Although it’s becoming increasingly apparent Russia’s foray into the world of fifth-generation fighters, the Sukhoi Su-57, will likely never be fielded in sufficient numbers to represent any real strategic value, Moscow is already looking toward the “stealth” fighter’s replacement.
The Su-57, widely touted in Russian media as a match for America’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, was originally intended as a joint venture between Russia and India. India, however, backed out of the program following unconfirmed reports the Russian-built fighter failed to deliver on many of Moscow’s capability promises.
Now, with only a dozen or so Su-57s slated for delivery in the foreseeable future and only one fully-equipped airframe, Russia’s “fighter of the future” already looks as though it will see more action in a museum than it will ever see in combat. That failure, however, has not stopped Russia from shopping for concepts to incorporate into what it claims will be a “sixth-generation” fighter — a phrase used commonly by a number of national governments and media outlets, despite there being no real consensus on what “sixth-generation” actually means.
Chief among Russia’s planned technologies for the next generation of fighters are laser and hypersonic weapons, as well as radio-photonic radar that sounds as though it’s being developed specifically to aid in detecting stealth aircraft like America’s fifth-generation fighters, B-2 Spirit bomber, and forthcoming B-21 Raider.