How good is the MiG-31 and the Su-57? | World Defense

How good is the MiG-31 and the Su-57?


Jan 11, 2023
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Russian Federation
I've been trying to piece together various *facts* based on a variety of factors, I'll try to combine them all in here over time rather than all at once, because it's an ongoing project. However, here's some basics I want to throw into the hat right away.

  • Su-57 AESA is comparable to the F-35's; I counted the transmitter/receiver modules in total, about 1550 for the N036 (Su-57) and about 1660 for the AN/APG-81 (F-35).
  • To-do list: figure out their actual diameters, then extrapolate their power supply somehow, to derive an actual range. Right now the Russians claim ~220km on the Su-57 and the Americans claim ~110km or so on the F-35. I don't believe either of these numbers.
  • Su-57's radar cross-section is comparable to the F-35, the claims that the F-35's cross section is 1/1000th of that of the Su-57 as seen on some claims from Google Searches comes from an ignorance about radar. RCS looking at an "ice cream cone" from the tip, a "conesphere" is about 0.001m^2. Which is no coincidence that the US claims their F-35 has an RCS comparable to that kind of structure, because it's a property of physics anyone should know. (I can provide links later if needed). The Su-57 claims a radar cross section about 0.3-0.4m^2. which is orders of magnitude bigger. I believe the Russians are hinting at some basic side-view RCS and the US has just avoided the claim entirely. Again I just don't believe either claim and there's probably no specific way to prove it anyway, so I assume the two aircraft are comparable to each other in this tech.
  • MiG-31 is mid-stratospheric capable ~80,000 feet altitude. I think this is an important overlooked feature I'll explain further:
  • After some deep diving I found that military radars about 8GHz to 15GHz have attenuation due to H2O. The attenuation is favorable in most conditions but is noticeable at distances, approximately 0.3 to 0.4 decibels per km.
  • From another source I read that 5th generation fighters aim for ~15 to ~20 decibels of attenuation.
  • At vertical distances of ~24km (78,000 feet) and horizontal distances greater than that, the attenuation for MiG-31 (and SR-71) quickly becomes stealthy 5th generation in theory and I wonder if in practice. I would argue that was the bigger advantage than their speed and it's never talked about for whatever reason.
  • Dry air isn't an advantage so I argue the altitude is important only to increase the attenuation against the radar.
  • U2 counter argument is that it was claimed to be shot down over 80,000 feet, but this is unlikely - 60,000 feet is more likely, and it travelled only about 0.61 Mach which gave its attackers much more time to track the target. Since the U2 was taking pictures I'd imagine it may have even gone below 60,000 feet, the photo quality at 80,000 feet would have been terrible in the 1960s.
  • My argument for attenuation comes from the idea that the U2 performance was much poorer than the SR-71 on many levels, probably didn't fly deep in the stratosphere to maximize attenuation of military radars, and flew much slower.
So there are some facts I'll build citations and more foundations from. The point of this thread is that I see a lot of garbage YouTube videos when looking for information on Su-57 such as "why is putin afraid to deploy his best plane" and then all the comments of chucklehead know-nothings bark like seals in an echo chamber about how the Su-57 sucks.

Well turns out that the UK finally disclosed it took them 8 months to prove that the Su-57 has been flying within Ukrainian Air Defense Space for the entire war. I'd say if you don't know a plane is flying in your air space for 8 months, and it takes one of the best nations at spying/information gathering in the world to figure it out, that's a damned good plane.

But I wanted to set about proving it, which led me first to the MiG-31, because I believe these represent two concepts of Russian approaches to "next gen" fighters that differ from the Americans.

In general, that "higher and faster" is a stealth capability and therefore higher survivability attribute, and that "faster and more maneuverable" mixed with stealth tech is also a higher survivability attribute.

As we have seen, to this day, MiG-31 and Su-57s have not been shot down. Even though we know that during the August-October Ukrainian offensives, Russia was flying at least 2 MiG-31 sorties against Ukraine per day. So at least 180 sorties and no shoot downs.

In general not many Russian planes have been shot down anyway, and that's a discussion for another topic.

The MiG-31's capabilities are terrifying if you're going up against it, even in an F-35. I'd argue that the F-35 can't even look up to see the MiG at that high altitude, but I have no verifiable pitch-angle for the F-35 radar. I estimate it'd be less than 20degrees.

Without getting too much into the math - if correct - then that means that for a plane flying about 45,000 feet cruising, it cannot see anything above 70,000 feet that's within 30 miles of it unless you pitch the aircraft up to give it some kind of look higher.

The Su-57 seems to build on the MiG-31's principles but does away with the stratospheric camouflage in favor of actual stealth tech embedded into its airframe like the F-35/F-22 etc.

Its supermaneuverability I think is better for survival than stand-off range even though its stand-off range is bigger than the F-35's arguably. That's where determining actual radars' ranges comes in, but for now the assumption has to be what's publicly stated which is in favor of Russia 2:1.

I'll get around to MiG-31's capability in that department later. I'm headed out for the day and look to discuss this more. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!