- Jul 6, 2013
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Russian pilot: "No F-35 can ever out-fly Sukhoi in knife fight."
The F-35 Lighting was the first choice of the Australian air force. But several thunderbolts have struck the stealth aircraft, including the arrival of new generation Sukhois that are skewing the odds against the Australians.
Australia and Russia – Similar requirements
Russian aircraft are designed to overcome a uniquely Russian problem – covering its vast air space with limited aircraft. The Australian landmass is 4000 km wide, and the F-35 just doesn’t have the legs to cover that distance. The Su-35 has an effective range of about 4,000 km compared with about 2,200 for the JSF. This means the JSF would require air-tanker support to operate both within and outside Australia’s boundaries.
Speed – Bullet train vs slowcoach
The Su-35 is a Mach 2.4 (nearly two and half times the speed of sound) aircraft while the F-35 is limited to Mach 1.6. According to Victor M. Chepkin, the first deputy general director of NPO Saturn, the new AL-41F engines will allow Russian jets to supercruise – fly at supersonic speed for long distances. By not having to switch their afterburners on, aircraft are able to save a lot of fuel. Translation – non-supercruising fighters such as the F-35 and F-18s will be at a huge disadvantage against the Sukhois.
Stealth – Holes in the cloak
So obsessed were the aircraft’s designers with stealth that they ignored or sacrificed fighter basics such as range, payload and speed. The thinking was stealth alone would be enough to keep the JSF ahead of the pack. However, even as the Americans were perfecting stealth tech, the Russians were developing new combat techniques against it. They are now experimenting with new radar that can pick out stealth planes.
Colonel of Aviation Grigoriy “Grisha” Medved, a former Russian fighter pilot, says the worst part of the F-35 is a very hot engine – 160 Celsius hotter than standard combat jet engine exhaust. “It makes a very bright star in the sky and a long jet plume,” he says in a study for Air Power Australia.
Russia has adapted technology developed for detecting ICBM launches, to air combat fighters, says Medved. This technology enables Russian fighter pilots to see a standard fighter at about 50 km; by 2017 it will allow them to see stealth fighters at about 150 km. Because such radars are passive, the enemy will have no idea they are being watched.
In a dogfight, Medved notes an Su-35 can salvo a pair of missiles. The first, an active-radar-homing one, will force the F-35 pilot to take evasive action, exposing his beam-on radar cross section and exhausts to another (heat-seeking) shot.
Plus, with its large internal fuel load, the Su-35 can perform multiple attacks, launching missiles, turning hard to evade and then re-engaging. That is, play “cat and mouse” with the Aussies. The Sukhoi’s much better inventory of BVR (beyond visual range) missiles can then finish the job. As Medved says, “Run in for kill with R-73 or guns. No (F-35) can ever out-fly Sukhoi in knife fight.”
And, the colonel adds, with the PAK-FA coming, the F-35 “best stay home unless escorted by bigger brother.”
Whether bigger brother can accompany the F-35 is doubtful. “The cancellation of the F-22 will make Sukhoi aircraft the most capable production fighter planes available,” says New Australia. “It also marks a historic shift in air-power from the United States to Russia and the countries that use Russian defence technology.” Why Australia should scratch the F-35 and fly Sukhois | Russia & India Report