Russia's Su-35 Fighter vs. America's F-16 Fighting Falcon: Who Wins?

Discussion in 'U.S. Air Force' started by Osmanovic, Jan 31, 2016.

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  1. Osmanovic

    Osmanovic 1st Lieutenant

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    The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the U.S. and allied air forces for decades. Over the years, the aircraft has evolved from a lightweight visual range dogfighter into a potent multirole warplane that flies the gamut of missions ranging from the suppression of enemy air defenses to air superiority. Though it has been operational since 1980, the “Viper” continues to evolve and will remain in service with the U.S. Air Force and other militaries for decades to come. But while the F-16 remains a potent fighter, potential adversaries have caught up—the latest Russian aircraft like the Sukhoi Su-35 can match or exceed the Viper in many respects.

    While the Su-35 is more of an analogue to the Boeing F-15 Eagle, Russia is selling many more Flankers than MiG-29 Fulcrum derivatives around the world. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force usually has its “red air” aggressors replicate Flanker variants (usually the Flanker-G) rather than the MiG-29 or its derivatives during large force exercises like Red Flag or Red Flag Alaska. That’s because derivatives of the massive twin-engine Russian jet are amongst the most likely aerial adversaries American pilots might face.

    The Su-35 is not the most common Flanker derivative, but it is the most capable version built to date. In the right hands—with properly trained pilots and support from ground controllers or an AWACS—the Su-35 is an extremely formidable threat to every Western fighter save for the F-22 Raptor. The F-35 would probably be ok too—if the pilots used its stealth, sensors and networking to their advantage—tactics and training makes all the difference.

    What about the workhorse fleet of F-16s? The Viper doesn’t have the latest upgraded F-15C’s massive active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar nor can the F-16 usually lob the AIM-120 missile from the speeds and altitudes that the Eagle can attain. But then the F-15C was built as a dedicated air superiority fighter. Most in-service F-16s don’t have an AESA installed at all. The UAE’s advanced F-16E/Fs have the APG-80 AESA—which has excellent capability—but that’s a tiny fleet of aircraft. U.S. Air Force F-16s are not currently fitted with an AESA and are at a severe disadvantage versus the Su-35 or other advanced Flanker derivatives.

    The U.S. Air Force is keenly aware of the problem. The service had intended to retrofit 300 or so F-16s with an upgrade called the Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES), but that program was cancelled because of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Nonetheless, the Air Force knows it needs to urgently retrofit the F-16 fleet with new radars sooner rather than later.

    Earlier this year, the Air National Guard issued an urgent operational need statement calling for an AESA to be installed in their F-16s performing the homeland defense mission. The radars are needed to track cruise missiles and other small, hard to detect targets. The active Air Force is also aware of the problem and issued a request for information for a new radar for the F-16 fleet in March. That same month, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the House Armed Services Committee, “We need to develop an AESA upgrade plan for the entire fleet.”


    The U.S. Air Force does not use the F-16 primarily as an air superiority fighter—the air-to-air mission is secondary—the AESA is needed to keep the venerable jet relevant. With an AESA, the F-16 could probably hold its own against the Su-35 at longer ranges—but it would still be a challenge.

    At shorter ranges, it comes down to pilot skill and the performance of each jet’s high off-boresight missiles. The advent of missiles like the R-73 and AIM-9X have turned visual range fights into mutually assured destruction scenarios. Mutual kills are not uncommon during training sorties. While the Su-35’s thrust vectoring gives it an edge at very low speeds (mind you, low speeds mean a low energy state), it’s not an insurmountable problem for an expert F-16 pilot—who knows how to exploit his or her aircraft to the fullest—to overcome.

    The bottom line is that the Su-35 and the other advanced Flankers are extremely capable aircraft. The Pentagon’s fourth-generation fighter fleet no longer enjoys a massive technological advantage as they did in years past. The United States must invest in next-generation fighters to replace the existing fleet as soon as possible.

    Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

    Image: Creative Commons.

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/th...er-vs-americas-f-16-fighting-falcon-who-13918
     
  2. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Given the recent tensions between Turkey and Russia there is a good chance that we will see how the F-16 fairs against the Su-35.

     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
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  3. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    9/9/2015

    Current F-16 mechanically-scan radars have limited target handling capacity because existing mechanical scanning methods are inherently slow and require large amounts of power in order to respond rapidly enough to deal with large numbers of high-speed maneuvering targets," said Jon Haser, 416th Flight Test Squadron Integrity Driven Quality Focused Project Support contractor.

    Haser said the F-16 Radar Modernization Program, or RMP, is a risk mitigation effort designed to deliver fully developed AESA radars for integration on Foreign Military Sales and U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft. AESA radars are known for their superior capability in comparison to current operational radars.

    "In an era in which the numerical superiority of adversaries is expected to remain large, an electronic scanning radar can offset that advantage and provide increase lethality for the F-16," said Haser.

    "With mechanically-scanned systems, antenna inertia and inflexibility prevent employment of optimum radar beam positioning patterns that can reduce reaction times and increase target capacity," said Haser. "With electronic scanning, the radar beams are positioned almost instantaneously and completely without the inertia, time lags and vibration of mechanical [radar] systems."

    Additionally, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics selected Northrop Grumman Corp. to provide its Scalable Agile Beam Radar, or SABR: AN/APG-83 Fire Control Radar, as contractor-furnished equipment for Foreign Military Sales and potentially U.S. Air Force F-16 modernization programs.

    "This RMP test program will consist of a Design Try-Out to help develop radar modes of the SABR and to evaluate the AN/APG-83 radar performance specified in the contract prior to integration efforts by Lockheed Martin," Haser said.

    Although Haser said no U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft programs have been identified to receive AESA radar upgrades, the RMP flight test efforts here will directly affect the AESA radar development for the F-16 Phoenix Rising Project for Taiwan, slated to begin at the end of 2015.
     
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  4. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    The Air Force is upgrading our F-16's with Northrops AN/APG-83 AESA Radar, basically this baby is a radar designed for 5th generation fighters. One of the big disadvantages of the F-16 to the SU-35 was the radar, with this upgrade we solve the problem. It is well known that the SU-35 is a highly maneuverable fighter especially in close range encounters however the F-16 is very agile as well. I don't think that an F-16 will have a problem facing down an SU-35 if the pilot is well trained. This doesn't mean that the F-16 will cream the SU-35 everyday of the week, it just means that the F-16 can handle the SU-35.


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  5. Atilla

    Atilla Major

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    Historically American Fighters do very good against Soviet fighters. If we take look at Iran-Iraq War we see that Iranians were much better in air battles also same thing in for Israelis in Arab-Israeli wars because they had American jets and training-doctrine. But these are Soviet downgraded export models against real American models.
     
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  6. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Following the re-unification of Germany, Luftwaffe inherited a number of East Germany's MiG-29 fighters. It was decided to incorporated these fighters into the Luftwaffe and make them as much "NATO-compatible" as possible. These aircraft were later used for a number of training exercises, including simulated air combats against American F-16 fighters. Many weaknesses and advantages of the MiG-29 were discovered. The wild interest in the West toward MiG-29 was caused by the results of these exercises in which MiG-29 proved to be a far superior fighter in close combat than any Western type. Many people continue to argue about advantages and flaws of MiG-29 and, of course

    Here is an informative article on the MIG-29 and the Luftwaffes experience. It gives us some insight into Soviet vs Western Jets. Basically our electronics are superior to theirs but they are better in close range aerial combat. Again though we are comparing a down graded monkey model with state of the art western fighters.
     
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