Su-57 PAK FA “Felon”: In the race of stealth technology

Sukhoi, Su-57 "Felon" Stealth multirole fighter

G. Maridakis and C. Panitsidis

Su-57 PAK FA (see poster) is more stealthy than meets the eye. Its appearance can be misleading. Its shape does not resemble a pyramid with inclined surfaces at specific angles. Instead, it bears a patented stealth method based on a substance, which renders any aircraft less visible to radars without the need to be redesigned and reassembled from scratch. Su-57 “Felon” retains the most chilling Russian fighters’ state-of-the-art flying qualities and agility. At the same time, it takes less painstaking work and less money to manufacture a Su-57 than any of its Western rivals. 

Does it  make sense to spend money, time ans resources to design a flying vehicle than is entirely undetectable across all electromagnetic spectra to claim superiority in aerial combat missions?

No. An example of this is the F-15EX Eagle II. Especially nowadays where, quantum radar* is on the way. In any case, even an infinitesimal improvement in invisibility would be too expensive and time-consuming. In addition, there is no guarantee that an undetectable aircraft is always safe during flight. 

What is the optimum degree of invisibility for an aircraft? 

Some degree of invisibility is necessary to delay the enemy to recognise immediately the incoming threat. That will give a time advantage to the pilot to perform his task successfully. However, some degree of visibility at a specific range in the electromagnetic spectrum is also essential so that the same aircraft can be recognised as a “friend” upon its return from the theatre of war. Even more, as fatal could it be for a non-stealth technology jet fighter to fly over a system of foe radars, so much more hazardous could it be for a technologically invisible aircraft flying among other friendly but invisible jet fighters amid a frenzying aerial battle or flight training, unless the aircraft is visually visible.

* Sources

  1. MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/08/23/75512/quantum-radar-has-been-demonstrated-for-the-first-time/ 
  2. Phys. Org./Quantum Physics. https://phys.org/news/2023-07-quantum-radar-outperforms-classical.html#google_vignette

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