Russia ramps up production of fifth-generation Su-57 multi-role fighter jets

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Plant, named after Yuri Gagarin (KnAAZ), has completed its 2023 production schedule, delivering the final batch of fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 Felon multi-role aircraft to the Russian Ministry of Defense, as announced on 27 December 2023 by the United Aircraft Corporation.

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Russia ramps up production of fifth generation Su 57 multi role fighter jets 925 Fifth- Generation Sukho Su-57 fighter jet entered service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in December 2020. (Picture source: Russian MoD)

In the company's official statement, it was noted that the 2023 initiatives focused on refining the Su-57 assembly line, increasing the production volumes of serial aircraft, and resolving bottlenecks throughout the production cycle, thus enhancing the plant's capabilities. Efforts were made to address constraints in the final assembly workshop and throughout the production process. Addressing high-tech component supply issues from supplier plants and exploring assembly technology improvements have been central to these efforts.

Yuri Slyusar, CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation, emphasized the ongoing modernization within the production facilities. By 2024, several key structures are expected to be operational, advancing the implementation of prospective technical overhaul projects under the state defense industry development program, crucial for the serial production of the Su-57.

The increase in production volumes is expected to enable the Russian Air Force to intensify the use of Su-57s in the conflict in Ukraine. Its presence has been affirmed since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To recall, in May 2022, unverified reports based on anonymous sources emerged, suggesting the deployment of Su-57 fighter jets by Russia against Ukraine. These reports claimed that the aircraft conducted missile strikes, evading Kyiv's air defenses. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu later praised the aircraft's operational performance in an August interview. eRADAR sources indicated that the Russian Air Force has increasingly employed the Su-57 for missile and bomb attacks on Ukrainian military targets. This development highlighted Ukraine's urgent need for F-16 fighter jets supplied by Western nations for its defense.

In January 2023, the U.K. Ministry of Defense also stated that Russia had "very likely" used the Su-57 in its conflict with Ukraine. While these claims lack publicly available conclusive evidence, they have raised significant concerns about the impact of these advanced fighter jets on the ongoing conflict.

The Sukhoi Su-57 is a twin-engine stealth multirole fighter developed from the PAK FA (Prospective Aviation Complex for Frontline Aviation) program, initiated in 1999. The program aimed to create a more modern and cost-effective alternative to the MFI (Mikoyan Project 1.44/1.42). Internally designated as the T-50 by Sukhoi, the Su-57 is the first Russian military aircraft to feature stealth technology and serves as the foundation for a series of stealth combat aircraft.

The Su-57 is designed for versatility, capable of conducting air-to-air combat, ground attacks, and maritime strike missions. It features stealth technology, exceptional maneuverability, supercruise capability, advanced integrated avionics, and a large internal payload capacity. It is expected to replace older models like the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian military and has been offered for international export. The prototype flew in 2010, but the program faced several development challenges, including structural and technical issues, leading to the loss of the first production aircraft in a crash before its delivery.

After multiple delays, the first operational Su-57 entered service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in December 2020. As of the end of 2022, a total of 11 Su-57 aircraft had been produced, excluding the prototype test aircraft. However, the specific number of Su-57s in this latest delivery has not been disclosed.

In 2022, although international sanctions targeted Russian defense industries, potentially hampering the development of the Su-57 due to Russia's inability to import semiconductors and high-tech equipment from the European Union, it appears that Russia has found ways to circumvent these restrictions. Despite the sanctions aimed at halting the production of advanced weapon systems like the Su-57 in Russia, by barring the import of semiconductors and high-tech equipment from the European Union, Russia seems to have found means to overcome these obstacles.