War in Ukraine

Ukraine Destroyed a Russian Su-57, Russia’s Most Advanced Fighter Jet

Ukraine Destroyed a Russian Su-57, Russia’s Most Advanced Fighter Jet

This marks the first time in Russia’s history that it has lost a 5th-generation fighter jet.

According to the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, on June 8, 2024, a Su-57 fighter jet was destroyed at the Akhtubinsk airfield, located 589 km from the front line with Ukraine. The Directorate did not specify the method of destruction, withholding details of the operation. They added, however, that it is possible that two aircraft were hit; but this information is currently being verified.

Why is the destruction of the Su-57 significant?

For the Russian Air Force, losing a Su-57 is a major defeat. This aircraft is Russia’s most advanced fighter, having only entered service in 2020. The project is highly classified, so exact numbers and costs are largely unknown.

Estimates suggest the Russian army has about 20 Su-57 aircraft, but 10 of these are prototypes. Russia can produce about two units annually, despite having an order from the Ministry of Defense for 76 such planes.

The cost is also contentious. Within Russia, it is claimed that the aircraft costs around $35 million each, based on a 2019 contract for 76 units worth 170 billion rubles. This is relatively inexpensive compared to the American F-35, with a cost starting from $80 million per unit.

Export contracts provide further insight into the cost of these fighter jets. In the mid-2010s, India joined Russia in developing the Su-57 and was prepared to buy them for $100 million each. However, India eventually withdrew from the contract, citing that the aircraft did not meet the promised technical specifications and that there were production delays.

Overall, about $12 billion has been spent on the project.

The loss of such a rare aircraft is a significant problem because it cannot be quickly replaced. The Su-57 carries dangerous X-69 cruise missiles, which destroyed the largest thermal power plant in Kyiv region in the spring of 2024.

More importantly, there is a moral aspect: the aircraft was destroyed while parked at the airfield, not while on active duty.

What is the Su-57?

Russia calls the Su-57 a fifth-generation fighter, though many experts dispute this high rating, citing various shortcomings. These experts argue that the Russian fighter is inferior to the F-35 and F-22, despite being designed to compete with them. Ukrainian Air Force representatives note that the Su-57 is rarely used for combat missions in Ukraine. Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, stated that the aircraft has never flown into Ukrainian territory due to the risk of being shot down, which would expose the disparity between its specifications on paper and its real-world performance.

The Su-57 can carry up to 10,000 kg of combat load, including X-69 and X-59 cruise missiles and guided bombs. It has a single-pilot crew, a maximum speed of over 2,000 km/h, and a flight range of over 4,000 km. Due to its striking capabilities, some experts even compare it to the Tu-22 bomber, which was also recently shot down by Ukrainian forces.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, Russia has lost over 350 aircraft of various types. These include rare and significant models like the A50U, Tu-22, and Su-57, as well as more common ones like the Su-24 and MiG-29. Rapidly replacing these losses is impossible; aircraft production is slow in every country. Effectively, Ukraine, with its own efforts and the help of partner-supplied weapons, is reducing Russia’s offensive capabilities, setting them back 5-10 years.

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