Russia Teases Upcoming ‘Mini-Su-57’ Single Engine Stealth Jet with World’s Most Powerful Fighter Engine

On July 13th Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation released a teaser for its upcoming single-engine stealth fighter, with a full presentation reportedly scheduled for July 20 at the opening of the MAKS 2021 International Aviation and Space Salon. 

The aircraft will be Russia’s first post-Soviet single engine fighter and will use technologies from the Su-57 heavyweight twin-engine fighter but on a lighter airframe which is both cheaper to produce and requires less maintenance. 

The fact that the large majority of next-generation technologies the fighter will use will already have been developed for its heavier counterpart is expected to considerably reduce research and development costs. 

Reports on the new single-engine fighter’s performance indicate that it will benefit from advanced forms of artificial intelligence - a technology recently integrated into more basic form onto the MiG-35 - as well as a fundamentally new system of shielding and thrust vector control. Reports from Russian media outlets indicate that the aircraft "significantly surpasses all foreign fourth-generation fighters in its combat capabilities and can successfully compete with such machines as the F-35 Lightning II on the battlefield and in the arms markets." 

Unlike the F-35, the new fighter will benefit from supermanoeuvrability - a feature China’s J-10C is the only single-engine fighter to have currently - as well as the ability to fly supersonically for sustained periods without using its afterburner. 

The new single engine aircraft is expected to be powered by a Saturn 30 engine, which is scheduled to power new variants of the Su-57 from 2022 and according to Russian sources will be the most powerful fighter engine in the world.

Russia has a long history of setting world records for fighter engine power, noble examples including the MiG-23’s R-35 from 1970 and the MiG-31’s D30-F6 from 1981, with the latter holding this record for a few months short of 25 years. The country’s Tu-160M bombers currently use the most powerful engines of any military aircraft in the world - the NK-32M. 

The upcoming single-engine fighter using the Saturn 30 is being produced with export markets largely in mind, but could also be fielded in considerable numbers by the Russian Air Force itself to replace the MiG-29 medium weight fighter and possibly the Su-30 heavyweight fighters in service. The aircraft is expected to have much lower maintenance requirements than the Su-30 - a heavyweight predecessor to the Su-57 which currently forms the backbone of the Russian fleet. 

Some unverified estimates regarding the new single-engine fighter’s weight indicate that it may rely on an engine derived from the Saturn 30’s technologies which compromise power for low fuel consumption and low maintenance needs, although this would still almost certainly be considerably more powerful than any fourth-generation fighter engine. 

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