Russia’s Top Fighter Plant Completes Year’s Su-57 and Su-35 Production: What Does 2023 Hold For the Two Programs?


The Russian state run United Aircraft Corporation has completed its 2022 program to produce Su-57 and Su-35 fighter jets to meet Defence Ministry orders, according to a statement by the corporation’s Director General Yury Slyusar. “Our plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has completed this year’s program to produce the Su-57 fifth generation aviation systems and multipurpose fighter jets the Su-35S for the Russian Aerospace Forces. We will continue to live up to our commitments. Aircraft scheduled for delivery next year are already in production,” he stated. The Su-57 and Su-35 are Russia’s two most costly fighters in production and are both manufactured at the same facility in the country’s Far East. The Su-35 has consistently been manufactured at a rate of approximately 14 per year since the early 2010s, and over 100 are already in service in the Russian Air Force. Domestic interest in the fighter, which was initially developed for export, was primarily a result of delays to the more ambitious Su-57, which is currently in production at little over half the rate of the Su-35 with annual production numbers having increased rapidly since 2020. The Su-57 is expected begin joining the Russian Air Force at a rate of around 14 airframes per year by 2025, but will enter service more slowly until then with only six currently serving in the fleet. Su-57 numbers were initially intended to reach 50 by 2020 and 200 by 2025, excluding very large anticipated exports, with the current much less ambitious goal standing at 76 airframes serving in the Russian Air Force by 2028. Production of airframes for export is also expected to begin in the latter half of the decade.

The Su-57 is one of just three fifth generation fighters currently in serial production worldwide, alongside the Chinese J-20 and American F-35, although its ability to match its foreign rivals particularly in terms of avionics and stealth capabilities remains in serious question due to Russia’s much smaller tech sector relative to the two industry leaders. The fighter is nevertheless the only one of its generation to have used standoff missile extensively in combat or to have seen significant combat operations against a state adversary, and has contributed to air defence suppression and other operations in Ukraine since March 2022. While the large majority of Russia’s fighter production capacity is currently allocated to modern derivatives of the fourth generation Su-27 Flanker, namely the Su-30SM/SM2, Su-35, and the Su-34 strike fighter, the Su-57 is expected to gradually replace these in production possibly at other facilities beyond the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant. The scale of Su-57 production will likely depend heavily on export demand, as well as on the success of the competing program for a lightweight fifth generation fighter which was announced in 2021 – the S-75 Checkmate.

While the Su-57 is expected to be delivered to the Russian Air Force in growing numbers, the Su-35 by contrast could see deliveries diminish significantly from 2023 should reports of large Iranian orders for the fighter class be confirmed. Iran is reportedly set to receive 64 Su-35 fighters, at least 24 of which have already been built, which could allow the Russian Defence Ministry to reallocate more funds to Su-57 orders. This would previously have been impossible without at least partially closing the Su-35’s production line. The Su-35 was initially expected to see a production run of 200 airframes, and while this was considered unlikely to be reached due very largely to successful Western pressure on potential foreign clients to avoid the aircraft, Iranian orders following an already completed Chinese order for 24 aircraft brings this goal much closer to being realised. 



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