We live in sad times. Instead of worrying about whether people will find work, have food, or be vaccinated for the pandemic, nations are gearing up for war. Every nation seems to be in an arms race, caring only about building weapons.
companies that manufacture weapons make billions of dollars along the way, such as the American company Lockheed Martin or Airbus in Europe. It seems the Ukrainians have been facing a lot of problems with their air defense since Russia started its invasion. Russians are now dominating the airspace, leading countries to want new modern fighter jets like the F35.
With the war escalating to NATO countries, many are wondering how Russian fighter jets compare to those from the West? Does Russia have the capability of dominating the air spaces of NATO countries?
For the most part, yes. However, while some Russian fighter jets in service look similar in design to Western fighters, the Western versions produced in recent years have surpassed their Russian counterparts, with a distinct advantage in several areas.
For example, Su 35's were previously considered slightly better fighters than F 15C's. They are equipped with powerful radars and decent electronic countermeasures, and the new AL 41F engines establish a slight kinematic advantage.
However, the Su 35 has fallen behind the F 15C and F 15E with recent upgrades to their avionics suite.
Even the best performing Russian fighters cannot compete, and their air to air weapons, with one exception, perform worse across the board. For instance, compared to stealth fighters, the Su 57 has an abnormally large radar cross section. It has no air to air missiles equipped with BVR's that will fit within its internal weapons bay. Despite being specifically designed for the Su 57, the R-77M missile has not even been deployed.
The R-37M has an advantage in terms of range, but it is not widely available in Russia and is so large and heavy that Su-57’s can't carry it in significant numbers or internally.
Russian drones are also very limited in comparison to American ones. Even with hand-launched aircraft and development projects like the Proryv, there is nothing comparable to the US fleet of MQ-9 Reapers or RQ-4 Global Hawks.
As far as Russian bombers are concerned, there are three types: the Tu-95, the Tu-160, and the Tu-22M. The Tu-160 is only deployed in small numbers and is unnecessarily expensive. A supersonic bomber, it outruns fighters in the same way as the B1A. The US switched to the B1B, which uses high speed, nap-of-the-earth dashes to evade air defenses. However, the Tu-160 has no such capability. The Tu-160 has a larger payload (mass-wise), but because of its limited rotary launchers, it is only capable of launching 12 Kh55’s long-range land attack missiles or 24 Kh15 medium-range anti-ship missiles.
24 AGM-158’s can be loaded on the B1B, including the anti-ship variant. Compared to the Kh-55 and Kh-15, the AGM 158 has a larger warhead and can be carried in the same numbers as the Kh-15. Tu-95’s are limited in their ability to launch cruise missiles (which have limited use in low-intensity conflicts compared to aircraft like the B1B which can provide close air support) and carry fewer cruise missiles than their American counterparts.
The argument that Russian aircraft are better because they are more modern is a useless metric. If you were on the ground, would you rather have the A10 or Su 25 for close air support?
The F-15EX is a more modern aircraft than the F-22. Despite this, F-22’s remain dominant in airspace against the F-15EX. The latest F-16 variants are also more modern than the F-22, but again, no one would claim the F-16 is a better fighter than the F-22. In addition, aircraft are continually upgraded, and older equipment is not necessarily worse.
On the F-22, the radar warner receiver (or RWR) is sophisticated and is capable of generating its own firing solutions. The F-35 also has an all aspect RWR.
A new EPAWSS for situational awareness is mounted on the F-15, bringing some of the advanced capabilities of the F-22 and F-35's RWR to the legacy platform, but it still isn't competitive. The AN/APG-77v1, despite being implemented in 2007, is still more capable than newer radars like the SABR.
Although Russia's Su-27 and Su-57 fleets came off the assembly line after the US counterparts did, the US fighters have been upgraded very consistently. In the Su-27 flanker, there is nothing similar to the EPAWSS.
Some people have stated that the F-16 and F-18 have the best radars in the world because “they’re the most modern”.
However, if we look at the F-22, it has an RCS of around 0.0001 square meters from “certain angles”, which was revealed in 2005 before the Paris Airshow in 2009.
For all practical purposes, this value is four to five orders of magnitude lower than legacy factors, which results in a detection range one-tenth that of a fighter like an F-15 or Su-27. Due to its RCS reduction, the Su-57's detection range is reduced but is still detectable from a standoff range.
This means the Su-57 would be detected before an F-22. An F-22 has successfully detected targets more than 320 miles away. Assuming the F-22 can detect a 10-square-meter target at 250 miles, the Su-57 can be detected between 80 and 140 miles. As a result, the F-22 is not only better at radar warning, but also in engagement, as it can detect well beyond the range of the AIM-120's current range of 12 miles.
According to many Russian sources, the Su-57's N036 radar has a range of 250 miles against a 1-square-meter target. Even if the N036 performs better than the AN/APG-77v1, the Raptor would already have launched missiles at the Su-57 by the time the F-22 was spotted.
Some attempts have been made to reduce the RCS of the production model Su-57. However, the large RCS of the Sukhoi T-50 only allows the Su-57 to compete with the fourth-generation fighters which have reduced RCS. RCS could not be reduced by more than two orders of magnitude with the Su-57’s features.
The Su-57's detection advantage would still be significant even if its RCS were reduced by one or two orders of magnitude. For example, if the Su-57’s RCS was 0.001 square meters, the F-22 would be detected at 0.56 times the range the Su-57 would be detected at.
With the range of BVR missiles increasing to over 100 nautical miles and the detection range against low RCS targets shrinking, being at half the range your opponent can detect will confer a significant advantage. If the detection range between two aircraft is below 100 nautical miles going both ways, the first aircraft to detect the other can instantly shoot off a missile while remaining undetected. The targeted aircraft will eventually have to go defensive and dump speed and/or altitude, putting itself at a disadvantage if it wants to re-engage after defeating the missile, and that’s if it isn’t simply shot down.
As for the F-35, it was originally intended to have a larger radar cross-section. However, by the time development finished, the production aircraft models had smaller RCS according to both test pilots and senior military officials. It’s pretty clear the Su-57 has a situational awareness disadvantage compared to its main competitors.
The Sukhoi T-50 was a pre-production prototype, and starting off with such a massive RCS doesn’t provide the RD team with much leeway in reducing the RCS to a competitive level by the time the first production aircraft rolls off the assembly line. On an already stealthy aircraft, the absolute difference in RCS is too small to allow such reductions, especially given the time in RD that can be invested before production.
In essence, while the Russian military jets can undoubtedly compete with the Western jets on all fronts, the latter continue to have an advantage over the former in many ways. Russian weaponry has a long way to go before it can actively match up to the quality of its enemies’ weaponry. Let us know in the comments what you think.