Why the American F-22 Was Afraid of the Russian Su-35S

Translated by Ollie Richardson



Periodically there are reports that an American aircraft consciously and purposefully prevents Russian jets from conducting air strikes on ISIS. The official representative of the Ministry of Defence Major-General Igor Konashenkov described how it happens and what the response of the Russian pilots is.

Here is just one incident involving an American jet that happened at the end of November in the air space over the west bank of the Euphrates River. “A F-22 actively prevented a pair of Su-25 Russian attack jets from carrying out a combat mission to destroy an ISIS stronghold in the suburb of the city of al-Mayadeen. The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight,” reported Konashenkov.

After near the best NATO fighter of the fifth generation there was the best Russian fighter of the 4++ generation Su-35S, “the American stopped pushing its luck and left for the airspace of Iraq”. The American side didn’t find the time to respond to the inquiry of the Russian command about the purposes and legitimacy of such behavior.

It is necessary to say that the American F-22 Raptor pilots behave carefully around the Russian jets working in Syria. Yes, of course, they are quite capable of coping with the Su-25. After all, the Su-25 is first quite old, i.e. it’s technically inferior to the younger “Raptor”. The avionics on it, certainly, are weaker. Secondly, the attack jet isn’t designed for combat in the air with a jet created for domination of the skies, which the F-22 has.

However, concerning the tasks to be solved not everything is so simple with the “colleagues” of Russians. The American “Raptor” pilots who are on a Syrian mission complain about the flaws existing when designing this jet. Most inhibiting of them all is that during night flights they can’t see Russian jets. This is connected to the fact that on the F-22 there is no optical locational station that can observe the sky both in the visible and infrared ranges. Also they are irritated by a lack of targeting on the helmet. “We literally have to turn our heads and look for the jets of others that were seen some time ago. All of this instead of observe the coordinates of this jet in the helmet,” complained one of the pilots.

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A tough nut for the “Raptor” to crack is also the latest multi-purpose fighter jet MiG-29 S МТ. Some of these jets arrived to the Hmeymim airbase in September. A wide range of tasks was put before the pilots: carrying out reconnaissance, conducting bombing attacks on the positions of terrorists, supporting Tu-22М3 long-range bombers, and also supporting operations with the participation of Su-25SM, Su-24M2, and Su-34 bombers.

A series task was set for the designers of the Mikoyan and Gurevich experimental design bureau, and also the design bureau developing avionics and aviation weapon systems. As the general designer of United Aircraft Corporation Sergey Korotkov, who is in Syria, told journalists, “the program of developing the MiG-29S МТ will be continued, including for the purpose of checking the efficiency of of destruction by new and promising arms systems. The experience obtained in Syria will be considered when operating these jets, and will also be introduced within the development of the new aviation systems of the brand ‘MiG’, including the MiG-35. The participation of new aviation systems in combat departures allows to verify their reliability and efficiency, and also to evaluate the work of a system of onboard radio electronics and arms”.

Undoubtedly, it is a great success for “MiG”, since it’s latest project of creating the beautiful light fighter jet of the 4++ generation MiG-35 with enormous work finds understanding in the Ministry of Defence. It is expected to order a very limited batch, and all commercial efforts will be directed to the export of these jets. Due to the successful operation the MiG fighter jets, maybe the moods of the Air Force command will change. And certainly — the prestige of the MiG-35 in the foreign market will significantly increase.

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So far, in this direction the situation for “MiG” has evolved, it is possible to say, deplorably. Several times the MiG-35 lost large tenders on the grounds that back then it was still a raw jet. And it completely had no fighting experience. It is possible to assume that the MiG-29S МТ is the first bird that reached Syria. And in the near future MiG-35 will also fly to the Hmeymim base. However, the time left is already very little, as the Syrian operation comes nearer to the victorious end.

However, the MiG-29S МТ, adopted in service in 2009, is also a wonderful jet. Thus, the jet is underestimated. NATO theorists have a high amount of appreciation for it, calling this jet a “fulcrum”. This is connected to its high combat effectiveness, which is combined with its low cost, simplicity of operation, and the high reliability of all systems onboard the jet. Its operational advantages are eloquently evidenced by the fact that the engine of this jet can be installed or dismantled in one hour in field conditions. Also replacing the onboard radio-electronic equipment, which has an open architecture, is maximally simplified.

In this connection, as the Syrian experiment shows, the jet continues to be retrofitted with more modern avionics. But the base model, i.e. jets that are in service in the Air Force, is quite modern. And they can quite compete in the fight for sales in the foreign market with the “Gripen” Swedish light fighter jet, possessing the best price:quality ratio.

The MiG-29 fighter jet with the SMT index distinguishes itself in a lot of things in comparison to the extensive family of jets. Designers managed to lower its radar visibility to an electron paramagnetic resonance level of about 1 sq.m. Additional fuel tanks were installed, thanks to which the practical range increased to 2200km. In the event of two suspended fuel tanks being used and based on one air refuelling, the range reaches 6700 km.

Thus, the increase in weight due to fuel didn’t affect its flight qualities negatively — in particular, manoeuvrability. The high flight standards are provided by two RD-33 turbojet engines made by the Klimov experimental design bureau with a thrust vector tiltable in two planes. The pull of each of them on afterburner is 8300 kgf. The jet’s speed at altitude reaches 2500 km/h, at ground level — 1500 km/h. The high thrust:weight ratio gives the jet a good climb rate, which reaches 330 m/s.

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The onboard radio-electronic equipment is significantly improved. One of its major components – the “Zhuk-M” radar — received the possibility of multimode operation. In particular, it is capable of mapping the terrain. It can detect low-contrast targets against the terrain. It can keep track of helicopters in hover mode. Up to 10 targets are tracked at the same time, and 4 of them can be engaged. The range of the detection of targets with an electron paramagnetic resonance of 1-3 sq.m is increased to up to 130−150km. Apparently, in Syria a “Zhuk-A” radar from the MiG-35 fighter jet with an active phased array grid was rolled out on the MiG-29S МТ. It considerably surpasses the capabilities of the “Zhuk-M”.

A modern system of radio-electronic warfare and arms management system belong to the onboard radio-electronic equipment of the fighter jet. The arms management system of the MiG-29S МТ allows to use free-fall bombs with significantly bigger efficiency than the previous modifications of the MiG-29. Thus, the fighter jet allows to deliver accurate blows using inexpensive air bombs. And this also influences the price:quality ratio.

Of course, the fighter jet has high-precision weapons — surface-to-air missiles of all types. I.e., the usual “land”, anti-ship, and anti-radar. For aerial combat the fighter jet is equipped with the newest air-to-air missiles of close, medium, and long range. However, the payload isn’t so great — 4 tons. But it is necessary to consider that it is a light, and not a heavy fighter jet.

By the way, the pilot of the MiG-29S МТ has a helmet designator, the absence of which the pilots of the “Raptor” complain about.

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