On December 24, 2019, near the Dzemgi airfield in the Khabarovsk Territory, the Su-57 crashed: fortunately, the pilot ejected and remained alive. It was the first production model, which, of course, only poured oil into the fire, ignited by critics of the program.
However, another thing is much more important. Despite the fact that the aircraft can be said to be ready, with a great deal of certainty it can be argued that as of March 2020 there is not a single foreign order for it. Simply put, no plane was bought by another country.
Recall that the Indians in 2018 left the project known as the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which involved the creation of a version of the Su-57 for the Indian Air Force. China's interest in the aircraft was nothing more than a rumor. And do not forget that the Celestial Empire previously commissioned its own fifth-generation fighter J-20, and in the future there may be adopted by the J-31, although it is most often considered as an export machine.
The only glimmer of hope was the lengthy message of the portal Menadefense, made in December last year. According to him, Algeria allegedly concluded a contract for the purchase of fourteen Russian fifth-generation multi-functional fighters Su-57 and the same number of front-line bombers Su-34. It is noteworthy that some media presented this as a fait accompli. Neither the lack of official data, nor the sudden purchase by Algeria of highly specialized Su-34s (instead of much more logical multi-functional Su-35s) for some reason did not alert them. In any case, there has been almost no specific information about the Algerian contract since there is no interest from Turkey, although during the previous MAKS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed interest in the new aircraft.
Engines and stealth
It turns out that, besides Russia, no one needs a fighter. What is the problem?
In the West, the emphasis has traditionally been on two things. Firstly, stealth. It is she, according to Western experts, that is at the forefront of the fifth-generation fighter, and the Su-57 allegedly does not meet the stated requirements. Secondly, the engine. Instead of the so-called second-stage engine that meets the requirements of the fifth generation and is known as the “Type 30”, the aircraft is equipped with the AL-41F1 - an actually deeply modernized version of the Soviet AL-31F mounted on the Su-27.
With the first paragraph, everything is complicated: we do not know and with a high degree of probability we will never know the real indicators of stealth, not only of the Su-57, but also of the American F-35 or F-22 Raptor. So while the thesis about the suitability or mismatch of the Su-57 stealth technology lies, rather, in the plane of theory. As for the engine of the second stage, it is actively tested and with a high degree of probability will be brought to mind in the 2020s. Recall, more recently, new high-quality photographs of the Product 57 installed on the Su-30 have appeared, confirming the active progress of work.
Tangle of contradictions
Summarizing the above, it can be noted that the technical difficulties of the Su-57 do not seem insurmountable: moreover, the aircraft conceptually looks better than the aforementioned Chinese J-20. The Russian machine, of course, has "childhood diseases", but they are characteristic of absolutely any new model of military (and not only) equipment.
Perhaps Russia itself does not want to sell the plane. Partially, this point of view is justified: in any case, it may seem so if we look at the recent statements by officials.
“We in the promotion strategy along the MTC have this in our plans. The time will come - we will promote. While the Su-35 is doing well, we see no reason to undermine our own market. There will be a need - we always have a trump card ”,
- said in June 2019, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.
However, you need to clarify: in fact, the Su-35 is not going well. In addition to Russia itself, it was bought only by China, and then only 24 cars (and this is against the background of hundreds of Su-30MKI previously purchased by India!) And several months earlier, Interfax announced that all the documents necessary for delivering Su fighter abroad -57, agreed. “The Su-57 has a good export potential,” said the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov at the end of March 2019.
Beauty in Russian
In fact, the answer to the question about the lack of interest in the Su-57 may lie on the surface. And it's not about Western pressure, although it also has a place to be. The fact is that the Su-57 remains a "dark horse": an airplane, about which few people know and few people understand what is at stake. Except, of course, the army of domestic aircraft enthusiasts. “Is it a Su-57? .. And is it already flying?” - Erdogan asked Vladimir Putin during the above-mentioned visit to the exposition of the MAKS air show. Good illustration of the situation.
There is nothing to be surprised at. One gets the impression that no one has ever tried to really “spin” a fighter: there were no spectacular animated videos, no vivid presentations, or high-profile successes at exhibitions. One of the few positive aspects is the video about testing the aircraft, submitted on the official channel of the Ministry of Defense March 24 this year.
Potential competitors have a different story. Even relatively small Sweden can do high-quality PR: just remember the rollout of the first prototype of the Gripen E fighter, which was carried out at the head aircraft manufacturing company of the Swedish group Saab AB in Linkoping on May 18, 2016. The Swedes generally do everything to maintain interest in their creation from the very beginning of development, although it initially had little chance of commercial success: the new Gripen appeared in the fifth generation era, while the aircraft does not even reach the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon in combat capabilities Generation 4 + (+).
There is another interesting example: moreover, oddly enough, from Russia. Last year, public interest was aroused by the advertising photography of the MiG-35 fighter, made by a group of photographers under the leadership of Dmitry Chistoprudov. Photos were taken from several angles, using a white cyclorama, a white substrate and large diffusers. In some photographs, specialists managed to achieve an impressive effect that would be envied even in the West.
It is worth saying that the author is not a big fan of the MiG-35. However, it is appropriate to raise the question: what prevented us from taking such a path in the case of the Su-57? Or, let’s say, try to do it differently: the way Bell Helicopter implemented it by releasing a high-quality animated video in which the promising Bell 360 Invictus helicopter strikes the latest technology, namely the T-14 tank and the T-15 infantry fighting vehicle based on " Armats. " Of course, this gave rise to "litigation" on the Web, however, probably this was precisely the idea of the authors.
One way or another, but without competent advertising, it’s naive to count on success in a very narrow one against a civil aviation segment of combat aircraft. Unless selling them “at a discount” to their political allies. However, for this, such allies must be, and they must have at least some financial means and the ability to operate new equipment.