The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is constructing a number of new facilities at its Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant (KnAAZ) in far-eastern Russia in a bid to build up capacity and allow the firm to increase serial production of the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter.
A subsidiary of Russia’s Rostec State Corporation, the UAC will construct several new facilities at the KnAAZ that are designed to test systems and equipment for the Su-57, including a boathouse for testing onboard radio-electronic equipment, a fuel box and a motor test station. The construction of these new facilities is being carried out at the expense of the UAC, which is set to deliver 76 Su-57s to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MOD) over the coming years.
As part of a programme to increase the serial production of the Su-57, the UAC plans to reconstruct current capacities at the KnAAZ to help expand production. This work will be carried out using funds from Russia’s federal budget.
Vladimir Artyakov, the First Deputy General Director of the Rostec State Corporation, said: “The UAC is fulfilling a large state contract. In the coming years, the [Russian MOD] needs to supply 76 Su-57 fighters. In order to produce the required number of aircraft with high quality and on time, we have begun to expand and modernise production facilities. Already in the second half of 2023, the new facilities of the KnAAZ flight test station should receive the first aircraft.”
The UAC marked the start of construction during a ceremony of laying the new buildings at the KnAAZ on August 19, as part of Russia’s Day of the Air Fleet celebrations and to mark the 88th anniversary since the formation of the KnAAZ. During the event, a commemorative capsule with a message to future generations of KnAAZ aircraft builders was placed in the foundation of one of the buildings.
Having completed its maiden flight on January 29, 2010, the Su-57 – Russia’s first fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter, which was developed to rival the US-developed Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor – has remained in testing for the majority of its life, with just ten prototypes and at least six serial production examples produced to-date. Having entered operational service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (RuASF) on December 25, 2020, the type has seen limited combat service and, while it has been deployed for operations over Syria on occasions, it has not been used to support the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
When considering Russia’s initial acquisition plans for the Su-57, procurement has been scaled back and delayed considerably on a number of occasions, with technical issues and Western sanctions on the Russian economy following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 being key factors in this. The Russian MOD initially planned to acquire 60 production-standard Su-57s by 2020, followed by a further 150-160 by 2025. However, such plans changed after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that 76 examples would be purchased and delivered to the RuASF by 2028.
Potential export orders were also factored into initial plans for the Su-57’s production cycle. For instance, an Indian version of the platform was to be developed under the now-cancelled Sukhoi/Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or T-50 programme. Since India withdrew from the programme in 2018, the Su-57 has yet to register any successes on the global export market.