Russian media announced on Friday that it had significantly improved the stealth on its Su-57 fighter jet by applying a coating to the glass canopy on the cockpit, as well as similar upgrades to its Tu-160 nuclear bomber.
Russia’s state-owned defense corporation Rostec told Russian media the new coating “doubles radar wave absorption and reduces the aircraft cockpit’s radar signature by 30%” and added that Russia’s Su-57, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, and MiG-29K jets already have the upgrade.
But none of those jets, including the Su-57, which Russia explicitly bills as a stealth fighter, are considered that stealthy by experts contacted by Business Insider.
While Russia’s Sukhoi fighter/bombers have enviable maneuverability and serious dogfighting capability, only the US and China have produced true stealth fighters.
A stealth scientist working on US aircraft previously reviewed pictures of the Su-57 and concluded in an interview with Business Insider that Russia had hardly even tried to make the plane unobservable to radar.
Conspicuous rivets jutting out of the airframe and accentuator humps spoiled any possible stealth in the design, the scientist said.
Radar absorbing materials have been used to disguise fighter planes since World War II and have some utility, but will do little to hide Russian jets which have to carry weapons stores externally.
Other experts told Business Insider the Su-57’s likely mission was to hunt and kill US stealth aircraft like the F-22 or F-35.
TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, described the Su-57 as a “multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.”
But Russia has declined to mass-produce the jet despite declaring it “combat proven” after limited engagements against rebel forces in Syria that didn’t have anti-air capabilities.
Russia’s next-generation tank, the T-14, also saw its promised mass production run scaled back as Russia struggles with weak oil prices and heavy sanctions on its economy.