Created | Updated May 21, 2006
Late in the 20th Century Russia released photographs of the S-37, supposedly a new breed of stealth aircraft. A small report in the papers that indicated that the S-37 may enter production, contradicting earlier reports which stated that the financial crunch in Russia would prevent the entry of the S-37 into active service.
USA Stealth Technology
For decades the United States had a technological edge over the Soviet (now Russian/CIS) air force, an edge which continues today. The obvious areas where the Americans have the edge would be computer technology and weapons, even though Russian planes are, on the whole, more manoeuvrable and rugged than their American counterparts (notably the Mig-29 and Su-27/30/35/33).
Stealth technology, however, has been the USAF's most pointed advantage, despite the fact that stealth aircraft are few in number and rarely see much action.
The F-117 Stealth Fighter
The F-117 stealth fighter1 has been in action in many theatres of combat, most prominently in the Gulf War. The F-117 has a scanty payload (it carries only two weapons in its bomb bay) and has no cannon. However, it has never fought against an enemy up to the job of successfully detecting and eliminating it, and therefore losses have been few. Some observers feel that the F-117 is not an exceptional aircraft, but is necessary in the combat situations that NATO faces so often these days.
The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit is a remarkable aeroplane, with a distinctive 'flying-wing' configuration marking it out as a sleek, stealthy fighter. This bomber is capable of carrying a massive payload of bombs, missiles and more. This is truly a stealthy aircraft, and worthy of being in service for many years to come.
The F-22 Raptor
The F-22 Raptor (originally Lightning) is the USAF's new stealth fighter. In fact, the F-22 is the first actual fighter, with proper air-to-air missiles and stunning manoeuvrability. This will probably be the main rival of the S-37, when it comes into service (and if the S-37 enters service).
The S-37 is a striking aeroplane, with swept-forward wings and a shape akin to the Su-27 series. Both types are manufactured by the famous Sukhoi OKB (that's SovietSpeak for Design Bureau). The foremounted canards are somewhat triangular and placed unconventionally far from the cockpit and close to the wings. The rear tail-planes are small but sleek and of unconventional design. Just about everything about this plane seems unconventional. The strange hump behind the canopy could be something to do with avionics or computer systems, but knowing previous Russian design (excluding Su-30s) this would be a departure from convention - this wouldn't be surprising. On a more conventional note, it has two ordinary looking engines, though they may be a more powerful variety of standard engines, and an IR targeting/target tracking blister mounted just in front of the canopy, which has been seen on most modern Russian military aircraft. That this aircraft is a stealth fighter is mere speculation, though it seems that it very well could be.
However, the Russian military and Government is in a precarious state right now, so the future of the S-37 is uncertain. A solution could be to grant export licences for production of this fighter to friendly nations - this would be a radical thing to do with stealth technology. Still, the S-37's future military career remains in doubt, though the American military should not neglect the potential of this new advance in Russian military technology.