Russia's Su-27 Flanker Is No Match for the F-22 or F-35 Stealth Fighters

Su-27 Flanker
February 8, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Su-27Su-27 FlankerMilitaryDefenseF-22F-35Air Force

Russia's Su-27 Flanker Is No Match for the F-22 or F-35 Stealth Fighters

For over three decades, the powerful Sukhoi Su-27 fighter has patrolled the skies over the USSR, its former territories, and Russia. However, the warplane is no match for F-22 or F-35 stealth fighters. 

For more than three decades, the powerful Sukhoi Su-27 fighter has patrolled the skies over the USSR, its former territories and Russia.

Designated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as “Flanker,” the Soviet-era platform was initially designed as a counter to America’s competitor airframes- specifically the fourth-generation Grumman F-14 Tomcat and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.

The Su-27 may be aging, but the formidable fighter continues to play an active role in combat. In fact, both Russian and Soviet forces are using the Flanker platform in the ongoing conflict.

The History of the Su-27 Flanker

When the U.S. developed its F-X program, resulting in the F-15 Eagle, Soviet engineers got to work to develop a strong counter. The USSR had lofty goals surrounding its new platform, including long-range abilities, short-field performance, advanced armament capabilities and fast speed.

Ultimately, these requirements were not possible to meet at the time, resulting in the splintering of the project into two separate platforms- the Su-27 and MiG-29.

Russian manufacturer Sukhoi designed its T-10 prototype beginning in the 1970’s The Flanker first debuted in the West at the 1989 Paris Air Show, four years after entering service with the Soviet Air Force.

Specs & Capabilities

Since the Flanker was in part designed to engage American B-52 and B-1 bombers, the platform has a killer range. In terms of armaments, the Su-27 can carry up to 10 missiles or a combination of missiles and bombs in addition to its 30mm cannon.

The range of air-to-air missiles the platform can carry includes the R-27R, a medium-range missile with semi-active radar homing and the R-73E close-combat, air-to-air missile with infrared homing.

The Flanker is also equipped with a range of sophisticated sensors and countermeasures, including a pilot illumination radar warning receiver and an advanced electronic countermeasures suite for individual aircraft.

Two Al-31F turbofan engines power each Flanker, designed by the Lyukla Engine Design Bureau. Able to fly at speeds reaching Mach-2.35 (times the speed of sound), the Su-27 is quite the powerhouse. The Flanker possesses a variety of features that lower its radar signature, making it harder for enemy aircraft to detect. This includes a rounded noise, dual-engine integration and nearly horizontal wing-body structure.

How Advanced is the Su-27 Platform?

Over the years, several new Flanker variants have been introduced to service. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, export variants of the Su-27 were developed for client states including China and Vietnam. By the 1990’s, Russian engineers had enhanced the platform’s air-to-air capability with the introduction of the R-77 missile and new avionics. This sophisticated Su-27M variant was later re-designated as the Su-35.

Su-27

Russia’s Su-27 is considered to be one of the best fourth-generation fighters across the globe. With its great range and weapons-carrying capabilities, the Flanker is well equipped to go up against fourth-generation American airframes like the Eagle.

Su-27

However, it is truly no match for the fifth-gen F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II platforms.

About the Author 

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image Credit: Shutterstock.