Su-57 Production Surging to Over 20 Aircraft in 2024: Delivery Rate to Surpass All Other Russian Fighters

The Russian Defence Ministry is reportedly set to receive twice the number of Su-57 fifth generation fighters in 2024 as it did the previous year, according to a statement by the CEO of the state owned United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Yuri Slyusar. “We have completed the state defence order. Everything stipulated by signed contracts and time schedules was delivered in time, even in advance for certain plants,” he stated, adding that “concerning new airplanes, the order for the Su-57 aircraft has increased almost twofold.” “The order is even greater and even more work will have to be done in 2024,” he concluded. UAC delivered 12 Su-57s in 2023 up from just six in 2022, with Slyusar’s statement confirming reports that deliveries for 2024 are scheduled to exceed 20 aircraft. This increase would make the Su-57 by far the most produced fighter class in Russia, effectively doubling the fleet size over the next 12 months, with second place for manufacturing scale held by the Su-34M which has also seen production expand. Su-34 annual delivery rates are expected to reach a little under 20 airframes despite no expectation of exports, although the class is estimated to cost well under half as much as the Su-57 to produce.

76 Su-57 fighters are currently on order and expected to be delivered before 2028. The expansion of production will allow Russia not only to meet this goal, but also to potentially begin exports, with Algeria is widely reported by multiple sources to have already placed orders for an estimated 12-14 aircraft. A key facilitator of large scale acquisitions is that the Su-57’s lifetime costs are comparable to those of the Su-27, Su-30 and Su-35 it was designed to replace, allowing it to be deployed in place of these fourth generation fighters one-for-one. This contrasts sharply to the American F-35 and F-22 fifth generation fighters which, due to major overruns in their operational costs and very high maintenance needs, are unaffordable for acquisitions to similarly replace their predecessors. A key means by which the Su-57 achieved this has been through the use of innovative solutions such as radar absorbent fibreglass to avoid the need for special radar absorbent coatings to be applied as is done on American fighters – which are particularly difficult to apply and maintain. A further factor is the use of the AL-51 engine (previously known as the Saturn 30) which has lower maintenance needs and operational costs than the preceding AL-31 and AL-41 which powered the Su-27/30 and Su-35 respectively.

The Su-57 is estimated to be by far the least expensive in the fifth generation to procure, with a flyaway cost approximately half that of its more ambitious Soviet predecessor the MiG 1.42 fighter which saw development cancelled after the USSR disintegrated. At around $35 million per aircraft, depending on rouble exchange rates, the Su-57’s flyaway cost is also less than half that of its much lighter single engine American rival the F-35 despite being a much larger and longer ranged twin engine fighter. This cost is nevertheless estimated to be close to double those of the preceding Su-35 and Su-30. The fighter is notably the only one from its generation to have been deployed for high intensity combat against a state actor, with operations in Ukraine involving not only air to surface strikes, but also more complex operations including air defence suppression and air to air combat at beyond visual ranges. Although combat in Ukraine has done much to increase certainty regarding the fighter class’ future, much remains uncertain regarding just how large a production scale it will reach – with production of well over 40 airframes per month remaining highly possible should both export orders increase and local production of older Su-30 and Su-35 fighters be wound down. Anticipated Indian orders in particular have the potential to drive a major surge in production numbers, much as they did for the Su-30 which the Indian Air Force acquired in more than twice then numbers of the Russian Air Force and Navy combined. Other leading potential clients include Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Iran, the latter two which have ordered Su-30SMs and Su-35s respectively over the 18 months.