Sukhoi Su-57, formerly PAK FA, the test prototype was named T-50. This is a fifth-generation stealth fighter from Russia, designed for air superiority and strike operations.
According to a recent report by The National Interest, 10 years after the first flight of the fifth generation Su-57 stealth fighter, the Sukhoi Group is finally prepared to hand over the first batch to the Russian Army. Initially, Sukhoi intended to deliver the first batch of Su-57 fighters by the end of 2019, but due to a crash in late 2019, deliveries were suspended.
During the development of Su-57, this aircraft suffered many uncertain factors. From the beginning of 2018, India announced that it would develop this stealth fighter with Russia. At that time, India affirmed that it would solve difficulties in finance problems and trade development. However, in April 2018, India withdrew from the development cooperation plan.
Russia began the “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation” project, abbreviated to PAK-FA, in the early 2000s. The program was developed with the requirement to be able to compete with advanced Western fighters, like Eurofighter Typhoon and F-22 Raptor.
In 2002, Sukhoi overcame Mikoyan to be the winner of the PAK-FA competition. Sukhoi’s fifth-generation fighter, as we know later, the Su-57, had its first flight on January 29, 2010. Russia’s ambition is to turn the Su-57 into a successful fighter like its MiG-29s and Su-27s.
The combination of super maneuverability and the ability to perform supersonic flights, as well as a combination of advanced avionics and stealth capabilities, is intended to give the Su-57 an overwhelming advantage compared to its rivals.
In keeping with the characteristics of a stealth, supermaneuverable, supercruise capability fighter, the Su-57 was built with a substantial amounts of composite materials. The fuselage has a blended wing body, incorporates all-moving horizontal and vertical stabilizers; the vertical stabilizers toe inwards to serve as the aircraft’s airbrake.
There is a noticeable similarity between the appearance of the Su-57 and F-22 of the United States. The Su-57 is a single-seat fighter. The pilot sits in a two-piece glass cockpit, slightly higher than the nose, providing good visibility in all directions.
Su-57 has a length of 20.1m (65 ft 11 in), a wingspan of 14.1m (46 ft 3 in), a height of 4.74m (15 ft 7 in). The empty weight is 18 tons (39,683 lb) while the maximum take-off weight is 35 tons (77,162 lb).
Sukhoi’s characteristic cone nose is in front of the cockpit, where the radar equipment is located. Rectangular air intakes are located under the wings, on either side of the fuselage centerline. The airframe incorporates planform edge alignment to reduce its radar cross-section. The main wings have extended root edges, the wingtips are clipped, while the leading edges are swept. Sukhoi claimed that the design of the Su-57 reduced radar cross-section to a value thirty times smaller than that of the Su-27.
The empennage consists of two vertical tail fins, located on either side of the engine exhaust, facing out from the centerline. Two horizontal planes blend in with the main wings. The two engines are located quite far apart, allowing a large internal weapon bay and providing thrust for maximum flexibility.
Weapons are housed in two tandem main weapons bays between the engine nacelles and smaller bulged, triangular-section bays near the wing root. Internal weapons carriage eliminates drag from external stores and enables higher performance compared to external carriage, as well as enhancing stealth.
The undercarriage is a conventional arrangement like other fighters: two main single-wheeled landing gear legs and a double-wheeled nose landing gear leg.
A stealth fighter needs stealth engines. But developing a new engine is not easy. The initial Su-57s will be powered by a pair of Saturn AL-41F1 turbofans with thrust vectoring engines. The engine is a highly improved and uprated variant of the AL-31 that powers the Su-27 family of aircraft and produces 93.1 kN (21,000 lbf) of dry thrust, 147.1 kN (33,067 lbf) of thrust in afterburner, and has a dry weight of approximately 1,600 kg (3,530 lb). The engines have full authority digital engine control and are integrated into the flight control system to facilitate maneuverability and handling.
The aircraft incorporates thrust vectoring and has adjustable leading edge vortex controllers designed to control vortices, provide trim and improve high angle of attack behaviour. The advanced flight control system and thrust vectoring nozzles enabling the aircraft to perform very high angles of attack maneuvers such as the Pugachev’s Cobra and the bell maneuver, along with doing flat rotations with little altitude loss.
The Su-57 can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2 at altitude, and cruising at Mach 1.6. The range is 3,500km, up to 4,500km with two outboard fuel tanks. Extendable refueling probe is available to further increase its range. The service ceiling is 20,000m.
Would be a perfect fighter if the Izdeliye 30 engine completed
The AL-41F1 engine is only considered a situational solution while Saturn developed an engine specifically for fifth-generation stealth fighters. In the next phase, Saturn is developing the Izdeliye 30 engine to replace all old engines from 2020. This variant will have thrust up to 176 kN (33,100 lbf) with afterburner, far exceeding the engine on the US F-22 fighter. Fuel efficiency, reliability and invisibility of the new engine are also greatly improved by modern composite materials. Engine operating and maintenance costs are also reduced compared to the old AL-31F and AL-41F series.
The Izdeliye 30 is equipped with a serrated exhaust to increase heat dispersion, making it difficult for enemy infrared sensors to detect. It also gives supercruise capability to the Su-57, helping it to achieve supersonic speed without afterburner, which reduces fuel consumption and infrared signature.
Basically, the new Su-57’s engine seems very promising, it is still in the testing process. The Su-57 with the Izdeliye 30 engine carried out a total of 16 test flights, but it seems that Sukhoi is still not comfortable with the reliability of the new engines. Public demonstration Su-57 prototypes still fitted with the old Saturn AL-41F1 engine, which has proven itself.
In addition to reasons related to defense budgets, Russia also seems to have some technical problems, affecting the production schedule. The slow equipped Izdeliye 30 engine for Su-57 is considered one of the barriers that prevent this fighter from promoting its full power as designed.
The Su-57 is highly regarded by military analysts for its maneuverability, compared to rivals such as the US F-22, F-35 or Chinese J-20. But with only the engine that was fitted on the 4th generation fighter, this stealth fighter would hardly show that ability.
Experts say that the engine is one of the most important factors on the 5th generation fighter. The difficulty in the Izdeliye 30 project makes the Su-57 fighter not much different from the 4++ generation fighter, such as Su-35S, except for the only strength is its stealth.
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