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How Russia’s Su-35s Compare to U.S. F-16 Jets


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Russia’s Su-35 fighter jets may be familiar with the skies over Ukraine, but it remains to be seen whether they will find themselves up against the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 jets that Kyiv has repeatedly called for.

In an interview published in Ukrainian by Voice of America on March 14, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dan Hampton called the Su-35 multi-role fighter “junk” when lined up against the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

“Our planes are more durable. I wouldn’t bet in combat on the Su-35 or any Russian-made aircraft,” he said.

Kyiv has been vocal in its calls for Western-made modern fighter jets to replace their Soviet-era aircraft, with many zeroing in on the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 jet. However, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on March 16 that sending F-16s was still “not on the table right now.”

F-16s are combat, multi-role aircraft, available in one- or two-seater models. Since around 1979, the F-16 has been upgraded and enhanced, meaning the fourth-generation aircraft has some fifth-generation capabilities including advanced radar.

The all-weather aircraft cost between $14.6 million and $18.8 million a unit, which buys “highly maneuverable” and “high-performance” fast jets for air-to-air and air-to-surface attacks, according to the U.S. Air Force.

It has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour, a wingspan just shy of 33 feet and a length coming in just under 50 feet). The F-16 “is very hard to see because it’s smaller than most aircraft, especially when it’s aimed directly at you,” Hampton commented.

It is kitted out with one M-61A1 20mm multi-barrel cannon, and can carry six air-to-air missiles.

Like the F-16, the Sukhoi Su-35 is a multi-role fighter. A twin-engine, single-seat aircraft, it is described as “Russia’s signature heavy fighter bomber” by the RAND Corporation think tank.

While the F-16 can reach Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound, Russian sources say the Su-35 has a maximum speed of Mach 2.25. But the Su-35 does not have the advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar fitted into the F-16, and is “easy to see, easy to pick up on radar, and easy to shoot at with a long-range missile,” according to Hampton.

It’s “very large,” he added. The Su-35 has a wingspan of nearly 50 feet, and a length of almost 70 meters. The Su-35 is “a typical Russian machine and looks good,” Hampton said. “But deep down, it’s not really that good of a plane.”

“It looks good at air shows,” he said. “But my personal opinion is that it’s junk.”

It is not known exactly how many Su-35s Russia has lost since the start of the war, and although Dutch open-source outlet Oryx has visually confirmed the loss of two Su-35S aircraft, but the true total may be higher.

On Monday, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said 305 Russian aircraft had been taken out by Kyiv’s forces since the start of the all-out war, but did not provide a breakdown. Back in August 2022, a Ukrainian official said 24 Su-35s had been taken out at that point, though this could not be independently verified.

The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), an aerospace and defense corporation largely owned by the Russian government, touts the Su-35 as a fourth-generation advanced aircraft with “fifth-generation fighter technology.”

The Su-35 incorporates some of the elements of Russia’s advanced Su-57 Felon fifth-generation jet, the UAC added. The Su-57 is likely only used by Russian forces to strike Ukraine from Russian territory, for fear of damaging or losing Moscow’s prized supersonic combat jet, the British Defense Ministry said in early January.

The Su-35’s maiden flight took place in 2008, the UAC said, and is designed to attack ground and surface targets from large distances, regardless of the time of day or the weather conditions.

Back in November, a report by the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London said the Su-35S firing long-range missiles had been “highly effective and lethal against Ukrainian aircraft near the frontlines throughout the war.”

Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) had gained around 350 modern aircraft, including Su-35S fighters, in the previous 10 years leading up to the start of the war, the think tank said in a separate report in March 2022.

Source : Newsweek


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