Which is the most powerful air superiority fighter in ASEAN is a relatively difficult question to answer, but a few good candidates can be listed.
The Singapore Air Force’s F-15SG air superiority fighter is a variant based on the F-15E Strike Eagle, designed for long-range combat, destroying ground targets deep in enemy territory, in addition to maintaining a very strong air combat ability.
The F-15SG is a 2-seater fighter, fitted with a 2,800-liter aerodynamically integrated auxiliary fuel tank that significantly increases the range but also affects maneuverability. The AN/APG-70 multi-function radar on the F-15SG has the unique feature that after scanning and setting up the topographic map, it can switch to air-to-air mode while still tracking targets on the ground.
The LANTIRN system (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) allows the F-15SG to strike accurately day and night in all weather conditions. The Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) integrated on the F-15SG provides comprehensive protection for the aircraft against threats. The F-15SG excels at very high speed (up to Mach 2.5), carries a large weapon payload (10.4 tons), is extremely versatile and equipped with advanced avionics, it considered as the most powerful fighter in Southeast Asia.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force was particularly impressed with the Indian Su-30MKIs, especially after its performance in the Cope India 2004 exercise. Therefore, the Malaysian Ministry of Defense decided to order 18 Su-30MKM fighters from Russia, the delivery of which was completed at the end of 2008.
Malaysia’s Su-30MKM is a heavy fighter designed with the mission of air superiority, long-range operation, with almost identical configuration to India’s Su-30MKI. The aircraft is equipped with N011M BARS passive phased array radar with a scanning range of 400 km, tracking 15 targets and guiding missiles to attack 4 targets simultaneously.
The AL-31FP thrust vector control engines give the Su-30MKM a huge advantage in close-range air combat. In addition, the aircraft is also equipped with many extremely modern avionics equipment produced by leading defense enterprises in the world such as Thales, SAAB AVITRONICS…. It is not inferior to Singapore’s F-15SG.
Another significant fighter is Thailand’s JAS 39 Gripen -a light single-engine multirole fighter produced by the Swedish Saab Aviation Company. Compared to Su-30MKM or F-15SG, its light size will probably make JAS 39 underestimate. However, this is a big mistake because Gripen is designed to counter heavy fighters.
The design of JAS 39 includes large delta wings and canard configuration. The outstanding advantage of the aircraft is its flexibility, it can take off and land on a short runway of only 800 m, it only takes a few minutes to refuel and armed to take off.
The JAS-39 is also equipped with the most modern avionics systems, notably the PS-05/A pulse doppler radar of the Ericsson and GEC-Marconi joint venture with a maximum range of 120 km. User countries appreciate JAS 39 for its compact size, low radar cross section, high maneuverability, ease of use and low maintenance costs. During exercises with the Chinese Air Force, Thailand’s JAS 39C/D Gripen has demonstrated its superior combat ability against the partner’s J-10C or J-11B.