When America’s F-22 Raptor and Russia’s Su-35 are placed head to head, comparisons are inevitable. It is impossible to declare one as a clear, outright winner but it seems the Russian jet has leverage over the US powerful stealth aircraft in one crucial aspect.
The Sukhoi Su-35 is an advanced multirole air superiority fighter developed from the existing design of the Su-27 flanker. Designated as ‘Flanker-E’ by NATO, the single-seat, twin-engine multirole fighter is in fact ‘supermaneuverable’ – bigger, faster, and with longer flights capability.
The F-22 Raptor, on the other hand, is one of the most advanced tactical fighter aircraft ever made with the definition of agility, range, and stealth.
The F-22 has a reputation for being almost undetectable with the ability to lock on to a target without being in their visual range owing to advanced stealth technology used in the aircraft. The Raptors were inducted into the United States Air Force (USAF) in 2005.
The Su-35 is designed for dogfights with more external firepower compared to the American F-22 whose weapons are held internally. The Sukhoi jet has 12 hardpoints for carrying external weapons and stores. Four on each wing; two on the underside of the fuselage and one under each engine.
The F-22 Raptor is outfitted with just four external hardpoints on the wings to carry weapons or fuel tanks, but using these would affect its stealth feature.
Raptor’s Major Drawback
The Lockheed Martin F-22 is beyond par among fighter jets but why does it lack the Infra-Red Search and Tracking (IRST) and cheek-mounted radars? The reason lies in the US Air Force’s cap on the cost of the F-22’s avionics at $9 million per aircraft in production in 1989, observes National Interest.
At that time, the design on paper had cost over $16 million of avionics on each aircraft. The USAF had not provided instructions of which systems were to be dropped and the manufacturers had this decision in their hands.
This lead to the manufacturers – Lockheed Martin and Boeing – dropping the IRST and the side-looking, cheek-mounted radars among various other systems.
A vital advantage now lies with the fourth generation Su-35’s infrared search and track fire control system. It includes a camera, target designator, laser rangefinder, and infrared sensor.
Although the fifth-generation F-22 and the fourth-generation Su-35 have almost similar capabilities, the latter’s superior dogfighting capabilities, significantly cheaper cost, and IRST technology give the Russian jet a clear edge over the American aircraft.
Research by The EurAsian Times and defense expert Alex Lockie has shown that the US Raptors would be at a disadvantage in a face-to-face encounter or during an interception with the Su-35.
If an aerial skirmish were to occur during an interception mission, experts believe that the Russian jets would have a massive advantage having the ‘invisible’ F-22 Raptor in sight.
Lt. Col. David Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, told Business Insider that when flying the F-22, my aim wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight with an opponent. Instead, Berke said he would use the F-22’s biggest advantage of stealth and avoid a within-visual range aerial-duel.
As the F-22 was designed to be stealthy with have internal weapons storage, Justin Bronk, an expert on combat airpower said that aircraft like F-22 was “not really necessary” for interception missions and that other, cheaper jets can do the job.