Despite headlines last week about upgrades to the stealth coating applied to Russia’s pseudo-fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57, new reports out of Moscow indicate that production of what was to be Russia’s most advanced military aircraft has been postponed until 2020.

The Su-57 has long been touted as Russia’s response to fifth-generation platforms like America’s F-22 and F-35, as well as China’s J-20 and forthcoming J-31. However, the program has been fraught with issues from the start, including production limitations that most experts contend would severely hinder the aircraft’s stealth capabilities, and India’s withdrawal from the initiative, which, it could be argued, put the financial nail in the fighter’s coffin. Since then, Russia has been working overtime to try to make their advanced fighter seem feasible despite the nation’s economic limitations, even going so far as to deploy four of what were essentially prototypes to Syria for a short, but headline-grabbing, period of time early last year.

At around that same time, it was announced full-scale production of the Su-57 would be cut down to just 12 airframes—amounting to little more than a token “fifth-generation” fleet that could keep Russia in the conversation with the likes of the United States, despite not having the capacity to field the jet in any real numbers in any potential conflict. Now, however, it appears it will be years before Russia has its serialized fleet of aircraft.

“In 2020, we plan to sign the second contract to manufacture and deliver 13 Su-57 fighter jets, some of them equipped with the second-stage engines,” an unnamed source was reported to have said in Russian state media. “The preliminary timeframe for the new contract is five years.”


Russian state media has repeatedly referred to this production contract as its second, citing the first as a small order of just two aircraft that are slated for delivery in 2019 and 2020.