Unofficial reports of Algeria buying Su-57 Felons seem only to distract attention from recent crash of the first production example in Russia.
The “news” that Algeria has allegedly “signed a contract to purchase 14 of Russia’s newest Sukhoi Su-57 multi-role 5th generation fighter aircraft” has started making the round. Algerian Mena Defense outlet as well as Russian internal news media and Russian language social media have also reported on the story, but larger, credible media outlets such as the BBC World News and Reuters have not yet mentioned any sale.
The very same news media outlets report the Su-57 sale is part of a “package” including an additional 14 Sukhoi Su-34 and 14 Sukhoi Su-35s to Algeria. Dates for the “implementation” of the contract are reported as “2025”. The total price tag for the purchase is reported as “2 billion USD”. No confirmation of this part of the story has appeared in international media either.
Actually, the story seems to be, if not entirely false, at least embellished.
It is known that Russia has sought an export customer for its latest Su-57 5th generation tactical aircraft and it is also known that Algeria was offered the Su-34 in the past. However, while talks with Algerian government for the “Felon” might be in place, this does not imply a contract has already been signed.
An automated English translation of one Russian news story said that:
“The decision was taken in the summer of 2019 after the visit of the Algerian delegation to the MAKS air show in Moscow. During this visit led by the air force commander, the delegation of Algeria carefully studied the SU-57, and the Algerian pilot [of a] MIG-29 became one of the rare foreigners who had the opportunity to test the Russian aircraft on a simulator.”
Reporters from TheAviationist.com did see delegations from several African nations being given orientation briefings on various tactical aircraft including the Su-57 at MAKS 2019 earlier this year. This suggests a strong push for export of some of Russia’s newest tactical aircraft.
During the show, one of our reporters was allowed to “fly” the Su-57 in a static simulator that was claimed to have accurate flight controls and instrumentation. Russian defense contractor Sukhoi agreed to the brief simulator flight on the condition that our reporter received no technical briefing prior to the flight and was not allowed to ask questions about the aircraft systems.
Algeria’s motive for the alleged large purchase is reported to be the modernization of the neighboring Moroccan Air Force with 25 U.S. built F-16 Fighting Falcons. However, not only does it seem weird that the first contract for the “Felon” was not officially confirmed/announced, but it is also unlikely for a sale to come few days after the first production aircraft crashed in Russia during a factory flight test. So much so that someone believes the unsubstantiated rumors were spread to distract from Dec. 23 crash of the Su-57 during a factory flight test.
Dealing with the latter, some details were published by TASS News Agency and others leaked on Russian social media:
“During a flight test, when the aircraft was being flown at maximum limits, there was a failure of an integrated control system. Reports differ as to whether the aircraft entered a series of uncontrolled rolls or a flat corkscrew. The malfunction began at an altitude of 10 kilometers (32,800 feet). The factory test pilot attempted to recover the aircraft during a descent of 8,000 meters (26,246 feet), but finally ejected at 2,000 meters (6,561 feet). The pilot parachuted successfully and was found an hour after the accident. Temperature at the time of the accident was 30-degrees below zero.”
A quote attributed to the unnamed Sukhoi factory test pilot was shared on Russian language social media that said:
“The stabilizers have risen in extreme opposite positions, began to rotate. Disabled the [automated control system?], switched to manual – no reaction. From 10 km to one and a half was transported – no result. Came out successfully, when landing slightly twisted my leg.”
The aircraft came down near the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant in the Far East Khabarovsk Krai region of Russia. The first report of the accident surfaced early Tuesday morning on Russia’s official government sponsored RT News Network.
Russia has been actively working to expand the export customer base for their latest tactical aircraft including the new fifth-gen Su-57 and updated versions of their MiG-29 and Su-27 airframes. India, Turkey and now Algeria have been potential customers for Russia’s latest tactical aircraft. Nevertheless, no export deal has been signet. At least, not yet.