State trials for a new medium range air to air missile intended to equip Russian Air Force Su-57 fighter jets have reportedly entered their final stages, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, with the delivery of the first serial production units for operational service expected by the end of the year. Developed by the Vympel Design Bureau, the missile’s name and performance characteristics remain classified, although Shoigu elaborated that they “are designed to outfit the advanced Su-57 aircraft platform and other carriers.” “This year, we are planning to complete the state trials of the missiles and deliver the first serial batches for operation. The new armament will help raise the combat efficiency of carrier aircraft in aerial stand-off and boost the range of engaged aerial targets, including small-size vehicles based on the stealth technology,” he stated. The missile’s existence was first publicised in November 2019, and it is expected to complement the fighter’s existing main air to air armament the K-77M, as well as the very long ranged izdeliye 810 which is derived from the 400km range R-37M.
The Russian Air Force’s sole squadron of Su-57 fighters has reportedly continued to support the country’s war effort in Ukraine, with the first Su-57 deployments to Ukrainian territory reported in March. State media outlet TASS confirmed on May 20, citing a defence industry source, that Su-57s had been deployed to the theatre beginning “two to three weeks” after operations in Ukraine began. The fighter has been reported to be carrying out air defence suppression missions and launching standoff precision strikes, although these have consistently been carried out from beyond the range of Ukrainian air defences likely because the aircraft is still restricted to an initial operating capability and not ready for high intensity operations. It is nevertheless the only post fourth generation fighter to have used beyond visual range weapons in combat – feat achieved before serial production variants had even entered service with advanced prototypes having tested new weapons against Islamist insurgent positions in Syria from February 2018. Opportunities for combat testing against aerial targets in Ukraine remain manifold, with the Ukrainian Military still losing various drones in the dozens per week which could provide an opportunity to gain a relatively uncomplicated air to air kill for the prestige of the Su-57 program. The aircraft is one of just four post fourth generation fighters in serial production alongside the American F-35 and China’s J-20 and FC-31, with three full squadrons scheduled to be deployed by the end of 2027.