Two Billion Dollars Worth of Smoldering, Twisted Metal
According to Newsweek, Russia has lost two dozen expensive Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E fighter jets thus far in its war on Ukraine. And by “lost,” I mean Ukrainian forces blew them out of the sky. This is forcing the Russian Air Force to switch over to the older (they had their first flight in 1967) and less sophisticated Sukhoi 24M Fencer bomber aircraft. Oh, when I mentioned the Flanker Es are expensive, they are about $85 million each, according to engineerine.com. As a point of reference, our closest US comparison, the F-35, costs anywhere from $79 – $116 million, depending on the model.
Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff, General Oleksii Hromov, spoke of the downing of the aircraft at a briefing at the Ukraine Ukrinform media center on August 11th. He says, “Over the last week, the Ukrainian Air Force has destroyed 27 air targets. In connection with the significant losses of aviation equipment, the occupiers are considering the option of using outdated bombers, the Su-24M…”
He went on to note that the Russians have provided the Chinese with 24 each of the Su-35 fighter jets, and of those, only nine were fully functional. He commented on how this is a testament to the unreliability of the fighter.
During the briefing noted above, Hromov was quoted as saying, “The Su-35 aircraft has also shown a low level of survivability. During the full-scale aggression, the occupiers have lost two squadrons of such aircraft, that’s about 24 planes.” According to Air Force Magazine, Russian tactical squadrons have 12 aircraft each (plus one or two combat trainers). Long-range bomber squadrons typically have ten aircraft, and helicopter squadrons generally have 20.
General Hromov, as reported by Newsweek, has recently stated that the targeting accuracy of Russian aircraft has been poor recently. Apparently, their pilots do not want to be shot down. Reuters has quoted him as saying, “The enemy’s planes and helicopters avoid flying into the range of our air defenses, and therefore the accuracy of these strikes is low.” This is excellent because it means the radar systems and anti-aircraft missiles the Ukrainians have been provided with are doing their jobs.
The video footage shown below purportedly shows a Russian Su-35 that had been shot down in the area of Nova Kakhovka, a city in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force praised the kill and the “excellent work” of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles. In addition, they note that their “ground air defense” brought down the jet.
Excellent work of the 🇺🇦 Anti-aircraft missile forces.
Ground air defense of 🇺🇦 "landed" another 🇷🇺 fighter jet near Nova Kakhovka.(approximately – SU-35)
Glory to Ukraine! pic.twitter.com/pRxCdbTwOY
— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) July 19, 2022
Video courtesy of @KpsZSU via Twitter
Experts at Forbes have evaluated the video shown above and believe the reference is almost certainly in regards to a
air defense system. Both Russia and Ukraine inherited dozens of batteries of these after the fall of the Soviet Union. They tell us that Ukraine’s best Soviet-inherited air defense system is S-300PS. Their batteries consist of several wheeled launchers in addition to command and control vehicles and radar vehicles. They have a range of about 50 miles.
Compare and Contrast: US F-35 vs. Russia’s Su-35
First of all, the F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter featuring cutting-edge aviation technology. The Sukhoi is a fourth-generation fighter jet. According to Engineerine, it may be considered to be classified as a 4.5 generation aircraft. What does that mean? Basically, it has all the bells and whistles with the exception of stealth technology.
If we look at some stats, we find the Su-35 is the heavier bird, weighing in at a bit over 41,000 lbs. By contrast, the F-35 (sometimes referred to as the Panther) is a relatively svelte 29,000 lbs. Checking out maximum engine power, the F-35 has a single engine making 43,000 pounds of thrust. Its Russian counterpart is powered by two engines putting out 32,000 pounds of thrust each. Those engines propel the Flanker to a top speed of 1491 mph, whereas the F-35 is a little slower, clocking in with a top speed of 1218 mph.
The Russian wins in the range department, as it can fly 2,200 miles on a single tank. The F-35 has a range of 1,700 miles. The Sukhoi has a higher rate of climb than the F-35, 55,000 ft/min vs. 45,000 ft/min for the American bird. It turns out the Flanker can fly a bit higher as well. Its maximum altitude is 59,000 feet, while the F-35 is limited to a 50,000-foot ceiling.