test and procure its new Su-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter have long stalled, with numerous setbacks and delays. While progress has been made, ongoing issues appear to beleaguer aspects of this complex development process, especially following the high-profile crash of an Su-57 prototype during a test flight on December 24, 2019, in Khabarovsk region, in Russia’s Far East.
Specialists in Russian airpower frequently defend the Su-57 against critics by asserting that such negative assessments are rooted in exaggerating the merits of the United States’ F-22 or F-35 stealth fighters. While Russia’s defense ministry aims to introduce 76 Su-57s by 2027, recent reporting suggests there may well be further modifications to the platform before production can finally commence (Topwar.ru, May 15).
One likely modification relates to the aircraft’s hydraulic drive, which will be replaced with an electromechanical one. The first test flight for the updated Su-57 is scheduled for 2022.
The purpose for carrying out such an upgrade is to reduce future maintenance costs and increase the efficiency of the aircraft. The switch to an electromechanical drive will also offer greater protection to the booster.
Yet, the economic factor—reducing the maintenance costs for the Su-57—may well be crucial, since critics within the Ministry of Defense have questioned the reasons for accelerating work on the advanced aircraft, arguing that the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno Kosmicheskikh Sil—VKS) are currently well served by the Su-35, which has been tried and tested in operations in Syria. (end of excerpt)
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