Russia's Su-57 is set to enter service in 2018 as the country's first fifth generation fighter, and a successor to the Su-27 which first saw service in 1985. While Su-57 prototypes have been undergoing flight testing for several years, with the platform's induction into active service fast approaching it has begun its first combat trials with the Russian Air Force. Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov stated during a visit to the Komsomolsk on Amur Aircraft Plant on February 8th that a contract for deliver of the first batch of fighters, a pilot unit of 12, was set to be signed by the end of the year. The Komsomolsk on Amur Aircraft Plant is expected to play a significant role in the production of the heavy fighters. Minister Borisov stated regarding the state of combat trials: "We are buying Su-57 jets for combat trials. The first stage of state trials has been concluded."
The first twelve Su-57 platforms have already been built, with two set to enter service in the Air Force in the near future while the other ten are used for further testing. The state of readiness of two particular key systems the next generation fighter will integrate, the formidable K-77 long range air missile and the Izdeliye 30 engines, remains unknown but it is likely that the first fighters will enter service relying on upgraded versions of older missiles and engines - those used by Russia's '4++' generation Su-35. When asked about the development of the Su-57's Izdeliye 30 engines Minister Borisov stated: "Right now it's hard to say, because there has only been one flight. Everything seems normal, but as you might imagine, this is a whole range of trials. Many test flights must be carried out. As a rule, such testing requires two to three years."
The Su-57 is set to be the third fifth generation air superiority fighter to enter service in the world, and with the early termination of the U.S. F-22 Raptor program it will be the only such fighter in production outside China. The fighter is, according to Russian experts, set to exceed the capabilities of the F-22 while requiring significantly less maintenance. Based on the Su-27's relationship with the U.S. F-15, the air superiority fighters' fourth generation equivalents, the Su-57 could well surpass the F-22's capabilities - particularly in light of recent flaws which have emerged in the Raptor's performance. With the F-22 banned from export even to the United States' closest allies the Su-57 is set to enjoy significant export successes, particularly considering the fact that the most capable air superiority fighters available for acquisition by U.S. allies date back to the 1970s and boast far less sophisticated capabilities compared to the cutting edge Su-57 and F-22. Ultimately the induction of the Su-57 is set to represent the biggest step forward Russia's fighter development since the induction of the Su-27 33 years prior, and will likely see several upgraded variants enter service in its wake. The Su-27 for its part has seen eight different fighters developed from its airframe, including strike, carrier based and supermaneuverable platforms. The Su-57 could potentially see such variants developed based on its own airframe enter service in the near future as well - while Russia's military has also indicated potential development into a sixth generation platform in future due to the versatility of the fighter's design.