- Two Russian Su-57 fifth-generation fighter prototypes have been deployed to Syria
- It is unclear what the real benefits of the deployment are
The Russian Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily: VKS) have deployed two Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighters to Humaymim Air Base in Syria’s Latakia province.
Stills and video clips posted on social media on 21 February showed two of the jets on final approach in a location corresponding to terrain around Humaymim: Russia’s main air base in Syria. A Su-30/35 fighter appears in the video flying alongside the Su-57s, which have their undercarriages lowered as if they were about to land.
The video was posted by a local Syrian source; it was subsequently followed up extensively by the state-controlled Russian media, but the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) had not confirmed the deployment at the time of writing.
The Su-57, which was formerly known as the T-50 and developed under the project name PAKFA (Perspektivnnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi: Prospective Aviation Complex for Frontal Aviation), has been under development for more than two decades and made its first flight in 2010. Last December Jane’s reported that 10 airframes had been delivered out of an initial batch of 12 jets, with the examples delivered so far being seen at flying test centres, including the Gromov Flight Research Institute at Zhukovskiy.
The Su-57 has not been declared operational by the VKS, so its deployment to Syria could only be carried out as part of the aircraft’s test and evaluation programme. Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov announced on 8 February that the Su-57 had completed its first stage of flight acceptance tests conducted by contractor test pilots.
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