Russia’s Air Force recently grabbed the international spotlight with its bombing campaign in support of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, but how does it stack up against the world’s greatest Air Force?
During Russia’s stint in Syria, four of their latest and greatest Su-35 Flanker jets flew sorties just miles from the only operational fifth-generation fighter jet in the world, the US’s F-22 Raptor.
Given the fundamental differences between these two top-tier fighter jets, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the technical specifications and find out which fighter would win in a head-to head matchup.
Max Speed: 1,726 mph
Max Range: 1,840 miles
Dimensions: Wingspan: 44.5 ft Length: 62 ft Height: 16.7 ft
Max Takeoff Weight: 83,500 lb
Engines: Two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles
Armament: One M61A2 20-millimetre cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles, and internal main weapon bays carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air load out) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout).
Russia based the Su-35 on the rock solid Su-27 platform, so it's status as a 'supermaneuverable' fighter is a matter of fact.
Russian pilots familiar with previous generations of the Sukhoi jet family's thrust vectoring capabilities have carried out spectacular feats of acrobatic flight, like the 'Pugachev's Cobra.'
On the other hand, the F-22 has a great thrust-to-weight ratio and dynamic nozzles on the turbofan engines. These mobile nozzles provide the F-22 with thrust vectoring of its own, but they had to maintain a low profile when designing them to retain the F-22's stealth edge.
Most likely, the Su-35 could out-manoeuvre the F-22 in a classic dogfight.
Both Russia and the US classify their most up-to-date electronic warfare capabilities, but it should be assumed that they are both state-of-the-art and nearly equal in efficacy.
Both planes are equipped with state-of-the art missiles capable of shooting each other out of the sky. The Su-35's need to carry ordinance outside the fuselage is a slight disadvantage, but in general, the first plane to score a clean hit will win.
The Su-35 can carry 12 missiles, while the F-22 carries just eight, but as Justin Bronk from the Royal United Services Institute notes in an interview with Hushkit.net, the Su-35 usually fires salvos of six missiles with mixed seekers, meaning the 12 missiles only really provide two credible shots.
The F-22 could engage the Su-35 from further away as it is harder to detect due to its stealth advantage, so it could potentially make more economical use of its missiles.
This is where things get interesting: In the arena of stealth, the F-22 is head-and-shoulders above any other operational jet in the world right now.
For perspective, the Su-35's radar cross section (area visible to radars) is between one and three square meters, or about the size of a large dinner table. The F-22's radar cross section is about the size of a marble.
As Justin Bronk notes:
'Whilst the Su-35 does have the hypothetical capability to detect the F-22 at close ranges using its IRST (Infa-Red Search and Tracking) and potentially the Irbis-E radar, both sensors would have to be cued to focus on exactly the right part of sky to have a chance of generating a target track. By contrast, the F-22 will know exactly where the Su-35 is at extremely long range and can position for complete control of the engagement from the outset with superior kinematics.'
So the F-22 and the Su-35 prove to be two planes of significantly different talents. The Su-35 carries more missiles, can fly further, and is significantly cheaper. The Su-35 is a re-working of earlier Sukhoi models that are proven to be effective in traditional dogfighting.
But the F-22 wants no part in traditional dogfighting. Battles that occur when the two planes are within visual range of each other seem to favour the Russian jet, but importantly, battles begin beyond visible range.
A single Su-35 simply stands little chance against a similar number of F-22s because the US jets employ far superior stealth technology.
F-22 pilots need not worry about out-turning or out-foxing the agile Su-35, as they could find and target the aircraft from much further away and end the dogfight before it really starts.
Additionally, the US Air Force trains F-22 pilots to some of the highest standards in the world.
Historically, US-made planes have battered Russian-made ones, and the newest generation of US warplanes reimagines aerial combat in such a way that future pilots won't even have to get their hands dirty to deter or defeat the enemy.
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