Ukraine’s Su-27 fighter has hardly changed compared to the Soviet era, while the Russian Su-35 is the latest variant of the famous Flanker fighter family.

The tense relationship between Russia and Ukraine is raising questions regarding a confrontation between the two countries’ air forces if the conflict escalate. Two main types of fighters, the Russian Su–35 and the Ukrainian Su-27, have been compared to evaluate the air potential of these two opponents. Ukraine’s Su-27 fighter was commented that it was very difficult to resist the Russian Su-35 if a military conflict broke out.

Ukraine’s Su-27 fighter has hardly changed compared to the Soviet era, while the Russian Su-35 is the latest variant of the famous Flanker fighter family. The American magazine Military Watch has made a comparison of the advantage of the Russian Su-35 over the Ukrainian Su-27 in a simulated air battle.

Russia’s Su-35 vs. Ukraine’s Su-27
Russia’s Su-35 vs. Ukraine’s Su-27

The American newspaper recalls that since 2014, Ukraine has made efforts to increase the number of fighters. But while their air force was once among the top five in the world, the Soviet legacy was squandered. If in the early 1990s, the size of Ukraine’s fighter fleet consisted of more than 1,000 aircraft, now there are less than 100 aircraft, most of which have become obsolete.

According to statistics, 14 of them are the old Su-24M attack variants with very limited air combat capabilities, while the rest are MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters and a few Su-25 low-altitude attack aircraft. The Su-27 was the most powerful Soviet fighter at the time of its disintegration. This is a heavy fighter with a very long range and large payload. However, Ukraine did not have the funds to modernize and refit it.

In Russia, on that basis – the Su-35 fighter was developed – a deep modernization of the Su-27, which entered service in 2014. Despite the fact that the Su-35 is based on the same type of airframe but it has advantages in every way. The Su-35’s lighter and stronger airframe is due to the use of more composite materials, which were almost never used on the original Su-27. This element reduces the radar cross section, while helping to carry more fuel, increasing the flight range. The AL-41F1S engine has strong thrust and vector control capabilities, the flight performance of the Su-35 is still much higher than that of the Su-27.

The most significant advantage of the Su-35 over the Su-27 is the avionics system: the old aircraft uses outdated radar, which is relatively easy to jam in modern combat conditions. The Su-35 uses an electronically scanned array Irbis-E. The detection range of targets with an effective scattering area of ​​​​3 square meters of the Su-27 is only 80 km, in this figure of the Irbis-E radar is 400 km.

Su-35’s OLS-35 infrared search and tracking system also has 180 percent the detection range of the Su-27’s OLS-27 at 90km as opposed to 50km. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that the Su-35 has superior situational awareness to a full half squadron of original Flankers. Improvements to avionics included a digital cockpit as opposed to the original Flanker’s analogue, as well as superior Khibny-M electronic warfare suite, the modern KSU-35 digital flight control system, and much more sophisticated data links and communications.

In air combat, the Su-35 and Su-27 will rely mainly on R-77 and R-27 missiles, the R-77 type has active radar homing, while the older R-27 uses the semi-active type. The fact that the R-27 is produced in both Ukraine and Russia means that the Ukrainian industry is able to improve the design of the missile from the original.

The most prominent air-to-air missile on the Su-35 is the R-37M, which also has active radar guidance and is significantly superior to the above missiles in terms of range, although maneuverability is not appreciated. Supplementing its thrust vectoring engines and superior flight performance, the K-74M2 infra red guided short range missiles provide the Su-35 with a very significant advantage in visual range engagements over the older R-60 and R-73 used by Ukrainian aircraft.

In short, the Russian Su-35 is designed to counter fifth-generation fighters, which has a huge advantage over the Su-27. In addition, with a significant numerical superiority, it is difficult to lose in the air battle with Ukraine’s Su-27 fighter, Military Watch concludes.


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