Following the path of the United States Navy F-35C and China’s J-35, Russia has recently announced that it will develop a stealth carrier-based aircraft on the basis of the Su-57. Considering that the Su-57 is a twin-engine heavy fighter, the carrier-based version of the fighter built on the Su-57 design will be a fighter similar to the Su-33 and J-15. So how does its combat strength compare with the F-35C and the J-35? Will Russia be able to complete the development and research work as scheduled?
The biggest problem with the Su-57 when compared with the F-35C and the J-35 is that it is not a fighter that was originally designed for carrier-based use at the beginning of its development. When the F-35 was developed, three models was planned, that is, the land-based version known as the F-35A and the vertical take-off and landing version of the F-35B plus the Navy’s F-35C. The size of the F-35C is the largest among them, and the folding structure of the wings is also designed for easy use on aircraft carriers. The F-35 fighter jet was designed originally as an advanced fighter jet to be used for multi-role purposes. The F-35C is one of the best carrier-based aircraft in the world.
Now talking about the Chinese Carrier-Based Stealth Fighter Aircraft, the J-35, this aircraft is designed on the basis of the FC-31 jet. This aircraft is currently under its final design process and is expected to enter into mass production soon. Like the F-35C which is designed for Multirole purposes, the J-35 will be a Pure Air Superiority Fighter same like the F-22 Raptor.
Now the Sukhoi Su-57 is the most different aircraft when we talk about developing a carrier-based jet. The first two aircrafts which we discussed above are dedicated carrier-based fighters. The Su-57 was designed to be an airforce fighter. It is the first 5th-generation fighter of the Russian Air Force. At present, there is not much information available about the capabilities of the Su-57. Compared with other stealth fighters, the stealth ability of this aircraft is slightly insufficient, this aircraft cannot be compared with the F-22, which is a highly advanced fighter.
But the Su-57 also has some advantages, that is, the weight and volume of the aircraft are relatively large, the flight performance is excellent, and the special magazine design can also take into account the installation of large-sized weapons, with relatively strong attack capabilities. In theory, if Russia follows the idea of changing Su-27 into Su-33, it can turn Su-57 into Su-57K.
Currently, there are hundreds of articles on the internet which claims that the stealth ability and other capabilities of the Su-57 are insufficient. But if russia wants to convert the Su-57 into a dedicated carrier-based fighter, the biggest question here is that is russia currently capable of building a new aircraft carrier as scheduled previously? It is assumed that Russia will complete the repair and modification work of the Kuznetsov and put it into active service in the next few years, but if it is to be equipped with Su-57 carrier-based aircrafts, the jet can only take off by ski-jump aircraft launching mechanism. In order to significantly improve the flight efficiency and combat strength of carrier-based aircraft, advanced electromagnetic ejection system plus direct access to the deck must be used. The tonnage of such an aircraft carrier will reach at least 80,000 tons.
Russia still uses heavier and less capable twin-engine carrier-based aircrafts, and all the aircraft carrier construction plans announced by Russia till now are only limited to model designs due to the lack of funding and construction capabilities. Russia itself does not have much strength to build large-tonnage aircraft carriers, which means that the carrier-based Su-57 will take many years to come into actual existence. Russia is currently not in a condition to even able to develop a large tonnage aircraft carrier.
Many Military Experts believe that russia should better focus on building large amphibious assault ships of upto 40,000 tons, and should use helicopters and UAVs on the flight deck. The cost effectiveness of UAVs is better than building an entirely new aircraft carrier and plus new carrier-based fighters.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has only one aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, and it was equipped with Su-33 carrier-based aircrafts. Later, Russia retired the Su-33 carrier-based aircrafts and switched to the new and improved MiG-29K jets.