The Russian military will acquire dozens of Su-57 fighter jets under plans announced by President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking at a meeting on May 15, 2019, President Putin discussed the status of the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet program. He noted, “The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets.” According to the Russian leader, the cost of the jets and their onboard equipment had fallen by as much as 20 percent, enabling procurement in higher volumes.
“We have agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time,” he said. A contract for the aircraft should be signed “soon.”
Su-57s as well as the Su-35S, an advanced derivative of the Su-27 family, “are in the final testing stages,” President Putin said. The completion of testing on the Su-57 will pave the way for the aircraft to start entering service with the Air Force. Later this year, Russia may also start marketing the Su-57 on international markets, under the export model Su-57E.
The Russian Air Force is presently slated to receive two Su-57s under a contract inked last year. The first jet is to arrive in November 2019, while the second should be delivered in 2020. Previous reporting from Russian state media suggested that a contract would be inked in 2020 for a further batch of 13 jets, for 15 in total, though President Putin’s comments clarify that the government had been planning on 16 over the course of the state armaments program, which runs through 2028.
Previously it had been expected that the follow-on contract for 13 jets would take around five years to execute. An amended timeline for the production of 76 jets is not yet available.
President Putin did not offer any specifics on the reduction in costs for the jets. Development costs for new systems typically run high, but units become cheaper to produce as serial production gets underway. Landing an export customer would help bring costs down further.
At present, Russia is still developing the serial engines for the Su-57 – called the “second stage” engine – meaning that present models of the aircraft feature an upgraded AL-41F1 (“first stage”) engine, rather than a clean-sheet design. The newer engine, which will boost the Su-57’s combat capabilities, should be ready for mass production beginning in 2023. Su-57 prototypes have been tested with the second stage engine, though so far seemingly only in a 1+1 configuration wherein one of the engines remains the AL-41F1, while the other is the new model.