Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Looks like Russia's first fifth-generation fighter is a bust

We've talked about the PAK-50 and Russia's problems with their effort at a fifth-generation fighter here and here, and maybe more, but it is becoming more and more apparent that the PAK-50, now apparently known as the Sukhoi Su-57, is a steaming heap of shit, at least as fifth-generation fighters go. (Spoiler alert: The United States remains the only country that actually has developed a fifth-generation fighter.) That singular status seems to remain unchallenged by the newly named Su-57:
On August 11, Russia named its new stealth fighter the Su-57, but despite having a name, a finalized design, and a tentative date for its delivery, it already looks like a huge disappointment.
Russia first flew the Su-57 in 2010, demonstrating that it would enter the race towards fifth-generation aircraft after the US revolutionized aerial combat with the F-22, and later the F-35.
But in the years since, the Su-57 has failed to present a seriously viable future for Russian military aviation. Russia already fields some of the most maneuverable planes on earth. It has serious firepower in terms of missiles and bombs, and long-distance bombers and fighters. But what Russia doesn't have is a stealth jet of any kind.
Building a stealth jet is not easy. The sophisticated electronics involved in a fifth-generation fighter are beyond the capabilities of any nation besides the U.S., unless, of course, another nation is able to steal the technology. Anyone who has seen first-line U.S. fighters through the years side-by-side with Soviet fighters knows that this happens a lot. Yes, the MiG-15 was a clone of the F-86, both of them Korean War-era planes. Coincidence? I think not. The Tu-160 looks just like a U.S. B-1 bomber, the Su-27 bears an uncanny resemblence to the F-15. The list goes on. The Soviets routinely stole  the basic design plans for our front-line aircraft.

What they were unable to steal, or at least unable to duplicate, was the complex avionics that made all of those aircraft dramatically superior to the clones the Soviets put in the air.

That is the problem that faces Russia today. They can't develop a fighter that actually can compete with the fighters we are seeking to retire, much less the aircraft that we are bringing on line. Nor can China, which still has to buy aircraft engines from Russia because the ones they build on their own suck.

On a qualitative level, no one can compete with U.S. air power. However, the Chinese apparently are willing to concede a qualitative edge and attempt to overcome that with a quantitative advantage. If our fighters can impose a 10-to-1 kill advantage, then China will simply make sure that their fighters outnumber ours by 20-to-1. Simple math: they win. Therein lies the problem of relying on superior technology. You still need numbers.

We don't have them. Someone at the Pentagon needs to wake up. When the Huns sacked Rome, they weren't relying on technology.

No comments: