This Elite Far Eastern Unit is the First on Frontlines to Receive Russia’s Su-57 Fighters: Why Was the 23rd Regiment Chosen?

The Russian 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment has been announced as the first frontline unit to receive Su-57 next generation fighters, with the regiment’s deputy commander Lieutenant Colonel Ilya Sizov having confirmed that its pilots are undergoing theoretical training on the aircraft. Training is taking place at the 4th State Air Personnel Preparation and Military Evaluation Center at Lipetsk, and is responsible for evaluating initial batches of new generations of combat aircraft as well as developing tactics and training pilots. The 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment has held a high status in the Russian Air Force for decades, and was the first to receive the Su-57’s direct predecessor the Su-27 in 1985. The unit was also the first to field the Su-27’s enhanced derivative the Su-35S, which entered service in 2014 and has served largely as a stopgap due to delays in the Su-57’s development.

The 23rd Regiment’s Su-35s were redeployed to Belarus in January amid rising tensions with NATO, and have since participated in operation against Ukrainian government forces during which Su-35s have been credited with several air to air kills – but also one loss to surface fire. The Su-57 is expected to revolutionise the capabilities of the unit, with its Su-35s likely being reassigned elsewhere once the more capable new aircraft enter service. Su-57s first joined the Russian Air Force in 2020, over five years behind initial projections, and although they have already been deployed for strikes in Ukraine only six are currently operational. They have so far been deployed under the Southern Military District near Crimea primarily for testing purposes.

The 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment has been a prime choice for delivery of new top end fighter classes in part due to its location at Dzyomgi, which is near the Komsomolsk on Amur Aircraft Plant that currently produces the Su-35 and Su-57. The facility previously produced Su-30s in the 1990s and 2000s for export, and Su-27s before them. The first full strength Su-57 unit is expected to be formed in 2024, although the 23rd regiment is set to begin to deploy the aircraft in a frontline role from 2023. As the scale of production continues to grow, the Russian Air Force is expected to field three full strength regiments by the end of 2027 with production expanding further afterwards as orders for the older Su-30 and Su-35 fighters decline. Russia is only the third country to place a post fourth generation into service, following the United States and China, although development has largely relied on progress made under the Soviet Union for the Su-47 and particularly the MiG 1.42 programs. The MiG 1.42 was set to enter service in the late 1990s or early 2000s before the state’s disintegration and sharp contraction of the post-Soviet Russian economy and tech sectors left it in a much weaker position to pursue development, with the Su-57 considered far less revolutionary for its time than the MiG 1.42 had been.

The basic Su-57 is expected to enter service only in limited numbers, with aircraft inducted from 2025 being of the more capable Su-57M variant with advanced Saturn 30 engines and improved avionics. While China’s J-20 is currently the only post fourth generation production fighter in the world with supercruise capabilities, the Saturn 30 is expected to allow the Su-57 to do the same potentially over longer ranges. The possibility remains that only a single regiment’s worth of basic Su-57s will be produced, with the 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment possibly transferring to the Su-57M from 2025 or 2026 for similar reasons to why it was chosen to be the first to deploy its predecessors.