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Stealth Showdown: Russia’s Su-57 vs. America’s F-35 (Who Wins?)

Su-57
Su-57. Image Credit - Creative Commons.

Comparing the Su-57 and F-35 – In the original Top Gun, released in 1986, Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” took on the fictional MiG-28s, which were dressed up as Northrop F-5s. Now with the long-awaited (and long-delayed) Top Gun: Maverick finally about to land in movie theaters at the end of May, it looks like Maverick will be going up against Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO reporting name “Felon”).

The fifth-generation, all-weather, multi-role, stealth combat aircraft would be a worthy adversary for the American “Top Gun” – especially now that Russia has become the villain of the world, and thanks to sanctions, its populace won’t likely be buying movie tickets for the film anytime soon. By contrast, the Chinese box office has become crucial for Hollywood, so Tom Cruise couldn’t be flying against the J-20 now, could he?

An F-35 vs. Su-57 Showdown?

We’ll have to wait until May 27 to see if a Lockheed Martin F-35 piloted by Maverick will take on a Su-57, but based on toys that have already been released it seems that the F-35 will be present in the film at least in some capacity. While not technically designated a Felon, there will be a toy version of the Su-57 – described as “Enemy Strike Jet” – further suggesting it will have its close-up in the forthcoming film.

Top Gun: Maverick was originally scheduled to be released in 2019, but was delayed so producers could improve the complex flying sequences. It was then further delayed by the Covid pandemic, which shuttered theaters across the US.

Evenly Matched… or Not?

In the world of movie magic, especially one starring aging action star Tom Cruise, we can only expect that the U.S. fighters will hold more than their own against the Russian Enemy Strike Jet. But what about the real world, would the U.S. still have an edge over the Su-57?

The United States certainly has more aircraft, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has also amassed more flight hours. However, the Su-57 is a (slightly) newer platform, and even in the Soviet era, Moscow proved more than capable of developing aircraft that matched their Western counterparts.

The Su-57 is certainly a larger aircraft than the F-35. At 72.2 feet in length, it is 21.8 feet longer than the F-35’s 50.4 feet, while its wingspan is also significantly larger. The Su-57 weighs in at 40,786 pounds (empty) compared to 29,002 pounds for the Lightning II. There are tradeoffs of course, as both are meant to be nimble fighters – not heavy bombers. A larger airframe and wings also mean a larger target.

The Su-57 is faster, significantly faster as a matter of fact. The F-35 has a maximum speed of 1,199 mph compared to 1,616 mph. The Su-57 could thus strike first and run away, while its range is also more than double at 3,107 miles vs. the F-35’s 1,379-mile range.

Su-57

Su-57 in Top Gun: Maverick. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

Su-75 Checkmate

Su-75 Checkmate and Su-57 stealth fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine Su-57 Russia

Russian Su-57 stealth fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine

Su-57 stealth fighter. Image Credit: Wikicommons.

Both aircraft have internal bays to house weapons, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as six external pylons for use in “non-stealth mode.” However, the F-35 is believed to have better stealth capabilities, which means the F-35 could target its adversary before it is even seen. The Su-57 therefore couldn’t strike first if he can’t see the F-35.

It still could come down to the numbers. Neither Washington nor Moscow can afford to lose too many of these fifth-generation aircraft in a fight. Moscow hasn’t produced the aircraft in significant numbers and at this time, there are far more F-35s in service and that isn’t likely to change.

That could give it an edge.

Finally, there is something telling about the fact that Russia hasn’t employed its Su-57s in the war against Ukraine. It has been reported that Russia’s pilots lack flight time, including in simulators. It is true that the United States military is facing a serious pilot shortfall, but the problem is even worse in Russia.

Moreover, the best aircraft isn’t really the best if the pilot at the controls lacks experience, and Russia has a shortfall in pilots, and what pilots it does have, often lack adequate training. Meanwhile, even with the shortfall in pilots, and perhaps even because of it, the U.S. military’s flyboys and fly girls of the 2020s log a lot of hours.

F-35

F-35C on Static Display. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Inflation

CF-1 Flt 453 piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Mr. Dan Canin flies with external GBU-31 weapons for the first time on an F-35, the test was flown from NAS Patuxent River, MD on 5 Aug 2016

F-35A Russia

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot, performs over Miami Beach, Fla., May 25, 2019. Olson performed the demo during both days of the Miami Beach Air and Sea Show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

Even those that aren’t yet a “Top Gun” should still be considered deadly good at what they do – and that’s flying the capable F-35.

Now a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Andrew M Winter

    April 26, 2022 at 1:08 pm

    That’s easy: The F-35. There are only 15 SU57s in existence, 10 are test beds, only 5 serial aircraft have been delivered and one of those crashed and burned.

    There are 780 PLUS F-35s produced and deployed as of April 2022.

    One can talk all one wan’t about the fantasy of 1v1 air combat. Those days became a romantic fantasy by the end of World War ONE. By as early as World War II it was considered an act of incompetence if you got caught going head to head 1 v 1 with enough energy advantage to just LEAVE safely if you got into trouble.

    The F-35 wins because it exists in numbers. The SU-57 does not, and given Russia’s issues with production it may not ever exist in any numbers that actually could effect any battle any where.

    • Steven Shumaker

      April 26, 2022 at 4:50 pm

      These articles are pointless. It’s like a wet dream fantasy these authors have.

      Let’s keep it real I doubt any Jet could beat the F-35 that isn’t American made, after all they are Stealth for a reason. That being said if it lost so what, it’s a Fighter Bomber classification not an F-22 Pure Fighter Jet.

      The F-22 should be the real talk because not a single battle has it lost anyplace around the world during war games and so on. Russia would lose to.

      As I said these articles are worthless give us a real article to chew on.

    • Joe

      July 30, 2022 at 10:11 pm

      Russia has become one of the best in the finest and the greatest. US has degraded in so many ways. By applying sanctions on Russia US has shot themselves in the foot. Very dumb move indeed. Waiting for Sleepy Joe to go

  2. Alex

    April 27, 2022 at 6:57 am

    These are different classes of aircraft. The MiG-35 will easily beat the F-35. The SU-57 was not created for such a trifle as the F-35.

  3. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:09 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  4. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

  5. Adan Hitdera

    September 7, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    Alex: OK, Zelenskyy is bad, here’s my proof
    CK: HaHa rUsSiAn tRolL!!! (*continues random insults without a shred of evidence*)
    Also CK: Hey why is everyone starting to hate me now?

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