Many aircraft have been forgotten in aviation history for various reasons, and Russia’s Su-47 Golden Eagle is one such case. Despite its ambitious plans, this fifth-generation fighter never quite matched the American F-22.
Su-47: Revolutionary but problematic design
The Su-47 was notable for its inverted forward-swept wings, a unique feature that promised high angles of attack and longer range. However, this innovative design also had its drawbacks, such as instability and high stresses at high speeds.
The Su-47, also known as the S-37 Berkut, had some problems with its design. One issue was the structural integrity and stability of its forward-swept wings. The unique wing configuration caused stress on the wings, requiring extra reinforcement. It also made the aircraft less stable at high angles of attack.
The complex wing design affected the aerodynamics of the Su-47. The airflow over the wings was more prone to separation and instability, reducing control and maneuverability in certain flight conditions.
Another problem was the limited production and operational capability of the Su-47. Only a few prototypes were built, and it didn’t enter full-scale production or widespread use. This limited experience and development of the aircraft.
Moreover, the Su-47’s advanced technology and unique design made it expensive to produce and maintain. This made it less attractive to potential buyers, and it struggled to secure significant orders.
In summary, the Su-47 faced challenges with its structural integrity, aerodynamics, limited production, and high costs. These factors contributed to the problematic aspects of its design and limited its success in the aviation industry.
Technical and maintenance challenges
The Su-47 technology demonstrator first flew in 1997, but problems soon appeared. The lighter fiber composite wings proved vulnerable to high-speed stresses, causing cracks and costly repairs.
In addition, the Su-47 had a computer-controlled flight function, but its D-30F-11 turbojet engines did not achieve the MACH 2 speed that the Russians were looking for, staying at MACH 1.65.
Radar and stealth: Was it really sneaky?
Although the Su-47 featured stealthy skins and an internal weapons bay, air combat experts disagree on whether it was truly stealthy. In any case, it did not reach the stealth level of aircraft such as the F-22.
Lack of agencies comparable to DARPA
Russia did not have an agency comparable to DARPA in the United States, which could have corrected or canceled the program in time. The creation of the Russian Foundation for Research Projects in 2012 may have been useful, but it was too late for the Su-47.
An uncertain future for Competition in Russia
The merger of Sukhoi and MiG into the United Aircraft Corporation’s “Russian Battle Aviation Division” could change the competitive landscape in Russia. However, the possibility of a tender similar to US procurement practices seems remote.
In summary, the Su-47 is an example of an ambitious project that does not come to fruition.