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Sukhoi Ready to Develop Carrier Variant of the Su-57 if Required

March 05th - 2018

Just a week after the first ever deployment of Russia's Su-57 air superiority fighters, the country's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) stated it was ready to being development of a carrier based variant of the heavy fifth generation platform. The chief designer at UAC Sergey Korotkov emphasised however that the design of a carrier based fighter would need to work in conjunction with the design of the carrier. The fighter's maximum takeoff weight for example would be affected by the carrier's launch system, with an electromagnetic launch system (EMALS) allowing better armed platforms with more fuel to deploy compared to those operating from carriers relying on steam or ski jumps alone. Korotkov stated to this effect: "If we work only on the aerial components and do not work on the ship components, then things won't match up. A whole host of problems involving takeoff, landing, operation, electromagnetic compatibility and so on — it must be done together." In regards to the benefits of an EMALS launch system, particularly relative to the ski jump system used by Russia's existing carrier Admiral Kuznetsov: "If a new carrier is being built, it must have modern features, such as electromagnetic catapults."

In February 2018 Russian navy official Nikolay Maximov revealed that the Russian Navy planned to commission a new carrier, which would likely deploy Su-57 fighters from its deck in place of the Su-33 platforms on the Admiral Kuznetsov. With the Su-33 being the name for a carrier based modification of the Su-27, the Su-57's fourth generation predecessor, it is likely that a carrier based variant of the fifth generation platform could be given a new designation - possibly Su-63 if following the trend set by its predecessor.

Russia's new carrier is likely to be based on the SHTORM concept, a supercarrier design exceeding even the United States Navy's Gerald Ford Class in displacement. Deployment of the Su-57 with an electromagnetic launch system would make the warship's air wing the most capable in the world, with no other carrier deploying fifth generation air superiority fighters from its deck. While the U.S. Military originally planned to commission a carrier based variant of the F-22, its own equivalent to the Su-57, the platform's extreme maintenance requirements and the cost of commissioning carrier based variants led to its cancellation. China, the world's only other producer of heavy air superiority platforms, is yet to reveal its plans regarding the aircraft it is set to deploy from future warships. This could give the Russian Navy a distinct advantage over any potential adversaries and put its Navy in a better position to claim air superiority over any contenders at sea and project power globally. With a range, payload, radar and avionics comparable to the U.S. F-22 Raptor, and carrying air to air missiles unmatched anywhere in the world, the Su-57 will retain an overwhelming advantage over the U.S. Navy's own lighter F-35 in all performance fields - forcing the latter to rely on weight of numbers to contend with the Russian platform.

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