Looks Like Russia Has Just Deployed Two Of Its Brand New Su-57 Stealth Jets To Syria

Quite surprisingly, Russia sent two of its Su-57 stealth jets to Syria. So, once again, Moscow will use the Syrian Air War as a test bed for its most advanced “hardware”. But the deployment is both an opportunity and a risk.

Late on Feb. 21, a photo showing two Russian Su-57 jets allegedly landing at Khemimim air base, near Latakia, in northwestern Syria, circulated on Twitter. The two stealth combat aircraft were reportedly part of a larger package of assets deployed to the Russian airbase in Syria, that included also four Su-35S and one A-50U AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft.

Interestingly, the aircraft appeared to be in “clean” configuration, that is to say they didn’t carry the large fuel tanks used for ferry flights last year.

Although the deployment of two Russian 5th generation aircraft (that has not been officially confirmed yet) came somehow unexpected, it must be noted that it’s not the first time that Moscow deployed some of its advanced “hardware” to Syria. For instance, on Sept. 13, 2017, the Russian Air Force deployed some of its MiG-29SMT multirole combat aircraft to Khemimim airbase for the first time. Previously, in February 2016, it was the turn of the still-in-development Tu-214R spyplane to exploit the air war in Syria to test its sensor packages.

As reported several times commenting the above mentioned deployments, Russia has used the Syrian Air War to showcase and test its latest weapons systems. However, most analysts agree that the deployment of the Su-57 is probably mostly meant to send a strong message about air superiority over Syria, where Russian and American planes have almost clashed quite a few times recently (with conflicting reports of the incidents).

Deploying two new stealth jet in theater is a pretty smart move for diplomatic and marketing purposes: as already explained questions continue to surround the Su-57 program as a consequence of delays, engine problems and subsequent difficult export (last year the Indian Air Force reportedly demanded an end to the joint Indo-Russian stealth fighter project). Albeit rather symbolic, the deployment of a combat aircraft (still under development) is obviously also a huge risk.

First, there’s a risk of being hit (on the ground or during a mission: the attack on Latakia airbase or the recent downing of a Su-25 are just reminders of what may happen over there) and second, there’s a risk of leaking intelligence data to the enemy.

This is what we explained in a recent article about the reasons why U.S. and Russia are shadow-boxing over Syria:

USAF Lt. Col. Pickart’s remarks about the Russians “deliberately testing or baiting us” are indicative of a force managing interactions to collect sensor, intelligence and capability “order of battle”. This intelligence is especially relevant from the current Syrian conflict as it affords both the Russians and the U.S. with the opportunity to operate their latest combat aircraft in close proximity to gauge their real-world sensor capabilities and tactical vulnerabilities, as well as learn doctrine. It is likely the incidents occurring now over Syria, and the intelligence gleaned from them, will be poured over in detail for years to come.

For instance, we have often explained how Raptors act as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft” over Syria, providing escort to strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. In fact, the F-22 pilot leverage advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy, performing ELINT-like missions and then sharing the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

In fact, even though it’s safe to assume that the stealth prototype will not use their radar and that the Russians will escort the Su-57s with Su-30/35 Flanker derivatives during their trips over Syria in order to prevent the U.S. spyplanes from being able to “characterize” the Su-57’s signature at specific wavelengths as reportedly done by the Russians with the U.S. F-22s, it’s safe to assume the U.S. and NATO will put in place a significant effort to gather any little detail about the performance and operational capabilities of the new Russian stealth jet.

By the way, before you ask, the risk of confrontation with their U.S. stealth counterparts has not been mentioned, since it seems quite unlikely at the moment..

Top image credit: Aleksandr Markin – T-50 (51), CC BY-SA 2.0

About David Cenciotti 4453 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

53 Comments

      • WTF!!! You clearly don’t know what you are talking about. The F22 has a lower RCS than the F117A (FACT)! Lol! Sorry, we are not trusting your fevered imagination about the PAK FA’s RCS. “Tricks” ehh…please give us the actual technical explanation behind the PAK FA’s RCS reduction efforts. We are waiting…..

        • “(FACT)”
          Weren’t you the guy that literally spammed numerous Breaking Defense threads?
          “we ”
          What you certainly are not is the Queen of England.So you don’t get to use royal”we”.
          That being said,F-117’s RCS is lowest among pretty much any and all manned aircraft,to this day.This includes F-22.
          F-117 is a horribly compromised aircraft.Compromises were made to obtain that RCS.
          F-22 is…less so.

      • +Yet you have individuals who shovel and push steaming loads of male bovine excrement claiming the PAKFA is just as stealthy as F-22 and F-35 if not more so+

        “RCS a bit smaller than F-22,but larger than F-117.”

        > case and point…

    • They dont…just like the f-22 and f-35 are seen. smallest cross section is from the front…
      IRST is a stealth killer too.
      Fact is paying a lot for stealth is a bad move… sure have a squadron of them… but anymore is a waste.
      Spend the saved budget money on missiles drones and 40 million dollar aircraft.

      • “IRST is a stealth killer too.”

        > No it’s not. Though IRST systems provide detection at further distances the visual, it is NOT a full and complete deterrent to stealth aircraft. F-22s have gone up against aircraft with IRST sensors and still are able to defeat them with relative ease.

        • “F-22s have gone up against aircraft with IRST sensors ”
          Fun fact:F-22 not a single time engaged other aircraft in combat.
          So it didn’t.

        • yeah dollar for dollar.. F-16 is awesome.
          ever looked at the QF-16.. a drone version.
          hook up to a xbox controller and look out.

    • “How stealth are these aircraft?”

      > Not as stealthy as F-35 or F-22… and I say that with a great amount of confidence. Yet you have individuals who shovel and push steaming loads of male bovine excrement claiming the PAKFA is just as stealthy as F-22 and F-35 if not more so.

      • Although Leroy is of course a notorious troll, that picture is real, but the implications are not. As we know from Sukhoi’s official patent on the signature management solutions of PAK FA, that the machine is designed with a radar blocker, called device 9 in the document. Obviously the first prototype didn’t have it, but probably every second stage prototype has it (i.e. from T-50-6-2 onwards). We know that Sukhoi tried the S-duct solution on the experimental Su-47, but for Su-57 they discarded it and preferred the blocker.

        Su-57 is also not the only VLO aircraft designed with a radar blocker as the biggest aerospace company in the world, Boeing, too designed its 5th gen fighter aircraft with a radar blocker, being fully aware and cognizant of the VLO requirement laid out by the USAF.

      • When I see that picture I always laugh at the engine being shown, and the rivets, and panels popping out like crazy. Including that very non stealth IR ball close to the cockpit.

      • those airitnke bldes are very exposed; note also that su-57 air intakes are huge and very distant form each other: as indian cliams, no way it will have ever an rcs less then 0,5, which is more then a rafale or typhoon wiith 4 amraams and 2 wvr missiles…

      • Maybe it is stealth enough for their design goals? Of course everybody knows that the Russian baddies have no clue about stealth Physics. Next time they better consult you, Shrilling, Uninform and franciwzm. Ah, and remember the old wisdom of experienced aircraft designers like the four of you: “aircraft are myriads of compromises flying in close formation”.

        How much stealth makes an aircraft stealth? Who set the numbers? What determines the amount and the aspects of stealth, a set of numbers or the mission? When I was in design kindergarten, they told me that you start the design of an aircraft from the mission (they called it “Specifications”), and also that “form follows function”, and other nonsense that, luckily for us, you guys are here to correct.

        I remember how much fun we in the West had, laughing at the Soviet (we called them “Russian”) aero-Neanderthals who committed the idiocy of mixing propellers (subsonics) and sweptwings” (transonics) in the Tu-95. Well; we were the idiots! It became the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in History (Tu-114), and cruised faster than some of the contemporary jets. And, today, it still fascinates me, especially, its engines and props. And, yes; other propeller-driven aircraft were created for higher top speeds; but none was able to reach them nor beat the Tu. That “dinosaur”, will still be with us, under the name “Bear”, probably for as long as it’s contemporary, the also remarkable, B-52.

    • They’re not .. And they don’t have the metallurgy or cooling tech to hide them

      A cheap chinese shoulder fired MANPAD would take the SU-57 out if it was low enough

      • Phil, they have the metallurgy. And the most powerful combat airplane in History (Tu-160, over 220,000 lbs thrust) has four, well cooled, buried engines; like the fastest operational combat aircraft in History, the MiG-25/31. The reason why they have the biggest, heaviest helicopter in History (Mi-26), and the most powerful turboprop engine in History (NK-12) is because their gearboxes cannot be matched in the West. That’s also why we could not copy the RD-180 engines. What they lack is big money, not brains.

        Spaniards have a good saying: “There is no small opponent”. Belittling others doesn’t make us bigger, much less, nobler.

    • they do not have neither s-ducts that are incorporated in design not only of f22 and f35, but of rafale and typhoon. Not sure either which type of missile con host inside thise tiny bays… And russian have no reliable or small enough bvr missile…

      • “they do not have neither s-ducts ”
        Because these compromise engines.Instead,there are very specific angles at which intakes are constructed.
        “Not sure either which type of missile con host inside thise tiny bays”
        Something like Izd.810.Allows launches against enemy AWACS from beyond their(!)detection range.
        “And russian have no reliable or small enough bvr missile”
        Of course they don’t.
        /s

    • “It is,after all,COMBAT trials stage”

      > Perhaps I’m used to using US standards as compared to Russian but lets take a look…

      PAKFA
      + No operational weapon testing
      + No finalized production engine
      + No finalized production radar
      + No operational avionics
      The PAKFA hasn’t gone through all the developmental testing and operational testing as it western counter parts (F-22 and F-35) yet we are supposed to believe its going through “combat” trials. To me this seems like a bold (more so foolish) PR stunt.

      • “No operational weapon testing”
        Actually,that was carried out for four years now.
        “No finalized production engine”
        It flies with these.Sure,better engine is on the way,but that’s like claiming that eighty percent F-14s flew with interim engines.
        “No finalized production radar”
        Which was finalized two years ago…
        “No operational avionics”
        And this is just stupid.Su-57 can’t FLY without operational avionics.
        “The PAKFA hasn’t gone”
        Apparently you’ve been living under a rock for about a decade.

        • Where is your source on the 4 years of operational weapons testing (on the SU 57 that is) by Sukhoi?

          Funnily enough you are right about the F14. Early production F14s were practically flying with interim engines….those TF 30 afterburning turbofans were relatively terrible engines. The F110s were a different story.

          I think the more correct way to see the SU 57 avionics is that they are near operational..still need some tweaking and more testing. Hence this trip to Syria.

      • >no operational weapon testing< Because they didn’t show it in da Internetz, right? >no finalized production engine< 117 is finalized production engine, FIY >no finalized production radar< Another urban legend >no operational avionics< Most of it used on Su-35 already. Oh, man, I see your world is being ruined, I almost feel your pain!

        • “Because they didn’t show it in da Internetz, right?”

          > Russian media always plays up everything they can about the PAKFA. The only thing i am able to find was a video of a ground model cut out test firing ita gun. Hell… they report about it every time it gets a new paint job. So why won’t they talk about weapon testing or in this case apparent lack there of?

          “117 is finalized production engine, FIY”

          > yeah they flew with ONE TEST ENGINE in flight for the first time. Am I supposed to believe that they finally have it finished already? Im sorry but I just not that gullible or impressed.

          “no finalized production radar< Another urban legend" > then show me a link of where they talk about using its radar in flight during testing or in an exercise. Not a ground mock up at a display at an air show talking about how they think it will perform.

          “>no operational avionics< Most of it used on Su-35 already." > so what you essentially said is that internally the PAKFA is just another flanker? So that would essentially make it Russia’s first true gen 4.5+ aircraft. Color me unimpressed.
          F-35 and F-22 had completely new forms of avionics when they were first being tested and came into service. The didn’t just take RWR from an F-15E, IRST pod from an F-16, and a radar from an F-15C; stick in a new airframe and say, “that’s good enough”. No. U.S. designers and engineers actually wanted new capabilities and a generational leap above what they already have and what is out there.

          “Oh, man, I see your world is being ruined, I almost feel your pain!”

          > I’m in no pain here but I am highly skeptical and question what they are doing. An aircraft that isn’t complete or close to (if I am to hold western standards) is now suddenly flying in a combat zone.
          No known weapons capability. No known advanced radar capability. No known advanced avionics suite. For the most part still flying with older model engines. Not as stealthy as F-22s in the area. So what am I supposed to think other than Russian military and Sukhoi doing a PR campaign?

        • I think there will be at least a pip squeak on the Internetz if a high profile program like the PAK FA/SU 57 completed all of its ordnance/stores release test. The lack of any information about the SU 57’s ordnance/stores release tests frankly suggest that this is still a developmental work in progress for Sukhoi.

          117 is finalized but still undergoing developmental tests with the SU 57 airframe. So the 117 is not a finalized operational engine in practical terms.

      • “No operational weapon testing”

        Weapon testing/integration is being done for several years.
        http://russianplanes.net/images/to138000/137340.jpg

        http://russianplanes.net/images/to137000/136785.jpg

        http://i.imgur.com/MZVLuRI.jpg

        https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-G5uuUC-4WP8/VxBuuGK1pmI/AAAAAAABBsg/5TQfIGmus3ooPj2J3BE0xK4ImzbzljSmACLcB/s1600/Russian%2Bair%2BForce%2BT-50%2Bstealth%2Baircraft%2Bcarrying%2Bout%2Bnew%2Btests%2B1.jpg

        “No finalized production engine”

        It flies with a derivative of the production AL-41F1S engine, used for years in the Su-35S.

        “No finalized production radar”

        The radar was finalised already in 2012 when the testing on Su-57’s AESA radar has started.

        https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/sukhoi-starts-tests-on-pak-fas-radar-375460/

        “No operational avionics”

        It wouldn’t fly without operational avionics. Initially, Su-57 prototypes were flying with modified Su-35S’s avionics suite called “Baguette”, but currently, completely new integrated avionics suite called IMA BK is undergoing flight testing, its software already reached over 4 million lines of code.

        http://www.airrecognition.com/index.php/archive-world-worldwide-news-air-force-aviation-aerospace-air-military-defence-industry/global-defense-security-news/global-news-2017/april/3405-sukhoi-starts-testing-new-ima-bk-fms-on-russia-s-pak-fa-fighter.html

        http://defence-blog.com/news/russia-starts-testing-advanced-computer-system-of-intellectual-support-for-t-50s-pilot.html

        “The PAKFA hasn’t gone through all the developmental testing…”

        After almost 10 years of testing on 10 flyable and several static prototypes, it can be said most of the work has been completed. The very last thing that is yet to be done is likely more extensive weapon testing as well as testing of Su-57’s avionics/sensors suite, so it may be the reason of its deployment to Syria.

        https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/sukhoi-completes-initial-flight-tests-on-t-50-427102/

        http://tass.com/defense/986607

    • Good way to test the SU 57’s interim avionics and EW system…..in an active war zone and with NATO aircraft in close proximity (double edge sword actually….may be a gold mine for NATO ELINT/SIGINT/signature intelligence efforts). Those SU 57s ain’t going to deploy any ordnance…..has Sukhoi even completed the SU 57’s initial ordnance/stores release tests yet?

      • “Good way to test the SU 57’s interim avionics and EW system…..in an active war zone and with NATO aircraft in close proximity”
        Oh,there is nothing interim about these avionics.
        “Those SU 57s ain’t going to deploy any ordnance”
        Except they do.
        “has Sukhoi even completed the SU 57’s initial ordnance/stores release tests yet?”
        Like…three years ago?Four?

  1. They are in beta test! means that the aircraft is operational and the pilots are reporting the bugs! :D

  2. Good, now we get to take a good look at its RCS and any emissions coming off it. But what took so long? F-22 has been there for a couple of years, and F-35I has been flying combat missions for about six months. Why would Russia send this 4+ Gen fighter over to Syria?

    1. Makes for a good publicity stunt.
    2. They don’t care if the U.S. gains intel from it because they know it will never go into mass production. They plan on having Sukhoi continue production of Su-35 as their primary air defense fighter. Su-34 as their fighter-bomber. Su-57 isn’t their heavyweight champion. In the world of real fighters they don’t have one. That title belongs to F-22, F-35 holds the light heavyweight belt.

    Some will try and say; “Look! They beat the F-35 into war”! First, what war? In Syria they won’t go up against any IADS or enemy fighters that will engage it. It’s as safe a play as Connor McGregor strutting his stuff in a kindergarten schoolyard looking to fight the biggest bully! But as far as F-35 goes …

    F-35 is already there (once again) flying combat sorties for the IAF, and it’s in Japan and South Korea ready and able to engage the DPRK should President Trump decide it’s time to take out Kim Jong Un. Now THAT’S potentially a real front line, and F-35 is there, both “A” and “B”, ready and able to engage. And “B”s will deploy to the Middle East onboard the Wasp this year. Likely they will engage in their baptism of fire then (or being Syria and Afghanistan, maybe better to call it a Bic lighter). F-35 dropping bombs on target won’t be “PR news”.

    The Russia fanboys (and F-35 haters) will cheer, but in reality their PAK FA boy is late to the dance and public relations isn’t battle. U.S. F-22 and Israeli F-35I have been there, done that, and both are performing magnificently. Su-57? Send it on over. Perhaps a little luck will be on our side and it will foolishly fly on the wrong side of the Euphrates River. A WVR gunfight between F-22 or F-35 and Su-57? Christmas could come early. I for one would welcome it!

    • “Good, now we get to take a good look at its RCS”
      Actually,at RCS of angled reflectors.
      “But what took so long? F-22 has been there for a couple of years”
      It took F-22 ten years since acceptance into service.Su-57 isn’t even accepted into service yet.
      ” F-35I has been flying combat missions for about six months”
      It,too,haven’t really been accepted into service yet,nor it flew anything approaching combat mission.

      • “Actually,at RCS of angled reflectors.”

        > compared to F-35 and F-22… the PAKFA is its own angled reflector.

        “It took F-22 ten years since acceptance into service.”

        > a production test model of the F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 1997. F-22 reached operational service in 2005. Simple math would say that is a 8 years. So you’re wrong, again.

        “Su-57 isn’t even accepted into service yet.”

        > that much you are correct. The PAKFA is not in any real operational service and looking at what it needs and what has been going on. The PAKFA still has a ways to go.

        • “the PAKFA is its own angled reflector”
          Despite having RCS lower than any of mentioned from the front.
          “Simple math would say that is a 8 years. ”
          Actually,ten years.From 2005 to first combat usage.
          “PAKFA is not in any real operational service ”
          Despite carrying out very real combat operations.
          “The PAKFA still has a ways to go.”
          The only correct thing in a post.

      • //It,too,haven’t really been accepted into service yet,nor it flew anything approaching combat mission.//

        Proved you wrong on that assessment weeks ago. Glad you ignored it, and still continue with your mistake.

        • “Proved you wrong on that assessment weeks ago”
          No,you didn’t.Flying training near the border and getting SA-5 for it’s trouble is not a combat mission.It’s training gone wrong.

    • Hmm. Maybe because they’re the only country with a production line for an actual stealth fighter?

    • The gun isnt shooting straight yet on the A’s so your dream of a dogfight will be a nightmare maybe.

    • What took them so long..?

      Yeah cause the F-22 went IOC in 2006.
      First “combat” deployment was in 2011 or thereabout. So when we look at when F-22 program started back in early 90’s..
      Lol! What took them so long.
      Russia can’t have a white elephant looked away in Aktubinsk forever. They need to put these jet through it paces. Guess Syria is a good place to start. If this is real.. which i’m not so sure about.

    • “…foolishly fly on the wrong side of the Euphrates”

      Interesting. According to International Law and the UN Charter, both sides of the Euphrates are part of the sovereign state of Syria which has not declared war on the US of A. Therefore, Syrian authorized planes can legally fly all over Syria.
      Of course, according to Victoria Nuland’s legal formula; we f**k the UN and screw the Law. Might is Right. We own one side of that bloody river by decision of “We, the Great Establishment”; no matter what the real American “We the People” may think.

      It is a Kafkian nightmare when people accept as moral and legal that a foreign power says it shot down a Syrian aircraft in Syrian airspace in “self-defence”.

      “…Christmas could come early. I for one would welcome it!”

      Wouldn’t be more welcoming some peaceful resolution of the conflict? The US could help the peace efforts, so the Syrian people, with the help of the UN could decide its own course? The US could play an important role for the world. What do we want?

      We do not want a PAX Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

      (I’ll add further to these words.)

      What do you people think?

    • The Russians forced the Americans to backed down in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine and now Syria. If the Russians “don’t have one”, “in the world of real fighters”, it looks like they don’t really need one.

    • More brains than balls actually. Good way to test the SU 57’s avionics and EW system…..in an active war zone and with NATO aircraft in close proximity (double edge sword actually….may be a gold mine for NATO ELINT/SIGINT/signature intelligence efforts).

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