Su-27 pitted against F-15 is a duel, no American should wish

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A contentious claim comes from Brandon J. Weichert, an American national security analyst, who suggests that the Russian Su-27 fighter might triumph over the American F-15 in potential aerial combat. These are words he wrote mere days ago, issuing a warning that is as clear as it is alarming: a confrontation between the Su-27 and the F-15 is not a scenario that any American patriot would desire. 

Photo by Yuri Smityuk

Weichert interestingly points out that the Su-27, initially a Soviet-era fighter, continues to receive upgrades. He reminds his readers that it was back in 1986 when an early model Su-27 shattered all F-15 climb speed records. His contention is that in a hypothetical match-up, the Su-27 could potentially outmaneuver the F-15, a reality that would have far-reaching consequences on the dynamic between NATO and Russian military forces.

Weichert further reinforces his argument by lauding the Su-27’s proven potency, attributed to its superior agility and remarkable speed. The fighter’s capability to be equipped with a vast array of weapons and equipment broadens its arsenal potential. The strategic deployment of the Su-27 in Syria and Ukraine, as stated by the expert, is ample evidence of the destructive capacity of the fighter’s resources. 

Photo credit: Military Today

Don’t underestimate Russian air power expertise, advises Weichert. Inheriting the remnants of the formidable Soviet aerospace infrastructure and industry, the defense industrial machinery of the Russian Air Force has not only managed to rectify certain aspects but also built upon its achievements.

It’s important to note that not all of Russia’s current air arsenal is top-notch or highly effective; however, the Russians have a long-standing philosophy of being ‘adequate’ in warfare terms. Here it means their equipment and its operators only need to be of rich enough quality to meet, if not exceed, their opponents. A prime example of this philosophy put into action is the Su-27 Flanker. 

This air superiority fighter, known for its exceptional maneuverability, is a product of the successful Russian defense corporation, the Sukhoi Design Bureau. The Su-27 isn’t merely the leading air superiority fighter for Russia but also is among the most successfully exported combat aircraft that the country produced. It’s a twin-engine fighter jet that can attain a maximum cruising speed of Mach 2.35 and boasts a range of 2,193 miles.

Photo credit: Creative Commons

The Su-27 boasts a formidable arsenal, inclusive of a 30mm GSH-301 gun with an ammunition supply of 150 rounds. It can be equipped with an array of firepower on its ten separate anchor points. The options range from air-to-air missiles like the R-27R1, to close combat air-to-air missiles. It can also be loaded with variously weighted air-to-surface bombs, cluster bombs, incendiary tools, and unguided missiles. 

However, the firepower is just the tip of the iceberg. The Russians have also equipped their jets with a plethora of defensive measures, ensuring that the Su-27 can hold its own in a battle, enduring longer than any of its competitors. Even more impressively, these fighters can coordinate their defenses when flying in groups with other Russian military planes.

Remarkably, the design of the Su-27 is partially influenced by American technology, more specifically, the technology behind the USAF’s F-15 fighter. This influence allowed the Flanker, another name for the Su-27, to shatter world records previously held by the Streak Eagle, a scaled-down variant of the F-15. 

The Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute [Tsentral’nyy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut or TsAGI], in partnership with the Sukhoi Design Bureau, took the helm in creating the new aircraft’s aerodynamic structure. Their efforts received a significant boost from American technological secrets procured by Soviet intelligence.

Viktor Litovkin, a military analyst with TASS, revealed to Russia Beyond in 2020, “During the early 1980s, our intelligence operatives managed to get their hands on the schematics for McDonnell Douglas’ F-15 Eagle. The Sukhoi Design Bureau used these designs as a guide to craft the initial version of the new fighter.” 

Despite this, Litovkin notes that the intelligence gathered was not comprehensive, resulting in an “F-15 model” that doesn’t possess the actual supersonic speed and aerodynamic attributes of the aircraft.

Photo credit: Military Today

Ultimately, the decision was made to merge the model with Soviet technology from the ’70s, and in 1981, the skies bore witness to the first flight of the T-10S, which was later renamed as the Su-27, Litovkin shared. 

According to Litovkin, the Su-27 laid the foundation for subsequent models conceived by the Sukhoi design bureau. This includes all the contemporary Sukhoi models that the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] are currently operating, such as the Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, Su-57, and so on.

However, a genuine debate exists. Given the current dynamics in Russian-American relations, a fascinating academic exchange is quickly morphing into a distressing element in the Ukrainian conflict. 

After all, it’s conceivable that American F-15s could eventually face off against Su-27s over Ukraine’s battlegrounds. As expected, the question on everyone’s minds is – which fighter jet has the advantage? 

The Su-27 holds the upper hand over the F-15, touting a marginally superior thrust-to-weight ratio. It’s important to note that back in 1986, an emerging model of the Su-27 broke all altitude time records previously held by the F-15. This suggests that if the time comes for the Su-27 to go head-to-head with the F-15 – the current dominant air superiority fighter of the Air Force – there’s a strong chance that the Su-27 might outperform its American counterpart. The gravity of this superiority could significantly influence the overarching conflict between NATO and Russia.

Also referred to as the Sukhoi Su-27, this twin-engine, ultra-maneuverable fighter aircraft is a creation by Sukhoi. It was conceptualized as a direct challenge to the substantial fourth-generation fighters from the United States, offering impressive range [3,530 kilometers], heavy weaponry, sophisticated avionics, and high maneuverability. 

Photo by Vitalyi Nevar

Its fundamental design mirrors the aerodynamics of the MiG-29, albeit substantially larger in size. The Su-27 is extraordinarily large even by fighter standards, verging on the size of a smaller bomber. This increased size allows a maximum takeoff weight of over 30,000 kilograms. Propelling the aircraft are two Saturn AL-31F afterburning turbofan engines that offer a top speed of Mach 2.35.

Equipped with the Phazotron N001 Zhuk radar, the Su-27 is a formidable machine. It’s capable of tracking up to ten targets simultaneously and engaging with two of these targets using semi-active radar-homing missiles. But that’s not everything; it also possesses an OLS-27 infrared search and track [IRST] system. This device is prominently located just ahead of the cockpit and boasts a reach of 100 km. 

In terms of weaponry, the Su-27 doesn’t disappoint. It carries a single 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 cannon housed in its starboard wing root. With up to ten hardpoints at its disposal, the Su-27 is prepared for air-to-air confrontation. Its standard missile payload includes R-73 [AA-11 Archer], R-27 [AA-10 ‘Alamo’], and R-77 [AA-12 ‘Adder’] missiles.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Undeniably impressive is the operational scope of the Su-27, boasting an appealing range of approximately 3,530 kilometers on a single fuel load. This long-distance capacity makes it versatile across various operational areas, eliminating the frequent need for in-flight refueling. Complementing its impressive range is a service ceiling that reaches a notable 19,000 meters, enabling it to function effectively at high altitudes.

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