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Sukhoi Su-35 Vs. F-16 Fighting Falcon: How Russia’s Su-35s Compare to U.S. F-16 Jets

In the world of modern aerial combat, two legendary fighters have captured the imagination of aviation enthusiasts: the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. These iconic multirole jets have proven their mettle in countless missions, showcasing their agility, firepower, and technological prowess.

The Sukhoi Su-35, born from Russia’s aerospace innovation, is a fourth-generation marvel boasting thrust-vectoring nozzles, granting it unparalleled maneuverability. Armed with cutting-edge avionics and an array of advanced weapons, the Su-35 has earned a reputation as an agile and lethal adversary.

Meanwhile, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a product of American engineering brilliance, is renowned for its adaptability and ease of maintenance. Equipped with a sophisticated fly-by-wire control system and an arsenal of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, the F-16 has dominated the skies since its introduction.

In this high-stakes matchup, we delve into the capabilities, strengths, and unique attributes of these fierce contenders to determine which reigns supreme in the ever-dynamic theater of aerial combat. Join us as we explore the thrilling world of the Su-35 and F-16 dogfight, where the skies become the ultimate battleground.

Sukhoi Su-35 Vs. F-16 Fighting Falcon

The aerial battlefield is a dynamic and ever-evolving realm where fighter jets vie for dominance. In this detailed comparison, we pit the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 against the American F-16 Fighting Falcon, two iconic multirole fighters that have stood the test of time. From advanced avionics to dogfighting capabilities, we explore the strengths and weaknesses of each aircraft to determine which one holds the edge in aerial supremacy.

Design and Maneuverability:

The Su-35, a fourth-generation fighter, embodies Russian engineering prowess. Its aerodynamic airframe, coupled with thrust-vectoring nozzles, allows for exceptional agility and precise control during air combat engagements. With its ability to execute complex maneuvers, the Su-35 gains a significant advantage in close-range dogfights.

The F-16, a single-engine, fourth-generation fighter, showcases remarkable agility attributed to its fly-by-wire control system. Although it lacks thrust-vectoring, its lightweight design and responsive controls enable swift maneuvers and high-G turns. The F-16’s ability to outmaneuver adversaries remains a key asset in air-to-air engagements.

Avionics and Sensors:

The Su-35 features an advanced avionics suite, headlined by the Irbis-E radar system. This powerful radar provides long-range target detection, tracking, and engagement capabilities. Additionally, the Su-35 is equipped with electronic warfare systems, increasing its survivability in contested environments.

The F-16 is outfitted with a diverse range of radar systems, depending on the variant. The AN/APG-83 AESA radar, for instance, offers superior target tracking and electronic counter-countermeasures capabilities. The F-16’s avionics package includes a modern glass cockpit, Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS), and a comprehensive sensor suite, enhancing situational awareness and combat effectiveness.

Weapon Systems:

The Su-35’s armament includes a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, including long-range missiles like the R-77 and the deadly R-27, along with guided and unguided munitions. Its 30mm internal cannon further bolsters its air-to-ground capabilities, making it a formidable force in both air-to-air and ground attack missions.

The F-16’s weapons suite is equally diverse, featuring an assortment of precision-guided munitions, AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for air-to-air engagements, and various air-to-surface missiles and bombs for ground attack missions. The F-16’s gun, a 20mm M61 Vulcan, adds further firepower to its already impressive arsenal.

Range and Endurance:

The Su-35 boasts a substantial combat radius, augmented by the ability to supercruise, allowing it to sustain supersonic speeds without engaging afterburners. Its internal fuel capacity and external fuel tanks grant extended mission endurance, enabling it to cover vast distances and stay longer in the air.

The F-16’s combat radius is respectable, and it can also carry external fuel tanks to extend its operational range. However, it lacks the supercruise capability of the Su-35, which means it requires afterburners for sustained supersonic flight, resulting in higher fuel consumption.

Sukhoi Su-35 Vs. F-16 Fighting Falcon Data Table

Below is a data table comparing the key specifications of the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon:

Specification Sukhoi Su-35 F-16 Fighting Falcon
Country of Origin Russia United States
Manufacturer Sukhoi (United Aircraft Corporation) Lockheed Martin
Introduction Mid-2000s 1978
Role Multirole Fighter Multirole Fighter
Generation 4++ 4
Powerplant 2 x Saturn AL-41F1S 1 x General Electric F110 or Pratt & Whitney F100
Max Speed (Mach) 2.25 (supercruise) 2+
Combat Radius (km) Approximately 1,600 Varies based on variant
Ferry Range (km) Approximately 3,600 Varies based on variant
Maximum Takeoff Weight 34,500 kg Varies based on variant
Length 21.9 m 15.0 m
Wingspan 15.3 m 9.8 m
Height 5.9 m 5.1 m
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio 1.14 Varies based on variant
Armament – 1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 Cannon<br>- Various air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles<br>- Guided and unguided munitions – 1 x 20mm M61 Vulcan Cannon<br>- Various air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles<br>- Guided and unguided munitions
Radar Irbis-E (PESA) Varies based on variant
Avionics – Electronic Warfare Systems<br>- IRST (Infrared Search and Track)<br>- Modern Glass Cockpit<br>- Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS) – Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)<br>- Electronic Countermeasures (ECM)<br>- Advanced Avionics Suite<br>- HMDS (optional)

Please note that the specifications may vary depending on specific variants and upgrades of each aircraft.

Key Features Sukhoi Su-35:

  • The Su-35 boasts a highly maneuverable airframe and is equipped with thrust-vectoring nozzles, which allow it to perform complex aerial maneuvers, giving it an edge in close-range dogfights.
  • It is armed with a wide array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, including beyond-visual-range missiles, precision-guided munitions, and a powerful 30mm cannon.
  • The aircraft’s avionics suite includes a state-of-the-art radar system (the Irbis-E), electronic warfare systems, and advanced target detection capabilities.
  • The Su-35 is capable of supercruise, enabling it to sustain supersonic speeds without the need for afterburners, enhancing its endurance and range.

Key Features F-16 Fighting Falcon:

  • The F-16 is known for its agility and nimbleness in aerial combat, and it relies on its advanced fly-by-wire control system to achieve impressive maneuverability.
  • It is armed with a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, making it highly effective in both air-to-air and ground attack roles.
  • The F-16 is equipped with a powerful radar system (varies depending on the variant) and sophisticated avionics, including electronic warfare systems and targeting pods.
  • It is also capable of carrying a diverse range of external stores, such as additional fuel tanks, targeting pods, and electronic countermeasures pods, further enhancing its mission flexibility.

Similarity Between Sukhoi Su-35 and F-16 Fighting Falcon

Despite being developed by different countries and belonging to different generations of fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon share several similarities. These commonalities stem from their roles as multirole fighters and their capabilities in modern aerial warfare. Here are some key similarities between the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon:

  • Multirole Capability: Both aircraft are designed as multirole fighters, meaning they can perform a wide range of missions, including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground strikes, and reconnaissance. Their versatile nature allows them to adapt to various combat scenarios and operational requirements.
  • Advanced Avionics: The Su-35 and F-16 are equipped with advanced avionics systems to enhance situational awareness, radar capabilities, and target tracking. These sophisticated systems play a crucial role in modern air combat, providing the pilots with essential information for decision-making.
  • Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface Weapons: Both aircraft are armed with a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, enabling them to engage enemy aircraft and ground targets effectively. Their weapons suites include guided missiles, precision-guided munitions, and cannons for close-range engagements.
  • Agility and Maneuverability: Both the Su-35 and the F-16 are known for their agility and maneuverability, which are essential qualities in dogfighting and evading enemy threats. While the Su-35 features thrust-vectoring nozzles for exceptional control, the F-16 relies on its fly-by-wire control system and lightweight design to achieve impressive aerial performance.
  • Electronic Warfare Capabilities: Both aircraft incorporate electronic warfare systems to protect themselves from enemy radar and missile threats. These systems enhance survivability and countermeasures during high-threat environments.
  • Global Deployment: Both the Su-35 and the F-16 have been widely exported to various countries, making them prominent choices for international customers seeking advanced multirole fighters.
  • Continuous Upgrades: Over the years, both aircraft have undergone continuous upgrades and improvements to maintain their combat effectiveness and adapt to evolving threats and technologies.


In conclusion, the comparison between the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon reveals two exceptional multirole fighter aircraft, each with its own strengths and capabilities. The Su-35, a product of Russian engineering, showcases its prowess with its superior maneuverability, advanced avionics, and powerful radar system. On the other hand, the American-made F-16 impresses with its agility, ease of maintenance, and versatility in combat scenarios.

The Su-35’s thrust-vectoring nozzles and supercruise capability give it an edge in close-range dogfights and extended endurance, making it a formidable opponent in aerial combat. Its advanced avionics and electronic warfare systems enhance its situational awareness and survivability in contested airspace.

The F-16, while lacking thrust-vectoring, compensates with its responsive fly-by-wire controls, allowing for exceptional agility and high-G turns. Its diverse radar systems, avionics, and weapon options make it a versatile platform capable of handling various mission profiles.

In a hypothetical dogfight, the outcome between these two fighters would depend on multiple factors, including the skill of the pilots, mission objectives, and tactics employed. Both aircraft have seen continuous upgrades and improvements to maintain their relevance and effectiveness in modern warfare.

Ultimately, the Sukhoi Su-35 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon are iconic symbols of their respective countries’ aviation achievements, representing the cutting edge of military technology. As they continue to serve in the world’s air forces, they stand as testament to the ingenuity and expertise of their designers and manufacturers, contributing significantly to the ever-evolving landscape of aerial combat.



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