F-35 vs Su-35: The comparison between the F-35 and the Su-35 is a subject of intense debate and speculation within the defense and aviation communities. Both fighter jets belong to different countries and represent advanced capabilities in their respective ways. The F-35, developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States and its allies, is a fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter designed to excel in air-to-air combat, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions. On the other hand, the Su-35, manufactured by Russia’s Sukhoi, is a fourth-generation heavy-class fighter renowned for its maneuverability and advanced avionics.
In this analysis, we will delve into the specifications, strengths, and weaknesses of both the F-35 and Su-35, exploring how their characteristics might influence the potential outcome of a battle. However, it’s essential to note that any theoretical engagement between these fighter jets would be influenced by a wide range of variables, making it challenging to definitively predict a winner.
US F-35, Russian Su-35 ‘Clash’ Over Syria
Deputy head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Parties (CPVS) in Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, alleged on August 15 that the incident occurred in the Al-Tanf area.
“On August 14, from 12:35 to 12:50, in the Al-Tanf area at an altitude of about 9,100 meters, there was a dangerous rapprochement between two coalition F-35 fighters and two Su-35 aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which were making a planned flight along the southern border of Syria. Russian pilots, demonstrating high professionalism, took the necessary measures promptly to prevent a collision with coalition fighters,” he said.
F-35 vs Su-35 Detailed Comparison
Let’s delve into a more detailed comparison between the F-35 and the Su-35 across various aspects:
Design and Technology:
- Fifth-generation stealth fighter with emphasis on low observability (radar cross-section reduction) to evade enemy radar.
- Integrated sensor fusion system that combines data from radar, infrared sensors, and other sources to provide a comprehensive situational awareness.
- Three main variants: F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing), F-35B (short takeoff and vertical landing), and F-35C (carrier-based).
- Multirole capabilities: air-to-air combat, ground attack, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare.
- Fourth-generation heavy-class fighter with advanced avionics and maneuverability.
- Thrust-vectoring engines for enhanced agility and maneuverability, allowing for complex aerobatic maneuvers.
- Equipped with a powerful radar (Irbis-E) that offers long-range detection and tracking of multiple targets.
- Primarily focused on air superiority and aerial combat missions.
Stealth and Survivability:
The F-35 has a significant advantage in stealth technology, reducing its radar cross-section and making it harder for enemy radars to detect and track. This gives the F-35 the edge in maintaining situational awareness and potentially launching the first strike.
The Su-35’s thrust-vectoring engines provide exceptional maneuverability, allowing it to perform tight turns, post-stall maneuvers, and other acrobatics. This gives the Su-35 an advantage in close-range dogfights and dynamic engagements.
Sensor and Avionics:
The F-35’s sensor fusion system is a standout feature, providing pilots with a comprehensive picture of the battlespace. This enhances target identification, tracking, and engagement capabilities.
The Su-35’s Irbis-E radar offers long-range detection and tracking, improving its ability to engage targets at a distance. However, its avionics suite may not be as integrated as that of the F-35.
The F-35’s weapon bays are designed to maintain its stealth profile, carrying a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions internally. It also has the capacity to carry external weapons on pylons.
The Su-35 can carry a wide array of air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground munitions on external hardpoints, which could provide more versatility in loadouts but may compromise its radar cross-section.
Range and Endurance:
The F-35 generally has a longer combat radius and endurance due to its efficient design and internal fuel storage. This can be a strategic advantage in longer engagements and extended missions.
The F-35’s advanced technology and capabilities come with a higher operational cost compared to the Su-35. This could influence the number of sorties that can be conducted over a sustained period.
F-35 vs Su-35 Data Table
Here’s a data table summarizing some key specifications of the F-35 and the Su-35 for comparison:
|Max Speed||Mach 1.6||Mach 2.25|
|Combat Radius||Approx. 590 nautical miles||Approx. 930 nautical miles|
|Max Range||Approx. 1,200 nautical miles||Approx. 1,800 nautical miles|
|Max Takeoff Weight||~70,000 lbs (~31,800 kg)||~76,000 lbs (~34,500 kg)|
|Length||51.4 ft (15.7 m)||72.9 ft (22.3 m)|
|Wingspan||35 ft 0 in (10.7 m)||50.2 ft (15.3 m)|
|Height||14.4 ft (4.38 m)||19.2 ft (5.90 m)|
|Thrust||43,000 lbs (F135 engine)||31,900 lbs (AL-41F1S)|
|Radar||AN/APG-81 AESA||Irbis-E AESA|
|Stealth||Yes (Low Observable)||No|
|Cost per Unit||$79 M – $116M (depend on model)||$85 M|
If both jets are in a fight, which one will win?
In a scenario of close-quarters, direct combat between the F-35 and the Su-35, the Russian jet could potentially hold the advantage due to its higher speed and superior maneuverability. However, if the engagement were to commence at a significant distance, the F-35 might have an improved opportunity for success. This advantage would arise from the F-35’s stealth capabilities and its advanced radar system, which could enable it to launch stealthy missiles and achieve a favorable outcome.
Presently, if such a battle were to transpire, the Su-35 might possess a marginal upper hand over the F-35 due to its attributes of speed and maneuverability. Nonetheless, if this hypothetical encounter were to unfold in the future, the F-35 could emerge as the more advantageous contender. This shift in favor could be attributed to the forthcoming upgrades and advancements anticipated for the F-35, which, based on available information, would enhance its overall performance and effectiveness.
In essence, the outcome of such a battle hinges on the circumstances surrounding the engagement, the starting distance between the aircraft, and the evolving technological developments of both the F-35 and the Su-35.
Similarity Between F-35 and Sukhoi Su-35
While the F-35 and Sukhoi Su-35 are distinct aircraft designed by different manufacturers for different purposes, there are a few areas where they share some similarities:
- Multirole Capabilities: Both the F-35 and Su-35 possess multirole capabilities, meaning they can perform a variety of missions. While the Su-35 leans more towards air superiority and combat roles, and the F-35 emphasizes versatility across air-to-air, air-to-ground, and reconnaissance missions, both aircraft are equipped to handle multiple types of tasks.
- Advanced Avionics: Both aircraft feature advanced avionics systems. The Su-35’s Irbis-E radar and the F-35’s AN/APG-81 radar are high-performance radar systems that offer enhanced detection, tracking, and engagement capabilities.
- Modern Cockpit Displays: Both the F-35 and Su-35 incorporate advanced cockpit displays that provide pilots with crucial information and enhance situational awareness. These displays help pilots manage complex missions effectively.
- High-Speed Performance: While their top speeds differ, both aircraft are designed for high-speed performance. The Su-35 is known for its impressive top speed, while the F-35 features supersonic capabilities.
- Advanced Materials: Both aircraft utilize advanced materials in their construction to enhance performance and reduce radar cross-section. The F-35 heavily emphasizes stealth technology, while the Su-35 incorporates radar-absorbing materials and coatings.
- Air Superiority Focus: While the F-35 is designed as a multirole fighter, one of its variants, the F-35C, is tailored for aircraft carrier operations and air superiority. The Su-35, on the other hand, is primarily focused on air superiority missions.
Both the F-35 and Su-35 have unique strengths and weaknesses that make them formidable in their own right. The outcome of a battle between these two fighter jets would depend on a complex interplay of factors including tactics, pilot skill, mission objectives, and support infrastructure. The F-35’s stealth and sensor fusion capabilities could provide an edge in situational awareness and the ability to engage from beyond visual range. On the other hand, the Su-35’s agility and powerful radar could prove advantageous in close-range engagements. Ultimately, the result of such a battle would be difficult to predict with certainty.