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This Means War: Yes, Russia's Su-35 Can Take on the F-15 or F-16

TNI Staff

Security, Europe

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What would happen?

Key point: As good as the F-16 and F-15 are, it would be close and the Su-35 would prevail in close-quarters combat.

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.

Russia’s Su-35 fighter certainly has western defense outlets buzzing--and for good reason.

Moscow, despite heavy sanctions and an economy that has certainly seen better days, keeps pumping out new combat systems one after another--items like new tanks, submarines, nuclear weapons platforms and more.

While many were indeed designed and planned for ahead of the imposition of sanctions, Russia is clearly making a big effort to modernize its armed forces, especially its air force, and moving past older Soviet platforms. The Su-35 is a good example of such efforts.

So how would the Su-35 do against America’s best planes? How would it fare against an American air force that is clearly the best in the world.  How would, for example, the Su-35 do in a combat situation against Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter? How would Russia’s new plane do against older aircraft like the F-15 or say F-16?

Such scenarios matter--and not just in the context of a possible NATO/Russia or Middle East situation, but now that Russia is set to deliver the Su-35 to China, such comparisons matter even more. There are many places where all of these lethal aircraft will overlap, making such comparisons even more timely.

Compiled below are three articles, written several years ago by TNI’s former Defense Editor, Dave Majumdar, that looks at these questions in depth, combined in one posting for your reading pleasure. With that said, let the debate begin.

This first appeared in September 2016.

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While the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is slated to become the mainstay of the Pentagon’s tactical fighter fleet, not everyone nation on Earth can afford to fly an expensive fifth-generation fighter.

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