F-35 vs. Su-35 – who is better and who will win in a modern air battle?
PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – There are currently two aircraft in the world that are significantly different from all the others. These are the Russian 4th generation Su-35 and the American fifth generation F-35 fighter. It is safe to say – they are the top of the top.
But why do we compare a 4th generation aircraft (given that the Russians have a fifth generation aircraft) to the American F-35 stealth aircraft?
There are two reasons: the Su-35 is a real 4 ++ generation and only the lack of stealth technology allows it to be classified by the fifth generation. The second reason is purely subjective – we are not the only ones who claim that it is difficult to guess which of the two fighters will win.
By what criteria will we compare the two fighters? In modern combat, when we talk about air combat, it no longer means that it is conducted only in the air. Today, technology is so advanced that it is impossible to assume that a dog fight would decide the final outcome of the match.
Therefore, the criteria we have chosen are the following:
1. Main technical characteristics
2. Speed and maneuverability
3. Possibility for destruction from near and far distances
4. Radar detection;
5. Ground support
6. Air support
7. Existing problems
So – let the battle begin!
Main technical characteristics
If you think that one of the two planes has any significant differences and an advantage in characteristics over its opponent, you are sorely mistaken. They are so close that one wonders where they can really win. However, this match will be decided by the small details. Here’s what the “Russian bear” and the “American monster” have:
|Overal & BVR raiting||F-35 Lighting II||Su-35 Flanker-E|
|Maneuverability||8.5/10||9.9/10 (3D Thrust)|
|Rate of Climb||max. 230 m/s – 45k ft/min||max. 280 m/s – 55k ft/min|
|Service Ceiling||20 km – 65k ft||18 km – 59k ft|
|Fuel Economy||0.80 km/l – 1.68 NM/gallon||0.20 km/l – 0.46 NM/gallon|
As we have already said, it is quite difficult to compare two aircraft with exceptional and similar indicators. In this case, both fighters receive an excellent rating for their overall rating based on basic technical characteristics.
The F-35 has an advantage based of the use on modern technology and avionics, but loses in speed and maneuverability over its Russian competitor.
This can tell us many different things. For example, the F-35 has stealth technology that aims to make it invisible to radar. In this regard, the radar of the Su-35 would not detect the F-35 from the air (it is possible to detect it from the ground), which gives the Russian fighter a short reaction time.
At the same time, the Russian fighter is faster and more maneuverable, which would compensate for the lack of time, depending on the reaction of the pilot. It also applies if the Russian plane is attacked from the ground.
See the model when comparing the two fighters – if one gets an advantage on one or more indicators, the other compensates not trying to catch up in a particular area, but develops another that would affect the effectiveness of the advantage obtained on the first aircraft.
There is one indicator that does not make a big impression and if it does, then we think it is false – it is the rate of climb to reach the flight ceiling.
The Su-35 climbs at a higher speed. The difference between the Russian Su-35 and the American F-35 is 50 km. But the Russian plane does it with two engines, while the American with one. And although the Russian fighter is faster, the difference is not as big as one would expect. In reality, in our opinion, this is not an advantage of the Su-35.
But, as we wrote above – according to the dry technical characteristics, both planes perform excellently and there is no way one can go ahead of the other.
Speed and maneuverability
Anyone who understands at least a little about fighter jets or has bothered to read about them in the thousands of online sources will draw their own conclusions – there is still no fighter in the world that can beat the Russian fighter in maneuverability.
This is embedded in the folk psychology of the Russian. Do you notice consistency and pattern in the American way of thinking in the construction of weapons and in the Russian. They are radically different due to historical markers in the DNA of people living in the United States and Russia, respectively.
Russia has been attacked twice – by Napoleon and by Hitler. Both times, nature was a serious partner of the Russian military. But in both cases, the Russians entered into direct combat with the enemy on their own territory. Same as their planes – they prefer to go directly into battle and will not escape. Even if it costs them a life or technology for tens of millions of dollars, the idea of defending “Mother Russia” is embedded in their people’s psychology, as it has always done.
[Author’s note – 20 years ago I was on a student brigade in England. I had to live with two Russians. We talked about how bad the financial situation of the Russians is at the moment and how if there is a Third World War, the Russians will lose because they have no money. Then I was impressed by the Russian’s way of thinking. My Russian friend told me – “You don’t understand. The Russian doesn’t need money to fight. Just give him a piece of bread, a bottle of vodka and tell him that he has to do it for Mother Russia and be sure that before he dies he will kille at least 20 people”.]
While the United States has waged only civil war on its territory. This is an internal conflict. Perhaps when Hitler’s submarines reached near New York and the Americans decided to join the war, the idea of not allowing an enemy on American territory was coded in American DNA. That is why American weapons are being built in order to deliver from long and long distances.
For this reason, the American F-35 is no faster and more maneuverable than the Russian Su-35. I’m sure the Americans would achieve the same speed and maneuverability as the Russians, but they have to get rid of something in the construction of an airplane, and most likely this will be part of modern technology.
That is why the Russian Su-35 is more maneuverable. And why is it faster? Well, it’s simple – it has two engines.
Possibility for target destruction from near and far distances
|Dogfight||F-35 Lighting II||Su-35 Flanker-E|
|Caliber (mm)||20 mm||30 mm|
|Rate of Fire (rpm)||4200 rpm||1800 rpm|
|Muzzle Velocity||1000 m/s||860 m/s|
|Size Point 10%-30%||20%||10%|
|AAM (first)||AIM-9X||AA-11 Archer|
|Operational range||0.2 – 50 km||0.3 – 40 km|
|AAM (second)||IRIS-T||AA-8 Aphid|
|Operational range||0.5 – 30 km||0.1 – 8 km|
The information presented in the table above is basic and does not cover the full capabilities of either fighter. If we look only at these data, we will again notice similarities and an advantage that is difficult to assess. But here is what is not described in the table.
I.e. both fighters have standard weapon systems. To understand which of the two would have its advantage, we must look for what is not shown.
The American F-35 has an AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missile, while the Russian fighter does not have a similar type of missile. The AGM-158C LRASM is American-made and has been developed for the military. The interesting thing about it is that it has stealth technology and has an autonomous mode of operation, especially in the field of intercepting a specific target. This makes it dangerous and unknown to study. Ie the missile, in addition to being able to avoid hostile active defense systems, will be able to receive and aim at the target without prior and precise reconnaissance, using only the onboard systems provided.
Another weapon system that we need to pay attention to is the Turkish cruise and anti-ship missile SOM on the F-35. Like the AGM-158C LRASM, the SOM is an autonomous missile that, with precise targeting, strikes stationary and moving targets at a distance of up to 250 km. However, its speed is quite low – there is not a 1 Mach.
The same can be said for the Russian fighter. It also has anti-ship autonomous missiles, but they do not have the capabilities of missiles of the same class in the American F-35. On the other hand, they have something that Americans do not yet have. Hypersonic rocket. In the Su-35 it is type P-37M. It has been in service with the Russian Air Force since last year. Develops a speed of Max5 or 6.125 km / h. It can hit a target up to 400 km. Its main purpose is to hit long-distance tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and ground targets.
So, if we look at each missile in detail, we will find similarities between the two fighters, but the American armament has better technology, modern developments and perhaps more precise targeting.
The problem for the Americans is the Russians’ hypersonic missile. We can’t say if it has precise targeting, but that’s not the most important thing in this case. The United States does not yet have (is currently developing) an active system to intercept a hypersonic missile. Which means that whether the R-37M is accurate or not, there is no counteraction against it.
In reality, it is quite difficult to determine who in this category would have an advantage. We would bet and give a small advantage to the F-35, especially in terms of long-range defeat. In close combat, the Su-35 will be the winner, but again – the modern way of fighting is precision and accuracy. In this way, it is more likely to preserve and preserve the life of the pilot and the condition of the equipment used so that it can be reused.
And despite the presence of a hypersonic missile in the Su-35’s arsenal and the inability of another system to intercept it so far, other weapons systems, such as missiles and bombs, are much older than their American counterparts. Some of them have been developed since Soviet times, following the logic of close combat rather than ultimate effectiveness.
The main question here is whether the radar system of either of the two fighters will be able to detect its enemy in the air. Because no doubt both fighters would receive support and help from their ground forces, but there is always a chance that this will not happen.
First, let’s note that the F-35 and Su-35 have high-quality electronic warfare systems, and their ability to jam enemy radars is perhaps one of the best in the world.
We will not go into details of all avionics, details about its operation and construction, as this type of military technology often goes hand in hand and it is difficult to find big differences. If we going to do all of these things, so means reviewing the codes of each of the programs, and American avionics alone has nearly 9 million lines in its code.
The main advantage of the F-35, which was stealth technology, is already beginning to disappear. The Russians (recently Chinese, Germans and Japanese) have begun to do quite well in overcoming this advantage and have stealth detection systems.
It is quite clear that the F-35 will intercept the Su-35, as the latter is not a stealth. The question is the opposite – could the Su-35 use its radar to detect the F-35?
The answer is yes. The Russians are already using the latest model of their Irbis-E radar system. Powerful and high quality radar, which at a distance of 90 km. detects targets with a radar reflecting surface of 0.01 m². For reference – this is the real reflective surface of a bird. The F-35 stealth technology has a radar reflecting surface <0.1 m², which logically leads us to the conclusion that it will not be a problem for the Su-35 to intercept its F-35 radar.
There’s more. Recently, the Indians managed to intercept the Chinese stealth J-20 with the help of a thermo-measuring system integrated in their Su-30. The Su-30’s radar did not detect the stealth fighter, but the thermal system detected an increase in temperature levels in a certain line at high speed.
The Japanese also came out in support of this statement, adding that stealth planes can be detected without problems with satellites in close orbit. This answers many questions, most notably why the United States and Russia are increasingly launching military satellites into orbit.
Given the latest statement (the Japanese), the communication network built by the Russians is also a way to detect such technology.
But back on the radar. In recent years, the Russians have been developing their ground-based radars on some air defense systems, which will be discussed later. They have managed to transfer this practice and experience to the Irbis-E radar on their Su-35. As we saw above, this radar has the ability to capture low-reflecting surfaces.
It is this radar that has caused dozens of Western military experts, including American ones, to claim in the last two years that the Su-35 is Russia’s best air weapon at the moment, which would face the F-35 without any problems. It’s not the weapons, it’s not the maneuverability, it’s not the speed – it’s the radar!
Here we must mention from the very beginning that the Russian advantage is tangible.
The Americans have the THAAD system, the Patriot system, and more recently the Israeli Iron Dome system. Do you notice the logic? Currently, US air defense systems are not at the level of Russian ones. Especially after the last decision of Washington in August this year (2020) together with Israel to develop a better system and functionality of the Israeli Iron Dome.
The Russians have two scarecrows at the moment – the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and the latest S-500 equivalent. It should be noted that the S-500 currently has no analogue in the world. German journalists called the S-500 the advantage that Russia currently has, which is at least 10 years ahead of its competitors.
Both S-400 and S-500 systems can detect stealth technology. However, the S-500 can not only detect stealth technology, but can also detect a hypersonic missile and destroy it. Something that the United States does not have in the moment, but is trying to develop.
According to the latest data, the S-500 can shot down satellites into close orbit. Here is the reference from the previous point. The Su-35 has strong support from its parts of the ground. Regardless of the systems at its disposal, the Russian aircraft is so protected that it may not use its weapons for long-range destruction, and if necessary (as we found out – the desire of Russian pilots is not lacking) to enter into direct close combat.
We cannot ignore the American air defense systems. They do not have the capabilities of their Russian competitors, but they would also easily detect the Su-35 and launch missiles at it.
Here we notice the real advantage of the Su-35 over the F-35. Despite the fact that the armament of the Su-35 is mostly (90%) from the Soviet era, they have something to which the United States has no answer at the moment – interception of hypersonic missiles. We go back and remember that the Russian Su-35 has two P-37M missiles developing speed up to Mach5.
I.e. under all other circumstances, both American air defense systems [THAAD and Patriot] will intercept the Russian fighter and destroy it. The question is when they will do it – before the launch of the P-37M missile or after. Because if it is after that – what is the point then.
Here things are completely opposite – the United States has an advantage over its Russian rivals. In recent years, Washington has not only sent dozens of military satellites into orbit around the earth, but has done so for a specific purpose.
The idea of the US military – building a network of low-orbit satellites – to support radio communication between the various NATO and US systems, but also to silence the enemy, has recently become apparent.
What exactly are we talking about?
As we reported earlier this year, Lockheed Martin won the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) contract to integrate Blackjack satellites.
Blackjack is a project to deploy a constellation of 20 satellites in low Earth orbit by 2022 to demonstrate that a low-orbit satellite system can provide global high-speed communications.
Lockheed Martin will integrate Blackjack satellite platform interfaces, satellite payload and the so-called stand-alone Pit Boss data processors.
Recall that the DARPA Blackjack program is designed to demonstrate the key technologies necessary for the deployment of a global high-speed network of low-orbit satellites, which the US Department of Defense can use for reconnaissance of a missile defense system, broadband communications or navigation .
DARPA wants to make satellites according to the “plug and play” concept: new payloads can be added without the need to redesign the satellite platform. This approach will allow the military to reduce the cost and speed up production.
But not only. The deployment of such satellites will allow the Pentagon to have a more realistic ability to intercept both Russian fighters, whether they are 4 ++ generation or stealth, but also to try to quickly silence their communications.
Also, returning to the topic of Russia’s hypersonic missiles, these satellites would “catch” their launch, whether from the ground or the air. This will somewhat correct the US lag in the fight against hypersonic missiles and allow a timely response to their destruction.
In reality, the F-35 would get better support from using these satellites than having ground support.
We return to the American logic of waging war – from a distance. In this case, this logic is correct, because properly received information would save a lot of trouble, but most of all it would correspond to a timely response, which will save more than one or two lives.
However, there is another advantage in favor of the United States. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk that the next update of the F-35 will be the integration of unmanned mode of the aircraft. Ie there is an option to turn this fighter into a very dangerous stealth drone.
Also, the United States is currently ahead in developing the so-called “extra wings” – i.e. F-35 to be supported in the air by an attacking drone, which would be risky or play the role of a kamikaze. In this area of activity, the Pentagon is well ahead, having managed to do dozens of similar successful tests last year and this year.
Of course, Russia also has a similar drone, which may be better than the American one, but this drone is not compatible with the Su-35 systems, but with those of the Su-57. We are not comparing the Su-57 here. So, the Su-35 seriously loses on this indicator.
The media “silence” in Russia and the imposition of another’s opinion is correct, leads to the fact that we can not understand whether the Su-35 has serious existing problems or not. If there are – then they are cleverly concealed by the Ministry of Defense.
However, we certainly know about the existing problems with the F-35 fighter, thanks to the democratic way of life. Last year, US authorities were “slapped” with a report on the condition of F-35 aircraft. We will not list all the problems, but we will mention the most important ones:
- Problems with information transfer. Many countries around the world and F-35 customers, complain about the fact that this information is not classified and is also obtained in the US, which prevents these countries from keeping their secrets.
- Problems with spare parts available. It turns out that what is supposed to exist in a warehouse as a spare part does not always exist at all, and results in the failure of flights or missions.
- The cabin of the F-35 is not properly constructed and leads to the so-called pilot barotrauma. This barotrauma causes pain in the ears and nose of the pilot.
- If the weather is cold, for example, minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the computer will make the wrong conclusion and report that the batteries are damaged, often resulting in interruption of missions.
- If the F-35 flies at supersonic speed, it causes extensive damage to the walls of the aircraft – blisters, cracks and damage to the wall integrity.
- After performing certain maneuvers, the F-35B and F-35C pilots are not always able to fully control the pitch, roll and yawn of the aircraft.
- If the F-35A and F-35B blow off a landing tire, the impact could also pull out both hydraulic lines and risk losing the aircraft.
- The specially designed helmet sometimes shows the so-called. “green glow” on the helmet monitor, which blurs the overall graphics and picture and causes problems both in piloting and landing.
- Optical sensors and night vision sights often render green streaks when the starlight is low.
- The specially designed sea or water search radar does not give an overall picture, but a very small part, which often makes it difficult for pilots to find and land on an aircraft carrier in the ocean.
- Lack of traction in the engines if the aircraft is flown vertically on a hot day. The difficult landing is dictated by the fact that the jet of air is not maintained at acceptable limits.
Both fighters are excellent. Each country would be happy to have one of the two without worrying about protecting its airspace.
The differences are small, each of them has its advantage in a particular area and disadvantage in another.
No need for further clarification:
- If there is close combat, the winner will be the Russian Su-35 with a big difference
- If a distance battle is fought, the winner will be the F-35, but with a very small difference
- if the battle is fought now the winner will be the Su-35 with a small difference;
- if the battle is fought in the future with the available information which aircraft will receive what type of update, the winner will be the F-35 with a big difference.
Now, at this point, the Su-35 will handle the F-35, even though it is not a stealth and is not a fifth generation. Just because it doesn’t need to be.
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