Sukhoi is conducting tests on an unmanned variant of the Su-57 fighter, said a source on the Russian news site Ria Novosti. Without providing details, the press vehicle states that “an unmanned mode is being developed on the basis of the T-50 flying laboratory. The pilot is in the cockpit during the flight, but only controls the performance of all functions.”
Previously known by the acronym PAK FA, the Su-57 flew for the first time in 2010 and undergoes an extensive and long test program. Although the aircraft suffered problems with the development of its engines, the Russian Air Force confirmed last year that the stealth fighter jet was operational.
In order to get a sufficient number of active planes, Russia recruited Sukhoi’s test units. The Su-57 carried out some missions in Syria, according to the country, to the amazement of Western analysts. Without the same financial resources as in the past, Russia announced an order for 76 fighters last year, but they have not yet started to be delivered.
The first series production fighter suffered an accident in late 2019 near Khabarovsk, in the far east of the country. While the causes of the crash are still being analyzed, the general director of United Aircraft Corporation, which controls Sukhoi, guaranteed improvements would be made to the aircraft.
Russia has sought to modernize its air force after years of delays. The most modern airplanes used today are derived from projects from the 70s, when the country was part of the Soviet Union.
The option for an unmanned variant of a conventional fighter goes in the opposite direction of other countries that have been studying an alternative in which a manned aircraft flies accompanied by a UAV designed for this function, and therefore smaller and lighter.