The Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet should avoid contact with the Russian-built Su-35 attack aircraft, and there are a number of reasons to support this comparison between the two high tech warcraft. Comparing warplanes is always fun, especially so when their names shared the same numerical index. Of course, there has never been a true encounter between an F-35 and any Russian plane, and, with a little luck and a lot of patience, there never will be, so read on as a matter of speculation only.
The Scout.com website amused themselves with the following thought experiment: what if a group of four F-35s met a group of four Su-35 in a combat situation?
The first answer contained within their article “Russia’s Su-35 vs. America’s Stealth F-35: Who Wins?” observed that “The most likely answer is that they would change course and call in the F-22 Raptors and F-15Cs, which are tasked with gaining and maintaining air superiority.”
“Meanwhile, the F-35s would go on their merry way to their assigned targets,” added the authors.
What data do they have to support their claim? The Su-35, not yet a completely fifth-generation warcraft, is a heavily upgraded version of the dependable Su-27 Flanker, which first took flight way back in 1977. It should be noted that the upgrades include new avionics, new engines and even a modified airframe — something which usually denotes a new model.
The Su-35 is capable of reaching Mach 2.25 at high altitudes and Mach 1.13 at sea level, on par with the US F-22 Raptor fifth-generation plane. The F-35, on the other hand, “can just barely touch Mach 1.6 in full afterburner,” Scout reports.
“Whereas a four-ship flight of Raptors cruising at high supersonic speeds in the rarified atmosphere above 50,000 feet can effectively choose when and where to fight, a flight of slower, lower-flying F-35s might find themselves forced to react to better-performing enemy planes if they are not careful,” the website asserted.
Slower speed means less missile launch energy which, in turn, means a shorter attack range. Scout noted that the F-35 is not capable of carrying as many air-to-air missiles as the F-22.
And with AIM-9X, a much shorter-range missile intended for dogfights, the F-35 in its stealth configuration does not carry any at all. The F-35’s AIM-120 AMRAAM long-range missiles, capable of beyond-eyesight engagement, are also susceptible to radio jamming.
“If forced into a dogfight, an American F-35 pilot’s superior skills and experience might be the only factor that might save him or her from being shot down,” the website claimed.
“Basically, an F-35 pilot should avoid a close-in fight at all costs.”
Remarkably, what the F-35 also lacks is maneuverability. All in-service US fighter jets can outrun the F-35 in terms of maneuverability — including the older machines such as F-16 or even F/A-18 Hornets. The only thing the F-35 can rely upon is its stealth and high tech sensors. If a pilot is lucky, he or she might conduct a surprise AMRAAM attack from beyond the visible range.
But Scout, as a result of its well-intentioned thought experiment, recommends that F-35s just cloak themselves and give those Russian planes a wide berth.