Can Soviet-era fighter jets like the one above, the twin-engine MiG-29 Fulcrum, or the bigger one below, the Su-27 Flanker, outperform the newest American design, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?
Yes, according to Bill French, a policy analyst with the National Security Network, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank favors progressive defense policies. He’s the author of a report released Tuesday by the organization. It’s titled, “Thunder without Lightning: The High Costs and Limited Benefits of the F-35 Program,” a pun on the jet’s official name, Lightning II.
The document comes a month after news of an internal Pentagon review that detailed how an F-16 outperformed an F-35 in a dog-fight.
In his research, French wrote the Joint Strike Fighter performed only slightly better than the F-16, F-18 and AV-8B Harrier — the U.S. aircraft it’s slated to replace. What’s more, he compared the power, maneuverability and maximum payloads of the fifth-generation stealth fighter against those of the older Russian aircraft.
Here’s what he wrote:
“The F-35’s performance characteristics also compare unfavorable to already deployed foreign 4th-generation fighters such as the Russian-designed MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker (also produced by China) in service with air forces around the world. These are the kinds of aircraft the F-35 would most likely face in air-to-air engagements against a high-end opponent. Compared to both the Su-27 and the MiG-29, the F-35 is grossly inferior in terms of wing loading (except for the F-35C), transonic acceleration, and thrust-to-weight. All F-35 variants also have significantly lower maximum speeds, Mach 1.6 for the F-35 compared to Mach 2.2 for the Su-27 and Mac 2.3 for the MiG-29.
Air-to-air simulations paint an even grimmer picture. In 2009, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin analysts indicated that the F-35 could be expected to achieve only a 3-to-1 kill ratio against the decades-old MiG-29 and Su-27 despite its advantages in stealth and avionics. The results of other simulations have been far worse. In one simulation subcontracted by the RAND Corporation, the F-35 incurred a loss exchange ratio of 2.4–1 against Chinese Su-35s. That is, more than two F-35s were lost for each Su-35 shot down. While these simulations take into account a host of other factors and include assumptions about the context in which the engagements take place, they nevertheless underscore the need for skepticism regarding the F-35’s air-to-air capabilities.
Unfortunately, there are insufficient data on foreign 5th-generation fighters to allow for meaningful comparisons. Three such fighters are known to be under development: the Russian PAK FA and the Chinese J-20 and J-31.
Full article: Analyst: Russian MiG-29 and Su-27 Top American F-35 (DefenseTech)