Russia Begins Testing ‘Drone Variant’ Of Stealth Su-57 Jets

In an everlasting battle of proving to the world ‘anything you do, I can do better’ Russia took another step in defense innovation, as it began work on the drone variant of Su-57 fighter jets.

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As reported by The National Interest Magazine, the ‘remote-controlled’ Su-57 stealth jets will become the first unmanned fifth-generation aircraft, able to be operated away from potentially unsafe skies, safely. Reports suggest that work has been underway on the drones by United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the designer of the Su-57s.

    “Indeed, we are considering the options of the remotely piloted mode on many platforms and, of course, such work is being carried out on the Su-57,” said Yuri Slyusar, CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), while speaking to told the Russian news channel, Zvezda TV Channel

The Su-57 fighter jets, which are meant to fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.5 in super-cruise, are designed to have super-maneuverability, stealth, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defenses.

They combine the capabilities of an attack plane and a fighter jet by the use of composite materials and innovative technologies and the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration ensures the low level of radar and infrared signature.

Russia's latest attack drone performs 1st joint flight with Su-57  fifth-generation plane - Military & Defense - TASS
Russia’s latest attack drone performs 1st joint flight with Su-57 fifth-generation plane – Military & Defense – TASS

The fighter aircraft features stealth technology with the broad use of composite materials, is capable of developing supersonic cruising speed, and is furnished with the most advanced onboard radio-electronic equipment, the radar system spread across its body and some other innovations, in particular, armament placed inside its fuselage. It is designed to destroy all types of air, ground, and naval targets.

The S-57 drones could make use of the fighter jet’s powerful onboard computer (the so-called electronic second pilot), which could perhaps hold the key to its remote-operability, even though there has been no confirmations by officials yet.

The drone variants of the Su-57s could provide Russia a key strategic advantage with the fighters winning the freedom to do more extreme aerial maneuvers at higher G-Force (gravitational force equivalent), where usually a human pilot would likely to lose consciousness.

The Unmanned flights will also enable the Russian Air Force to train their ‘Remote Pilots’ cheaper than it will to train an actual pilot flying the Su-57s, thereby providing the Moscow to potentially deploy a larger fleet of aircraft.

Speculations are rife that as and when the ‘remote piloting’ of the fighter jet comes into play, it might be later replaced by A.I (artificial intelligence), once it passes the hurdles of science and operability, to fly the plane on its own, a better deal as compared to it being an operated drone, if the aircraft is cut off from its controller due to some foul play or another uncertain course of events.

As of now, Vladimir Putin’s homeland isn’t the only nation investing in the unmanned functionality of their most advanced aircraft with the United Kingdom’s Tempest and United States’ F-X fighter jet set to boast optionally-manned abilities, a key feature which is set to a prerequisite for most sixth-generation fighter jets.

S-70 Okhotnik

As reported earlier by the Eurasian Times, Moscow is currently braced for the delivery of the first Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone in 2024, which is expected to operate in collaboration with the SU-57 fifth-generation fighter jet to extend the fighter jet’s radar field and use its stealth abilities to designate long-range targets for its lead aircraft without being detected.

The Sukhoi S-70 Hunter is way larger than its Western counterparts like Dassault nEUROn and Northrop Grumman X-47B. With 20 meters in wingspan and a length of 14 meters, its mass is supposedly around 20 tons (against 4.9 for the Dassault nEUROn and 6.3 for the Northrop Grumman X-47B). It is expected to fly at a speed of 1,000 km/h, for a range of 6,000 km and its two internal bays should embark up to 2.8 tons of weapons.

The upcoming unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) maker United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is directed by the Russian Ministry of Defence to speed up the experimental work on the drone.

Ever since the Su-57 took its first flight in 2010, it has been the Russian answer to the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 jets, with the fighter’s combat abilities compared to that of the former. The Su-57s speed and armament can allow it to respond quickly to potential threats and back out just as quickly from unwinnable fights if necessary.