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Su-27 Flanker: The Truth

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posted on Jan, 4 2007 @ 10:55 PM
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Originally posted by planeman

If we stop the clock at 1988 and look at the main in-service versions of both, we find a slightly different picture than what you are painting:
USSR Su-27S Flanker-B -vs- USAF F-16C


Thanks very much for putting a tie into this. Throughout this I'd been blanket-comparing the Su-27, the Su-35, and the Su-37 to the F-16C regardless of time, but this gives us all a good look into which versions actually match up.



But anyway, the main changes are:
* The Su-27 family gained the really long ranged (130km!!!) AA-10 Alamo-C missile in the early 1990s.
* Recent Su-27 versions also sport vastly improved radars
* Both types have gained a true fire-and-forget AR medium range missile (AMRAAM and AA-12 Adder)
* Some F-16 varients now have IRST and HMS, but few have AAMs that compare to the Flanker's AA-11 - this will change as missiles like the IRIS-T and AIM-9X enter survice on F-16s.
* More recent Su-27 varients (usually called Su-35/37 and some Su-30 varients) have 3-D thrust vectoring which gives them superb agility, as has been discussed by others)
*Both types are increaingly employed as two-man aircraft, where the Flanker has a natural advantage due to its great size and power.
* Both sorts have evolved into multi-role and dedicated attack versions, in general the Su-27s carry more bombs. The Su-32 Fullback version of the Su-27 is the mutt's nuts in that match-up and the F-16 can only dream of getting anywhere near it in that respect.


An excellent timeline, thank you very much for that comparison in missile specs which other arguments had been missing.

One concept that was covered here in fair detail was the difference in amount of arms carried. This is an offshoot of the actual size difference in the aircraft. I unintentionally skewed the argument and posed it as a disadvantage for the Su-27 and an advantage in the F-16's favor. This difference has a balancing aspect which is the amount of missiles mountable. I'd just like to go through that in a bit more detail.

The following information is according to sources I have read before, and I'm not fully sure on its currency, so if I'm wrong please correct me.

The F-16C has 6 hard points for AA missiles. Of these all can be equipped with AIM-120 AMRAAMs as well as AIM-9 Sidewinders.

The Su-27 has 10 hard points for missiles. Of these, 6 can be equipped with either R-77s, R-27s (medium-range radar missiles) or R-73s (Short-range infra-red missiles). The 4 outermost hard points only accept R-73s (or small bombs). I apologize for not knowing the NATO names for these missiles, I learned all of these things in Russian
.
Also,
some variants of the Su-27 (including the Su-33, its carrier-based counterpart) have 12 hard points, 8 of which carry all applicable missiles and 4 of which can only accept the heat-seekers.

The Su-35 and Su-37 Super Flankers also have 12 hard points, but I am unsure of how the missiles can be assigned.

For reference, I would also like to bring up the R-172, a long-range missile created for the Su-27 and based on the SA-11 Gadfly's misssiles. It can be carried by all Sukhoi aircraft described here as their hardpoints are all based off of each other. This missile, were it to be used in BVR, would be death. It has a 2-stage rocket capable of hurtling it through the air at a speed of Mach 4. The claimed maximum range of this missile is 400 kilometers. I am not aware of any missiles used by an F-16 that match this capability.

The Flanker/Super Flanker series has an exceptional armament of diverse missiles, while the F-16C harnesses the power of reliable, proven missiles. However, the amount of armament that can be carried by the Flanker series prompts me to believe it has an advantage, particularly in combat where we have multiples on both sides.




posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 01:03 AM
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All this talk about which plane will beat what.........

And it really means nothing when it comes to dogfighting. There are two concepts in the dog fight (I am not talking long range interception with missiles here), but a knife fight. The first is the pilot.

American (and MOST Western Pilots) fly between 15-20 hours a month and generally pull a similar amount of time in simulators.

Russian pilots are lucky to fly 15-20 hours a YEAR and their simulators aren't anywhere near what the West has.

I'll take a US pilot in any of the "teen" fighters you want, (hell I'll even go F-4) over a Russian pilot in a Flanker or Fulcrum any day.

The second most important thing in a dogfight is who sees whom first. First guy to be seen is the loser.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 01:16 AM
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Originally posted by Sr Wing Commander
The second most important thing in a dogfight is who sees whom first. First guy to be seen is the loser.


True, in modern air combat the majority of those that get shot down were never aware of their attacker until it was too late. Primarily this comes down to who has the better situational awareness going into the fight, something the West reigns supreme in. Primarily because of investments in integrated and easily displayed avionics/sensors, net centric data links and information sharing/sharing systems and a large support force of AWACS and other recon/command assets.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 02:56 AM
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Originally posted by Sr Wing Commander
All this talk about which plane will beat what.........

And it really means nothing when it comes to dogfighting. There are two concepts in the dog fight (I am not talking long range interception with missiles here), but a knife fight. The first is the pilot.

American (and MOST Western Pilots) fly between 15-20 hours a month and generally pull a similar amount of time in simulators.

Russian pilots are lucky to fly 15-20 hours a YEAR and their simulators aren't anywhere near what the West has.

I'll take a US pilot in any of the "teen" fighters you want, (hell I'll even go F-4) over a Russian pilot in a Flanker or Fulcrum any day.



But we aren't talking about Russian pilots or even soviet era flight combat tactics here. We're talking about a plane and the max that can be extracted from it. Notably the flanker variants serve in many other airforces around the world.
And the average flight hours in most of them are around 10-20 hours a month.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 07:50 AM
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Originally posted by WestPoint23
True, in modern air combat the majority of those that get shot down were never aware of their attacker until it was too late. Primarily this comes down to who has the better situational awareness going into the fight, something the West reigns supreme in. Primarily because of investments in integrated and easily displayed avionics/sensors, net centric data links and information sharing/sharing systems and a large support force of AWACS and other recon/command assets.


T'was more different philosophies than capability.

The west tended to give the information to the pilots raw (aka, get it onto their radar screens through datalink etc).

Whereas the Soviets let GCI stations tell the pilots where to look.


Maybe better, maybe worse - but different.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 10:01 AM
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darkpr0 & planeman,

Great posts, and you are correct, it definitely turns the issue completely on its head.

Interestingly enough, as the Flanker line of fighters have only gotten better, should the trend that planeman set out continue, you could say the Flanker is still the better plane.

While that may be true, lets not forget one of my first points, which is that the F-16 is not the Su-27 and vice versa. What I am trying to present is sort of the effect the institution has had on both the perception and the actual performance of the Su-27 and its sisters down the line. As extraordinary and incredible of a fighter plane the Flanker family is (and they indeed may be better than the F-16C), the biggest difference between the two lines is that one requires a better pilot and the other not as much. This is not to say that the F-16C is easy to fly. However, the F-16C does do a lot of the work for the pilot, whereas when adding up all the great capabilities of the Flankers, it ends up becoming a very substantial workload for the pilot. This is where the importance of GCI, AWACS, and all other relevant C4ISR comes in for the Russian fighters. Even with all this support behind it, it is still a plane that requires the best of pilots

Sr Wing Commander also reiterated something I said at the outset and it is very important to wrap your minds around this in order to understand where I am getting my conclusions from:


American (and MOST Western Pilots) fly between 15-20 hours a month and generally pull a similar amount of time in simulators.

Russian pilots are lucky to fly 15-20 hours a YEAR and their simulators aren't anywhere near what the West has.

I'll take a US pilot in any of the "teen" fighters you want, (hell I'll even go F-4) over a Russian pilot in a Flanker or Fulcrum any day.


While the Soviet Union had superb, modern fighter pilot training programs and doctrines during the Cold War, it is hardly the case any longer. The collapse of the USSR also led to the collapse of the very institutions that held such a gargantuan military force together. I remember back in the late '90s, research for a PBS documentary was done that revealed that the Russian Air Force is so poor it cannot even afford computers or desks! Same with flying hours. Concepts and theories have little relevance unless you can actually put them to practice in the air. A good pilot is one that has a feel for the aircraft and can go over tactics and methodology in his sleep. This becomes even more paramount for a plane like the Flanker, which is very challenging to fly. Its ironic, because when the USSR designed the Flanker, they were building something so appropriate for their military, but once the USSR collapsed, they are trapped by the "weight" of their own extravagance and superiority. Sort of like Paris Hilton being cut off by her parents.

At the same time, it is very much a subjective statement to make. Russia's poor institutions have little to do with doctrine, but rather with their economic and financial realities. While Russia's economy has largely recovered from its crash in 1998, it is still suffering major aftershocks from 50 years of runaway military-spending during the Cold War. You can almost not blame them for their poor institutions, they really have no alternative at this point. Please let me know if circumstances have changed.

All in all, a good aircraft is only as good as the support systems behind it. The Su-27, Su-35, and Su-37 are all awesome planes, but the awesomeness (if that's a word) is only substantiated by how well its awesomeness can be maintained. Unless the Flankers have sufficiently maintained AWACS and GCI behind it, it will really take the best pilot in the world to make it home alive every time.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 10:47 AM
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Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo

While the Soviet Union had superb, modern fighter pilot training programs and doctrines during the Cold War, it is hardly the case any longer.


Yes, this is definitely true. This is, as you said, a direct result of the country being unable to afford support for the training programs. However I would like to bring up a quick analysis. In the described scenarios between the F-16C and any of the Flankers did happen it would be most likely to take place in the middle of a war between two countries that have them (it doesn't necessarily have to be United States and Russia, many countries have these aircraft). Were it the middle of wartime it is also likely that all training programs would be ratcheted up a few notches regardless of cost. This is likely to alleviate the problem, and perhaps for those who already had a decent amount of training hours in the Flanker, perhaps offset the difference enough to call it balanced.



All in all, a good aircraft is only as good as the support systems behind it. The Su-27, Su-35, and Su-37 are all awesome planes, but the awesomeness (if that's a word) is only substantiated by how well its awesomeness can be maintained. Unless the Flankers have sufficiently maintained AWACS and GCI behind it, it will really take the best pilot in the world to make it home alive every time.


Russia does have the capabilities at its disposal. I'm sorry I haven't got much information on GCI of Russia, here's some information on the current AWACS.

Beriev A-50

Tupolev Tu-126 "Moss"


Originally posted by kilcoo316

The west tended to give the information to the pilots raw (aka, get it onto their radar screens through datalink etc).


This is true. On the Su-27's panel we can see only one, small MFD on the top right of the panel. This is inferior to the cockpit electronics of the F-16 which has 2 MFDs capable of doing more things. Also, the F-16 had a far easier interface for pilots as the aircraft did much of the work for the pilot as was already discussed.

However, this trend was found by the Russians to be bad for them. This trend was changed in the Su-35. This aircraft has two large MFDs in a standard position (similar to that of the F-16) as well as two smaller ones, one on each side of the pilot's sidepanels. The Su-37 continues the fixing with 4 large MFDs in a tight pattern, it's in one of the pictures. The two small side MFDs have been removed for the control system.




The MFD in this picture is difficult to see, but you can see its shielding on the top right of the panel.



That's the Su-35, you can see the presence of the two large MFDs and one of the side MFDs.



Now the Su-37, you can see the 4 large MFDs in a T-Formation. There's no side MFDs here because the control system has been moved over to the sides.

Altogether I'm going to have to say that the information presentation for the pilot is no longer an issue in Flankers.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 11:19 AM
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Russia does have the capabilities at its disposal. I'm sorry I haven't got much information on GCI of Russia, here's some information on the current AWACS.


I was referring more to financing and maintainance. In some cases, C4ISR systems tend have some absurd long-term costs so as good as the systems may be, Russia is having a very difficult time keeping the Flankers and its sisters and cousins flying while at the same time keeping its Mainstays, Mosses, and its GCI systems in good, operational order.

In Russia, the ifnrastructure just is not extensive as it used to be so now its a little-by-little system of trading off one for the other at a given time.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 11:40 AM
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Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo
In Russia, the ifnrastructure just is not extensive as it used to be so now its a little-by-little system of trading off one for the other at a given time.


True, but the infrastructure isn't needed as much anymore. During the Cold War it looked like a real war would break out, so the infrastructure was needed and put into place. This is not the case anymore. Nobody is making aggressive acts or demands of Russia so the funds can be spent better elsewhere. I believe it is reasonable to say that if war appeared imminent funds would be found somewhere to bring these systems and the infrastructure up to spec.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 02:11 PM
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Does anybody know of any books, publications, or websites that actively cover the progress of Russia's military development? I would like to know where exactly they are as of 2007 before continuing to make judgments on their institutional prowess.



posted on Jan, 5 2007 @ 02:17 PM
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I would take a peek at AWST if you have a subscription and if not some of the articles may be public access. There has been a number of articles about what seems to be a forced integration of design branches ie. Tupelov, Sukohi in an attempt to reduce costs and pool R&D resources.



posted on Jan, 6 2007 @ 03:41 AM
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Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo
Does anybody know of any books, publications, or websites that actively cover the progress of Russia's military development? I would like to know where exactly they are as of 2007 before continuing to make judgments on their institutional prowess.


The USSR used to have about three 'trained' ( they used to fly the same hours on average as most NATO pilots excluding the USAF which just seemed to fly so much more than anyone else) pilots for every operational plane as i recall and i am not sure if that is the case any longer... If so it would impact those average flight hours in interesting ways...


Many potential enemies of the USSR and its client states have had a chance to evaluate the MiG-23’s performance. In the 1970s, after a political realignment by the Egyptian government, Egypt gave their MiG-23MS to the United States and the People's Republic of China in exchange for military hardware. These MiG-23MS helped the Chinese to develop their Shenyang J-8II aircraft by borrowing some MiG-23 features, such as its ventral fin and air intakes, and incorporating them into the J-8II. In the U.S., these MiG-23MS and other variants acquired later from Germany were used as part of the evaluation program of Soviet military hardware. The Dutch pilot Leon Van Maurer, who had more than 1200 hours flying F-16s, flew against MiG-23ML Flogger-Gs from air bases in Germany and the U.S. as part of NATO's aerial mock combat training with Soviet equipment. He concluded that the MiG-23ML has superiority on the vertical plane over early F-16 variants, is just slightly inferior to the F-16A on the horizontal plane, and has superior BVR capability.

The Israelis tested a MiG-23MLD that defected from Syria and found that it had better acceleration than the F-16 and F/A-18.

Another MiG-23 evaluation finding in the U.S. and Israel reports was that the MiG-23 has a HUD that doubles as a radarscope, allowing the pilot to keep his eyes focused at infinity and work with his radar. It also allowed the Soviets to dispense with the radarscope on the MiG-23. This feature was carried over into the MiG-29, though in that aircraft a cathode ray tube (CRT) was carried on the upper right corner that can act as a radarscope as well. Western opinions about this "head-up radarscope" are mixed. The Israelis were impressed, but an American F-16 pilot criticizes it as "sticking a transparent map in front of the HUD" and not providing a three-dimensional presentation that will accurately cue a pilot's eyes to look for a fighter as it appears in a particular direction.

en.wikipedia.org...


I could not find the rest but from what i remember it seemed that more often than not older Russian fighters of later production runs and refits were quite able to take on 'new generation' fights of the west and probably were more than effective enough to sweep in, ripple fire their A2A missiles and disrupt or end the SEAD/DEAD missions that would have had to be flown en mass to affect the outcome of any ground war....

I don't see it often acknowledge that the USSR never intended it's fighters to fight independent of GC and the vast air defenses or for that matter over entirely hostile skies for any length of time. The entire Soviet force structure was designed to fight under tactical/strategic nuclear warheads conditions and without assuming such conditions one miss important clues as to their general aircraft and cockpit design/layout....

Stellar



posted on Jan, 6 2007 @ 01:18 PM
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I have read in one book what the turns rates were of the F14, F16 and F18. The F16 has a turn rate of 20 degrees a second. The F14 apparantly has the same and the F18 has a turn rate above 20. The disadvantage of the F14 is its slow rate of roll.



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 12:56 AM
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damn good post stellar . . i never knew the mig 23 was evaluated as superior to the f-16( earlier versions) . . .



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 03:48 AM
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Originally posted by srsairbags
damn good post stellar . . i never knew the mig 23 was evaluated as superior to the f-16( earlier versions) . . .


It'd have to be a very early version, only armed with AIM 9s. I'd put it more on par with an F-4 Phantom.



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 06:10 AM
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Why are we limiting the capabilities of the Su-27 to the soviet and Russian command and support systems?
There are other airforces which have the same a/c(and its variants) and have evolved their own flight combat tactics to maximise the performance of the a/c.
Notably some of these airforces have had the opportunity to test(completely unleashed) the Su-27 variant frame against western aircraft like the Mirage 2000. The Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 is IMHO as versatile as the F-16 blk 50 except maybe falling a little behind on the weapon suites payload options. Missiles, radar, engine,ECM are all comparable(IMHO French ECM is better).

Anyways what I'm trying to say is that the Su27 airframe has got much more 'exposure' than many would believe, and apparently it doesn't perform so bad..



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 07:59 AM
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*And now for a brief off topic message *


Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo
I get sick from the kind of bilge thrown around here. You have the near-fascist role-playing game space cadet drivel coming from the Seekerofs and WestPoints, all the way to the childish nationalistic chest-thumping of the StealthSpys and chinawhites. I really didn't want to trash anybody here,

SweatmonicaIdo, please refrain from name calling like this in the future.


Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo
Address my original post. I am not looking forward to a new discussion where we blast each other...

...and to attempt to disallow one of the very people you trash-talked from defending his viewpoint is most regretable. You yourself twisted this otherwise good thread when you named names of those you hold in contempt.

Please review the following thread:
"Courtesy Is Mandatory"
as well as the
ATS Terms And Conditions Of Use

* And now back to the topic at hand *



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 12:27 PM
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Originally posted by GT100FV
It'd have to be a very early version, only armed with AIM 9s. I'd put it more on par with an F-4 Phantom.


Well i am sure you have good reason to question those quotes and as i always like learning new things feel free to link me to your sources...

Why would he compare fighter versions from different era's by the way?

Stellar



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 01:29 PM
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Originally posted by StellarX

Originally posted by GT100FV
It'd have to be a very early version, only armed with AIM 9s. I'd put it more on par with an F-4 Phantom.


Well i am sure you have good reason to question those quotes and as i always like learning new things feel free to link me to your sources...

Why would he compare fighter versions from different era's by the way?

Stellar


The advantages a MIG 23 would've had over an F-16A were BVR missiles, higher top speed, and perhaps acceleration in some flight realms.

The disadvantages a MIG 23 would have would be the instaneous and sustained turn rates, sustained G, roll rate, lower RCS and small visible footprint of the F-16, limited visibility from cockpit, less sophisticated flight controls, increased cockpit workload.

I think real world experience has shown which aircraft has been more succesful in air combat. As for the F-4 comparison- they're both the same era of design, though the F-4 has had pretty good success against the -23 as well.



posted on Jan, 7 2007 @ 03:50 PM
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Originally posted by GT100FV
The advantages a MIG 23 would've had over an F-16A were BVR missiles, higher top speed, and perhaps acceleration in some flight realms.


The early version of the MiG-23 had extremely low transonic drag, and could out-accelerate any other single engined fighter.


I reckon it would probably beat the F-35 and Gripen in acceleration as well.




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