Potential customers for the fifth generation Sukhoi Su-57E Felon multirole aircraft

(To Stefano Peverati)

The fifth generation Russian multi-role aircraft is attracting the attention of at least three major countries in order to complement or replace the older but still valid Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30. The nations mentioned are: China, Vietnam, Algeria.

According to Viktor Kladov, director of the regional policies and international cooperation section of Rostec, China, despite considering the national aircraft Chengdu J-20 superior to the Felon, considers the Su-57 a complementary aircraft to the J-20, by virtue of its more pronounced air-to-ground capabilities, the large internal hold and the sophisticated Directional Infrared Countermeasures System (DICS).

Beijing is also very interested in Russian weapons systems starting from the R-37M, RVV-MD air-to-air missiles to the long-range hypersonic Kh 47M2 Kinzhal and Drel guided bombs. The increase in tension in the inaccessible border areas with India, where climatic conditions and logistics prevent the use of part of the aircraft under the People's Liberation Army Air Force, forces Beijing to conduct CAP (Combat Air Patrol) missions long-range with national aircraft armed with long-range PL-15 and PL-21 missiles in order to discourage and inhibit any Indian actions. The eventual arrival of the Su-57 in the ranks of the PLAAF would go to implement the long-range defensive capabilities, in particular thanks to the Kinzhal, but at the same time offensive with a wide range of missiles and wide-range guided ammunition in particular the cruise missile Kh-59MK2.

In China, however, the interest in the Sukhoi product is not exclusively on the part of the PLAAF, the People's Liberation Army Navy would also like the Felon to be used to conduct long-range anti-ship missions thanks to the availability in its arsenal of the Kh 35E missile. The Su-57, in fact, starting from the bases placed on the artificial atolls in the East China Sea could guarantee a broad umbrella of protection for the EEZ claimed by China.

Furthermore, the PLAN would be evaluating the hypothesis of a naval version to be used on future CATOBAR aircraft carriers (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) starting from Type 003 and later in order to support the J-31 and replace the J-15 (photo).

This Chinese strengthening is of great concern to the Government of Hanoi, which according to the national press would like to purchase 2030-12 copies of the fifth generation Russian aircraft by 24 to counterbalance the gap in its air forces with the most recent and modern aircraft supplied. to the PLAAF (J-11D, J-20 and Su-35).

The Su-57Es armed with Kh 57M2 missiles would allow the Vietnamese to re-establish some parity and at the same time replace the old Su-22M3 and M4 along with the early Su-27 Flanker.

Algeria is a historic buyer of Russian military hardware: from Kilo-class submarines (Project 636M and 636.1) to the S-400 and Pantsir SM air defense systems, passing through the T-90SA and BMPT-72 Terminator 2 tanks. economic difficulties, is today struggling with the replacement of the now obsolete Mig-25 Foxhound to conclude the renewal process of the first combat line started starting from the replacement of the Mig-21 and Mig-23 with the Sukhoi-30MKA and Mig -29M / M2. According to local media reports, on 27 December 2019 an agreement was signed between Algiers and Moscow for the purchase of Sukhoi Su-34, Su-35 (photo) and also a batch of 14 Su-57s, news, however, never confirmed by neither of the two MoDs. The purchase of the Felon would constitute a further confirmation of the Algerian desire to act as a reference nation in the MENA area (Middle East and North Africa, ed) and prove itself more advanced and powerful than the Rabat monarchy, its great regional challenger.

In addition to these nations there would also be some rumors from India, which after rejecting the FGFA project in 2018, would be retracing its steps following the modernization of the Chinese air component and the development of the Pakistani fifth-generation aircraft AZM Project which make the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the pivot of Indian defense, in need of being joined by more modern carriers.

The UAE has repeatedly shown interest in the Su-57 due to US restrictions on the sale of the Lockheed-Martin F-35A and probably also to try to bring the Americans into negotiations. In fact, recently there have been some openings on the sale by the Trump administration, which could lead to proposals to buy Lightning II for the UAEAF.

In conclusion, we talk about Turkey, which after being ousted from the F-35 program, needs to replace the F-4E Terminators 2020 together with the older examples of F-16C. The images of the last MAKS 2019 (photo) with President Erdogan and a Su-57 on static display accompanied by Russian counterpart Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu had caused a sensation. A year after the media show, no contract has yet been signed between the two countries but, most likely, the Russian plane will be Ankara's only chance to have a fifth generation aircraft in the ranks of Türk Hava Kuvvetleri waiting for the TAI TF-X.

Photo: Sukhoi / Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China / US Navy / Kremlin