Su-35 vs F-22: who is stronger in aerial combat

WASHINGTON, (BM) – The American magazine The National Interest decided to evaluate the capabilities of the Russian Su-35S generation 4 ++ multi-role fighter in an air battle with American aircraft. It turned out extremely interesting.

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Paying tribute to the super-maneuverability of the Su-35S and its “good electronic and weapon systems“, the magazine concludes that this fighter is in no way inferior to Western aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle, Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale. As for the “European” and “Frenchman”, which, of course, have greater combat capabilities than the American F-15, then the statement “is not inferior to Western aircraft” is refuted by the real state of affairs.

The Indian Air Force has more than two hundred Su-30MKI fighters belonging to the 4+ generation. These are, of course, powerful machines, but they do not match the capabilities of the Su-35. He does not meet the requirements for fifth-generation fighters, only on three counts. By stealth, by radar with AFAR and by supersonic speed in non-afterburner mode. Everything else, as they say, is with him.

So, during the annually held exercises in India, to which the pilots of the United States and a number of other NATO countries are invited, the Su-30MKI reigned supreme in the sky. With a crushing score, they won victories in training battles against the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale. This way of comparing the quality of fighters is the most reliable. And the statement that the Su-35 is only “not inferior” to the above aircraft does not stand up to criticism.

The magazine admits that even the fifth generation F-22 and F-35 fighters of the US Air Force, F-22 and F-35, cannot compete with the Su-35 in terms of super-maneuverability. And this is predetermined not only by the perfection of the airframe and controls of the Russian machine. It is equipped with engines from the Rybinsk NPO Saturn AL-41F1S, which have a fully deflected thrust vector. This is achieved due to the fact that the nozzles rotate in two planes – vertical and horizontal.

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The most maneuverable of the American “fives” – the F-22 Raptor – is capable of deflecting the thrust vector only in the vertical plane. That facilitates the takeoff of this fighter and allows maneuvers at altitude with a smaller radius in the vertical plane. However, this does not apply to super-maneuverability. What the Su-35 can do in the air, not a single plane in the world is capable of repeating. It is no coincidence that at the Le Bourget air show during a piloting demonstration he was dubbed “Russian UFO”.

However, according to the magazine, this quality can affect the outcome of fights only at short distance. And this is supposedly the yesterday of aviation tactics. The Americans have a record low visibility for enemy radars. And at the same time, they are equipped with powerful radars, which makes it possible to see the Su-35 much earlier, that is, at a greater distance than the “Russian” sees the F-22 or F-35. And accordingly, it will launch a long or medium-range missile at the Su-35.

However, there are nuances. The Su-35 is still less visible due to the partial use of stealth technology. Not to the level of the “Americans”, but to the EPR value of about 0.7 sq. m. Therefore, the American radar AN / APG-77 is able to see the Russian aircraft from a distance of 150 km. In this connection, the capabilities of the long-range air-to-air missile AIM-120D with a range of 180 km will not be fully used.

Russian radar “Irbis” detects targets with EPR 0.01 sq. m (this is exactly how much the Raptor has, despite the underestimation of this parameter for advertising purposes) at a distance of 90 km. And there is a corresponding missile covering this distance – R-27. Its firing range is 110 km.

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However, any inclusion of the radar significantly increases the visibility of the aircraft due to powerful and directional electromagnetic radiation. That is, detecting the Su-35, the Raptor simultaneously gives out its position. This, of course, is not enough for the Su-35 to fire a return salvo. If only because the range of our missile is not 150 km, but only 110 km. But the Russian pilot, when fired upon, can prepare for an anti-missile maneuver, which, given the super-maneuverability of his fighter, could be effective.

Also on the Su-35, the aviation defense system will be alerted. And here the American rocket has even less chance of success. The fact is that over a longer flight distance, its trajectory is corrected using a GPS signal. At the final stage, an active radar seeker is switched on. According to a number of high-ranking Pentagon officials, the United States is at least 10 years behind Russia in the field of electronic warfare (EW) systems.

As an example: everyone knows the case when our front-line bomber Su-24 extinguished all the electronics of an American destroyer in the Black Sea, making several passes over the deck of the ship that had become defenseless. So, the Su-35 electronic warfare system is quite capable of dealing with an American missile in any of its flight phases, blocking the GPS signal, and also setting up jamming for the seeker.

And the ability of a rocket to switch from an aircraft to a source of false targets will not work here, the Su-35 electronic warfare is much more cunning. There is no electronic warfare station on the Raptor at all.

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When assessing the ability to win a battle at a long distance, it is also necessary to take into account the fact that the F-22 does not have an infrared target detection system, as well as its tracking. Such systems are called IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track). They allow scanning the airspace in search of enemy aircraft in a passive mode, that is, without detecting itself. Since it does not emit any waves that are picked up by the sensors of the enemy aircraft.

That is, it is the most secretive system that allows the aircraft to “hide” when the onboard radar is turned off. The Su-35 IRST is integrated into the OLS-35 optical-location system, in which, in addition to the thermal imaging channel, there is also a television channel.

This is a virtue. True, not too big when it comes to the collision of the Su-35 with the Raptor. Since the range of the OLS is 80 kilometers. Moreover, she is capable of tracking up to four targets simultaneously.

The F-22 must turn on the radar to detect the Su-35, no matter how far away the Russian plane is. This is not required for the Su-35, it will detect the Raptor with the help of the OLS only 10 km closer than when the airborne radar is operating.

From the above, it follows that in a collision at a long distance, the chances of aircraft are approximately equal. Pilot skill can play a decisive role. India could clarify this issue. She expresses her intentions to acquire several Su-35s. And she could arrange new training battles with the Raptor.

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As for the collision at close range, the super-maneuverability of the Russian aircraft significantly increases its chances of winning. However, not enough to easily cope with the American “five”. The fact is that a lot depends on the missiles used in close combat. We have it R-73M. The USA has the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

Adopted in 1983, the R-73 was for a long time one of the best (according to some sources, the best) short-range air-to-air missile. However, the Americans, through a series of upgrades, recently brought the AIM-9 to the leading position.

This primarily applies to the homing system. “American” has a matrix IR seeker, which minimizes the possibility of “deceiving” her not only with the help of fired heat traps, but also using a laser counter system. Accordingly, it has a wider angle of search and target acquisition. Another advantage of this rocket is its controlled thrust vector.

However, equipping the Raptors with the latest missile is just beginning. Now they fly with the AIM-9M, which has no controllable thrust vector and is equipped with a conventional IR seeker. And it is inferior to the R-73M in terms of combat capabilities.

The advantages of the R-73M include the ability to launch in any flight modes, including supersonic, with intense maneuvering. At the moment, the latest modification of the R-73 – RVV-MD – is being implemented on the Su-35. In it, it was possible to expand the search angle of the IR seeker to 120 degrees. The missile immunity has also significantly increased.

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