Will Russia be able to sell the Su-57 fighter aircraft?

The Russian plane will not be able to attract foreign clients, foreign experts say.

Recently, the IDEX-2021 arms exhibition ended which was held in Abu Dhabi (UAE). The second event after the “Chinese COVID-19” was distinguished by a number of Russian premieres Companies from the Russian Federation presented the Sprut-SDM1 light tank for the first time and the T-14 Armata tank. The flagship of the aviation part of the exposition was the Su-57 fighter, the export potential of which this year caused controversy among experts.

su-57 fighter aircraft
su-57 fighter aircraft

Loss of the Middle East?

The authors of the Polish portal Defense24 believe that “the Middle East does not want to buy the Russian Su-57.” As proof of the thesis, experts note the interest of Middle Eastern customers in competing aircraft. So, Qatar and Saudi Arabia set their sights on the purchase of American F-35 Lightning II. In addition, Defense 24 writes that “Turkey is showing disinterest in buying the Su-57,” and also India has withdrawn from the joint program for the development of FGFA new fighter.

According to Polish journalists, this indicates that the Su-57 is lagging behind the F-35 and the Chinese Chengdu J-20 in the export market. The American aircraft has been in operation in the US Marine Corps since 2015, and the J-20 has been in operation in the PLA Air Force since 2017. This allows customers to observe the actual operation of the machines, drawing appropriate conclusions.

The Chinese Chengdu J-20 can become one of the main competitors of the Su-57 - despite the presence of borrowed design solutions.
The Chinese Chengdu J-20 can become one of the main competitors of the Su-57 – despite the presence of borrowed design solutions.

On the one hand, the first serial Su-57 entered service only in January 2021. On the other hand, the beginning of production does not give the guarantee of quality. For example, the F-35 produced since 2011 still has not got rid of “childhood diseases” – recently, the US Department of Defense canceled the start of mass production of “Lightning 2”. Officials believe the fighter is not yet ready to undergo combat tests originally scheduled for 2017. Therefore, it is too early to consider the number of F-35s produced as a guarantee of quality.

Cause for optimism

The conclusions of the Polish experts can be attributed to the political overtones that accompany the major arms deals. For example, Turkey planned to purchase 100 F-35s, but the deal was cancelled after the Turkish military bought Russian S-400 air defense systems. Therefore, countries that traditionally gravitate towards the weapons of the “Soviet school” can be added to the number of potential clients. And in this vein, the main competitor of the Su-57 is the Chinese J-20. True, for full-fledged competition, China will need a reliable engine of its own production. So far, the Xian WS-15 unit surpasses the Russian AL-31F only in terms of consumption but has a significantly lower resource.

The prevalence of Su-27 / Su-30 aircraft can create a reserve for the Su-57.
The prevalence of Su-27 / Su-30 aircraft can create a reserve for the Su-57.

On the eve of the IDEX-2021 exhibition, representatives of Rosoboronexport spoke about the beginning of consultations with individual buyers of the export modification of the aircraft – the Su-57E. According to the general director of the company, the Russian side is ready to “offer the Su-57E to Russia’s strategic partners.” These can include countries operating the Su-27 \ Su-30. It is possible that the air forces of India, Algeria, Venezuela, and Malaysia (the largest operators of the Su-27 \ Su-30) may be interested in the Su-57.

Military Watch analysts follow this thesis. In their opinion, by 2027, the production rate of the Su-57 will increase significantly, which will satisfy export demands. So, Algeria has already placed an order for 14 Su-57E, writes in Military Watch, citing their sources.

Considering these factors, the primary task of the Russian side is to establish the serial production of the Su-57. Recall that at the end of January, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant announced the transfer of the first serial Su-57, and plans to supply five aircraft by the end of the year. Full-scale serial operation will demonstrate to potential customers the results of using the Su-57, and the designers will receive the necessary material to eliminate “childhood diseases”. But delaying this process can lead to the loss of customers who will be forced to buy American or Chinese aircraft.

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