Su-35 vs F-35: Who will win?


The original on the website of The National Interest

Russian fighter su-35 is clearly the furore in the military the media the West — and not without reason.

In spite of the powerful sanctions and a weak economy that has definitely seen better days, Moscow continues one after the other to create new combat systems such as tanks, submarines, platforms for nuclear weapons and so on.

Of course, many examples of this equipment was planned and constructed before the introduction of sanctions, but Russia has made great efforts in the modernization of its armed forces, especially the air force, abandoning the old Soviet system. A good example of such efforts is the su-35.

Looks like a su-35 in comparison with the best American aircraft? What are his chances in the fight against the U.S. air force, who definitely are the best in the world? For example, how will the su-35 in a combat situation, when he will face a fighter F-35 Lockheed Martin? And how will reveal itself a new Russian plane, in the face of older American cars, such as the F-15 or F-16?

Related news: the deadly Russian fighter su-35 is better the American F-15?

Such scenarios are important, not only in the context of the confrontation between Russia, NATO or the situation in the middle East. Now, when Russia is going to supply su-35 to China, these comparisons become even more important. In the world there are many places where you can cross the path of these deadly machines, and therefore comparisons of this kind are highly relevant.

The following is a compilation of three articles written in the past year, the editor of The National Interest in military issues Dave Majumdar. These issues are discussed deeply and in detail, and we have combined these articles into one, to bring pleasure to readers. So, let the debate begin.


Unified strike fighter F-35 Lockheed Martin should be the mainstay of tactical fighters of the Pentagon. However, not every country in the world can afford the use of expensive fifth generation fighter.

Even Russia and China are unlikely to try to create a whole aircraft fleet of these fighters. Instead, in the foreseeable future the Foundation of their tactical aircraft are different versions of the su-27 fighter developed by Sukhoi and is designed to gain air superiority. The most effective aircraft of the family “Fencerow” (Flanker — so NATO called a series of samples su — approx. TRANS.) su-35 has seriously improved electronics, engines and chassis. In the coming years, this version of the Russian fighter is likely to receive wide distribution in the world.

To counter the various versions of Fencerow” the US air force, marine corps and (to a lesser extent) the U.S. Navy will have to rely on various modifications of the F-35, although to achieve air superiority it was never intended. The F-35 was and remains an attack aircraft with advanced features for protection from enemy fighters, though the Pentagon and advertises it as a multi-role fighter.

How will the four F-35, faced with the four su-35? Most likely, it will change the course and cause of the F-22 (Raptor) and F-15S, whose task is to establish and maintain air superiority, and she will happily fly on to designated targets.

However, as history shows, war does not always choose the optimal solution. Even if the F-35 will have to do on their own, they will have a good chance against su-35 just for this they will need to properly play their cards. Pilots of the F-35 will need to skillfully use the strengths of their fighters, such as stealth, airborne detection devices and cunning tactics — and not let the enemy take advantage of their weaknesses. This means that they are using stealth and detection devices will need to fight out of sight, avoiding closer contact, and in which they will become vulnerable.

News on topic: will the Russian fighter su-35 combat F-35?

In contrast to the “Raptor”, which has been designed primarily for air combat, the F-35 wasn’t designed for it. In the F-22 combines stealth design, high limiting altitude and supersonic cruising speed (1.8 Mach). Meanwhile, the F-35 barely reaches Mach 1.6 at full afterburner. In addition, the F-22 has excellent maneuverability in battle in the line of sight. It surpasses rivals in angular turn rate, radius, angle of attack and acceleration at all altitudes.

Four Raptors flying at supersonic speed in the rarefied atmosphere at altitude 15.2 km, in fact she can choose where and when to fight; and the four relatively slow F-35 is flying lower, may face the need to engage in battle with her superior on the characteristics of enemy aircraft, if pilots are not careful).

Moreover, the speed of the F-35 and the height that it is gaining, do not allow it to give its missiles AIM-120 the same energy as when you run with the F-22. Accordingly, at start-up with the F-35 range missiles will be less. In addition, the F-35 can’t carry on Board the same number of missiles “air-air” that creates problems since the jamming devices with digital memorization of the high frequencies are quite able to disrupt the guidance system of the AIM-120.

In a dogfight the F-35 does not have the maneuverability “Raptor” — and even the F-16 or F/ A-18. If he has to fight at a short distance, to save the plane can only pilot superiority over the enemy in experience and skills. Further, the F-35 with stealth characteristics is equipped only with internal weapons and can’t carry missiles AIM-9X, which is capable of hitting targets with an offset from line of sight. If weapons bays of the F-35 when it will be adapted for AIM-9X, the fighter would have to sacrifice missiles AIM-120 are better for its main tasks. Thus, the pilot of the F-35 needs to avoid melee.

It is unlikely that the commander of the air forces of the United forces put in front of the F-35 the task of gaining dominance in the air if he will have other options. However, as the “Raptors” the United States is small, and the F-15C is getting smaller, it is possible that the command will be forced to take such measures by the F-35 to gain air superiority. However, in any case, in most regions of the world the main threat to U.S. aircraft remain modern air defense systems, not the enemy planes.


The F-15C Eagle Boeing is on arms military-air forces of the USA for nearly 40 years and, apparently, will be used for several more decades. Over the years, a powerful F—15 has been repeatedly modernized to meet the growing threats; but does the venerable Eagle the qualities that are necessary for the conquest of the sky?

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The answer is this: Yes, of course. Probably the F—15 isn’t young, but he is still one of the best fighter superiority in the air. The only current aircraft superior to the F—15 most of the indicators, is produced by Lockheed Martin F—22 Raptor. Other machines have advantages in some aspects, however, the F—15C as a whole maintains its competitiveness, whatever is said on this occasion, the representatives of the Department to attract clientele from a variety of competitors.

The American fighter F-15E Strike Eagle at Incirlik air base, Turkey

Perhaps the most serious threat to the F—15 is a Russian fighter jet su—35. Even though this stage of development are other, more modern aircraft, they are likely to be too expensive for mass production. The su—35 is not the most common potential threat, however, is very high the chances that their number will grow rapidly. According to reports, Indonesia decided to buy su—35, and furthermore, we know that the question of its acquisition discuss Chinese.

Su—35 is a really dangerous fighting machine, and in many respects the Russian plane is not inferior to the latest versions of F—15 or even exceeds them. From the point of view of purely kinematic capabilities, su—35 loses a bit in top speed of the F—15, but it surpasses it in acceleration, which is achieved thanks to its powerful coaxial motors (item 117C of the company “Saturn”), each of which creates a thrust of 14,500 pounds. In addition, when the aircraft has a relatively small load, it is able to maintain supersonic speeds without using afterburners.

Although great acceleration to supersonic speeds at high altitudes are a huge advantage, the F—15C is also not goof — and the result is the superiority of the Russian aircraft will not be decisive. However, at low speeds, the su—35 has an overwhelming advantage. He has driven in three dimensions by vector thrust and incredible maneuverability at low speeds. However, the use of helmet-mounted display systems and targeting, and missiles at high angles of targeting, such as AIM—9X and R—73 for close visual contact will often lead to a situation of “mutual destruction”, which is confirmed by many pilots. However, a lot will depend on the skill of the pilot and, frankly, luck.

At long range the F—15C and F—15E retains air superiority over su—35, because they have radar and antenna arrays with automatic electronic scanning. Radar Raytheon APG-63 (v) 3 and APG-82 (v)1 installed on F—15C and F—15E, still greatly exceed the capability of “Tikhomirov’s” radar with a passive phased antenna array “IRBIS—E” to equip the su—35. The Russian fighter has a slight advantage in the field of passive sensors, because it has a built-in infrared search and tracking, but the F—15 will receive a very perfect system of search and tracking in the near future that will negate the benefits of the Russian “Flanker”.

What is su—35, apparently, holds the supremacy, is in the means of electronic warfare. Su—35S boasts a powerful jamming system with digital memory, which is able to divert an American missile AIM—120 AMRAAM. Although these are American missiles, in the end, most likely, will be able to overcome the protection of the Russian aircraft, for the destruction of the target will require more missiles than expected designers. In addition, the su-35 is on Board a huge Arsenal of missiles “air-air”, whereas the F—15 obsolete defensive electronics. Military-air forces of the USA are well aware of these problems and this is why so much attention is paid to the project of modernization of the system of passive-active prevention and survival (EPAWSS) for the F—15, which is expected to spend 7.6 billion.

Fighter-bomber F-35 “lightning” II

The real problem is that the su—35 and modern models of the F—15 Eagle is comparable in its characteristics — and this is what causes concern among the commanders of the air force of the United States. American pilots used to conduct combat operations in situation when they have great technical superiority, whereas in the case of the su—35 such superiority is not, and in some respects even Russian aircraft superior to the F—15. In General, under equal conditions, even fully modernized and equipped with the latest radar with an active phased antenna array of the F—15C will be very hard in confrontation with the su—35. However, such situation is possible in case if the United States would wage war against Russia or against any other great power such as China. But this is unlikely.

Rather, the F—15 can deal with su-35, the armament of some despot from the third world. The pilots from that country are unlikely to have the training, tactics and experience necessary to lead the fight against American pilots, and real chances to win have not. In addition, the Russian fighters are known, are not very reliable, and if we add to this the poorly trained technical staff and the lack of spare parts, some unimportant third world country is not able to support the fighter in working condition. It is important that a potential enemy — if not to consider Russia and China are not likely to be AWACS and a full ground-based intercept, which will create for them additional problems.

The conclusion is that if F—15 does not have to participate in the third world war, the air force of the country will use it for another two decades. The one-sided advantage, which was used by American pilots, will not be, but, nevertheless, the loss of air superiority to the United States is not threatened.


Aircraft Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon over many years forms the basis of the U.S. air force and its allies. With years of light fighter air combat it has evolved into a powerful multi-purpose machine that performs a wide range of tasks ranging from suppression of enemy air defenses and ending the fight for air superiority. “The Viper” as the F-16 called the American pilots, is in service since 1980, but the aircraft continues to improve and will remain in service in the US air force and other countries for several more decades. But although F-16 is a formidable fighter, a likely opponent begins to catch up. The latest designs of Russian aircraft such as the su-35 in many respects not far behind the F-16 and even surpass it.

Su-35 is largely analogous to the F-15 Eagle Boeing, however, Russia sells around the world are more “Fencerow” than the MiG-29. I must say that during major exercises like Red Flag or Red Flag Alaska, the U.S. air force as the enemy aircraft used copies of the “Flanker” (usually su-30МКК), and MiG-29. The fact is that American pilots are more likely to meet in the air with this massive twin-engined Russian plane, but not with some others.

Su-35 is not the most common variant of the “Flanker”, but the most efficient of the number created to date. Once you are in good hands (trained pilots, support from ground operators, or AWACS), su-35 can create a powerful threat to any Western fighter except the F-22 Raptor. Probably the F-35 is also going to show himself well — if the pilots are to use it properly stealth characteristics, sensors and networking opportunities. Here are the most important tactics and level of training.

And how about the workhorse F-16? The Viper, in contrast to the latest upgraded version of the F-15C, no massive radar with active phased antenna array, and it usually can’t launch a missile AIM-120 at those speeds and altitudes, which reaches Eagle. But the F-15C was created specifically as a fighter superiority in the air. The majority of the armament of the F-16 do not Afar. Upgraded F-16E/F United Arab Emirates have the AESA APG-80, which has excellent possibilities, but these aircraft are very few. In the U.S. air force F-16 currently are not equipped with the AESA, which puts them in extremely unfavorable conditions in comparison with the su-35 and other variants of Fencerow”.

In the US air force are well aware of this problem. Command intends to upgrade about 300 F-16, setting them in the framework of CAPES on-Board radar with an active phased antenna array. But this program was canceled due to sequestration, as it is called automatic reduction of the budget. However, in the air force know that they need to equip F-16s with new radar, and the sooner, the better.

Related news: Russian fighter in a dangerous manner, was intercepted by a patrol plane of the US

This year the air National guard filed an urgent application, requiring you to install AESA on their F-16s, which carry out tasks for the protection of the country. These radars need to track cruise missiles and other small and trudnoobrabatyvaemyh goals. In the air force is also aware of this problem, and the command in the month of March has filed a request to receive information about the new radar for the F-16. In the same month, the air force chief of staff General mark Welsh (Mark Welsh) said the Committee on armed services of the house of representatives: “We need to develop a modernization plan afar for the entire fleet of aircraft.”

US air force basically, do not use F-16 as a fighter superiority in the air and the air battle for him is an auxiliary task. AFAR need this venerable aircraft to ensure that it has not lost its relevance. With AESA, the F-16 probably will survive in a battle with the su-35 and at a longer range, although it will still be difficult.

At a lower range all will depend on the skill of the pilot and the characteristics of missiles with indirect fire from each aircraft. With the advent of missiles like R-73 and AIM-9X dogfight at a range of line of sight will invariably take place according to the scenario of mutually assured destruction. During the training missions this happens quite often. Although the thrust vector control of the su-35 gives him an advantage at very low speeds (we must remember that low speed means low energy state), it is not an insurmountable obstacle for the experienced pilot the F-16, who knows how to make full use of the strengths of his car.

From all this we can conclude the following. The su-35 and other modern “Flanker is a very capable aircraft. American fourth generation fighters do not possess the same undeniable technical advantages they had in the past. The United States must invest in the next-generation fighters as soon as possible to replace the current aircraft fleet.

Dave Majumdar

“The Independent

The editors can not agree with the opinion of the author. If you want to write under the heading “Opinion”, read the rules of the publications and write on [email protected]


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