Britain says Russia has almost certainly used its most advanced operational fighter aircraft to conduct missions against Ukraine.
British Defense Intelligence on January 9 said that Russia has used the Su-57 (NATO nickname Felon) fifth-generation combat aircraft against Ukraine since at least June 2022.
“These missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long-range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine,” the message added.
The assessment came in a tweet of the Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence update with released recent commercial satellite imagery showing five Su-57 Felons parked at Akhtubinsk Air Base, which hosts the 929th Flight Test Centre.
“As this is the only known Felon base, these aircraft have likely been involved in operations against Ukraine,” the Defense Intelligence said in a Twitter post.
Also noted is that Russia is highly likely prioritizing avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of Su-57 over Ukraine.
“This is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk-averse approach to employing its air force in the war,” the assessment says.
The Su-57 has had a long and somewhat tortured development, first production example crashed during a flight test in 2019.
The Felon took to the skies for the first time on January 29, 2010. Compared to the Su-27 family of fighter aircraft, the Su-57 combines the functions of an attack plane and a fighter jet while the use of composite materials and innovation technologies and the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration ensure the low level of radar and infrared signature.