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Russia Has Lost Two Squadrons of Its ‘Best’ Su-35 Fighters

Expert: “Russia’s Su-35 does on paper seem like a decent fighter, but we are finding out now that many of our assumptions on how Moscow’s Air Force would operate in wartime were way off.”

Su-35
Artist rendering of a Russian Su-35 fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Rostec, the Russian state-owned military hardware conglomerate, has long hyped the capabilities of its Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO reporting name “Flanker-E”), and the Kremlin has described the aircraft as one of its very best fighters. Such bolster is common for a country in wartime, but now Moscow will have to explain how it has lost two full squadrons – about 24 aircraft in total – in recent fighting in Ukraine.

“The Su-35 aircraft has also shown a low level of survivability. During the full-scale aggression, the occupiers have lost two squadrons of such aircraft, that’s about 24 planes,” Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a briefing to the public last week.

Of course, it goes without saying that 19FortyFive cannot independently confirm such a claim.

Nonetheless, assuming the claim is accurate, the losses are so great that there are reports that Russia may be forced to send in its outdated Su-24M bombers to replace its aircraft losses. If the “best” can’t get the job done, one can only feel sorry for the Russians piloting those antiquated planes.

One factor could be that the “best” didn’t exactly perform in combat as expected, especially as Russia has failed to achieve air superiority even as Ukraine continues to rely on the far older MiG-29.

Moreover, it has also been further noted that there have been reliability issues that continue to plague the fourth-generation plus plus aircraft – and not just those in Russian service. China had purchased some two dozen Su-35s from Moscow less than a decade ago, but apparently, just nine are still operational.

Confidence: Crash and Burn

Even as Russia may have to call up the outdated Su-24M, there has been word that Russia would be willing to trade the Su-35 to Iran for its Shaheds drones. Questions abound as to why a nation (Russia) that is lacking sufficient hardware would trade away what is arguably among its most advanced fighters for unmanned drones, yet, that may suggest the Kremlin has so little faith in the Su-35 that it would rather employ the drones in the skies over Ukraine.

Yet, for the Islamic Republic – which has relied on truly ancient aircraft that even includes third-generation U.S. fighters from the 1970s – the Su-35 would be a major boost. Already, Iranian pilots and technicians have been sent to Russia for training, while Moscow has apparently already dispatched teams to Tehran to be trained on the drones.

“During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” a U.S. official told CNN.

Moscow’s need to rely on Tehran for help only serves to speak volumes about the Kremlin’s military capabilities, notably the Su-35.

“Improved Su-27”

The Su-35 is actually just a heavily upgraded derivative of the Su-27 aircraft. According to its designers, as a multirole fighter, the Su-35 can be used in a variety of missions and is capable of attacking ground and naval targets, including infrastructural facilities shielded by air defense systems, as well as those located at a considerable distance from home airfields.

Su-35

Image: Creative Commons.

The Russian fighter jet can deploy air-to-air missiles of up to 300 kilometers (190 miles), well beyond visual range, and it can also be armed with the heavy Oniks anti-ship cruise missile, as well as a multitude of air-to-ground weaponry. It can carry up to eight tons of the weapon payload (missiles and bombs of various types) on a dozen underwing hardpoints, while the fighter jet’s other armament includes a 30mm aircraft gun.

It may sound good on paper, but so far Russia’s best hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. Perhaps Iran will have better luck with them.

What the Experts Told Us

“While it is impossible to know for sure how many Su-35s have been lost over Ukraine, one thing is clear: these planes are not as good as American or European fighters like the various versions of the F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon,” explained a retired Senior U.S. Defense Department official in an interview with 19FortyFive. “Russia’s Su-35 does on paper seem like a decent fighter, but we are finding out now that many of our assumptions on how Moscow’s Air Force would operate in wartime were way off.”

A Senior Editor for 1945, 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, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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.

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. David Howie

    August 19, 2022 at 11:07 am

    More Ukrainian propaganda. Please consider the many statements that they have made for months that have been proven incorrect or untrue.

  2. Michael Nunez

    August 19, 2022 at 11:09 am

    Unless Putin can surprise, beyond what’s happened so far , Russia obviously is in dare straights . Sanctions have Strangled Russia . Without Nuclear Weapons Russia today is a Midget Nation and ready for history … .

  3. Maarek

    August 19, 2022 at 1:08 pm

    I would very much ask the author to provide at least some reliable sources about the losses of Russian planes. The statements of the Ukrainian military are not.
    In general, the entire article is a set of empty propaganda clichés that are meaningless and useless.
    The usefulness of everything written above is not even zero – it is negative, because it misleads the reader.

  4. Hector Perez

    August 19, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    According to the American news Russia have no Army or Air Force any longer Russia has lost
    150.000 soldiers in four month plus 7.000 Tanks
    12.000 trucks 500 firing planes and so on and on So Ukraine is ready to ask MR Putin that he go and in the way out Russian soldiers must take there pants and leave them for the Ukraine
    Soldiers

    The USA have wing a terrific war finally the mighty Red Army have Ben destroy MR Biden
    Will pass in history as the best General in the history of the USA

    Leopoldo the Great

  5. Jay

    August 19, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Like the guy said above, Ukraine propaganda until verified. It should be noted that Ukraine was ready to strike a peace deal with Russia before this whole thing started (in facts that’s why they voted for Zelenskyy) but broke off talks at the urging of the U.S. and Great Britain. This wasn’t a one sided unprovoked war. It’s a money grab by the usual suspects.

  6. Andrew

    August 19, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    Another western pseudo-analyst who knows nothing more than the average Joe or who is intentionallylying to the reader. Never mind that US itself is still relying on fighter jets from the 60s. These people have also predicted that Russia was going to be done by mid March, yet their army moved hundreds of km through crazy fortifications.

  7. warren trout

    August 19, 2022 at 2:20 pm

    Uninformed people make a big deal about the equipment. A warrior makes a big deal about tactics.

    Yes, the troops need good equipment, but more important is how effectively they use it

  8. Alex - Histiry of Aviation Journal (Russia)

    August 19, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    And how many photos of downed Su-35 fighters can the author of the article show? And Alexey Gromov, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? .. I would also like to know when the US Air Force met in combat operations with air defense systems equipped with multi-channel air defense systems with digital processing of radar signals and pseudo-random frequency tuning systems? And what US Air Force showed success?

  9. Jim Echols

    August 19, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    Yeah, yeah,..yeah! The Germans in world war II said the Russians had crap equipment and called their planes flying coffins and made fun of them. But at the end the Germans laid at the Russians Mercy.

  10. TuPa

    August 19, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    All Of You , R Just Warrios On Papers, Any Army Can Be Defeated, Just Read History. But You Will Mire Than Thes To Defeat The Russian Army.

  11. Balter

    August 19, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    6+ months reveal small and difficult progress for “mighty” Russia; in fact it looks more like an Islamic terror campaign than a well thought out war (of there is such a thing) Only destruction and hate to show for it – any butt hurt devil could have done as much while barking mad on mushrooms.

  12. Domingo Alberto Cuda

    August 19, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    El su-35 es el mejor avión de combate que se creó en la última década así que esta información es completamente falsa ya que por el techo y la distancia en la que pueden atacar estos aviones es imposible que hayan perdido a 24 aviones es propaganda indudablemente intencionada cómo ocurre en todas las guerras Rusia no ha dicho nada al respecto y los ucranianos se están matando entre sí con las armas que le están llegando desde Europa y Estados Unidos mientras que los rusos están haciendo una guerra de desgaste para no hacer polvo Ucrania que no es el interés principal de Putin

  13. BJ Penn

    August 19, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    19fortyfive.com and this columnist (Peter Sućiu) knows better than World’s second (China) and Fourth (India) powerful military; who have bought these military Jets in dozens. People want facts and not a political propoganda. We already have CNN, BBC, Russian Sputnik news, Russian RT to spew out propoganda, try to think out of the box.

  14. G

    August 19, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    This author knows nothing about Airforce fighters…. Western or Russian. He just writes a bunch of unfounded BS. Go work in the industry for 30 yrs, get an engineering degree or two ( like me) or serve as a pilot in an AF any AF, until then please STFU!

  15. Thevin Bandara

    August 19, 2022 at 6:46 pm

    Russia operates about 98 SU 35 AIRCRAFTS,so this article suggests that they lost roughly 1/3 of their fleet? Where is the evidence and do you honestly think that’s possible? Please vet articles before publishing them, while the sentence 19fortyfive cannot independently confirm the claim is stated this should have not been published in the first place. Ashamed of what news has become.

  16. William Harra

    August 19, 2022 at 7:08 pm

    Is it the same person posting these comments,only they are full of basic spelling mistakes which leads me to think that they are from the same person
    Hahaha

  17. Cls

    August 19, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    If reports are credible, this war is producing casualties on a scale exceeding that of UN forces in the Korean conflict. On both sides.Yet there is hardly any detailed reporting from either side. It seems both sides are hiding something based on the fact about 100/KIA/day and 200-250 WIA/day are succumbing. Those are huge casualties by any measure yet nothing but a blurr from reports?

  18. Mirko

    August 20, 2022 at 1:22 am

    Special operation in Ukraine is real war, Ukraine have one of two biggest army in Europe 5 months ago.
    Of course losses is expected.
    What about your planes, where your plane such a F22 or F35 is tested in real fight against some good Army.
    You attack only weak countries like Yugoslavia 1999 without modern AAA and Airforces which have 6 planes that is not fully functional, without radar or sistem warning.
    In that case you planes are good.
    Let’s see what happen if you attack someone with strong airforce.
    Yor planes are junk which are good only for shooting dead unmoved object which not fire back.

  19. Edi

    August 20, 2022 at 2:23 am

    NATO is so that about 100 tanks were destroyed in the attack on Serbia, when the Serbian army was retreating it was determined that only 3 tanks were destroyed. Propaganda is one thing, truth is another.

  20. Dee_Hos

    August 20, 2022 at 2:25 am

    SU-35 is garbage, SU-57 ain’t stealth in any real sense, S-400 can’t seem to prevent everything around it turning into smoking craters.

    Judging by the rest of their military I bet Russia’s nukes don’t work either. We spend billions annually on upkeep an maintenance. How much does anyone wanna bet what meager funds Russia could scrape up went straight into some oligarchs pocket.

    We should give Ukraine F-16 & F-15’s lift the restriction on strikes inside Russia and let them handle this thing. They’ll denazify their own country real quick.

  21. Malaysian

    August 20, 2022 at 2:30 am

    Cooked up news……

  22. Miles

    August 20, 2022 at 4:35 am

    Putards in shambles LOL

  23. srdjan

    August 20, 2022 at 5:37 am

    it must be so nice to live in delusions like this …

  24. Rodolfo Queiroz

    August 20, 2022 at 5:39 am

    Again other writer in this site brings ukrainian fake propaganda. Nobody has any reliable sources about 24 Su-35 destroyed in this war. It’s so ridiculous as folklores as “Ghost of Kiev” and the list of victories published by Ukraine MOD. Believe it who believes Loch Ness Monster.

  25. Peace

    August 20, 2022 at 5:43 am

    Credibility need to confirm twice before writing any report, loosing this amount of modern aircraft is completely absurd in that lapse of time and against a previously destroyed ukrainian air defence,it looks not logical at all…

  26. sexy putin

    August 20, 2022 at 5:45 am

    lmao @ all the russians with fake names in this comments section

    go join your pathetic army and die in war

  27. Mike Walsh

    August 20, 2022 at 6:07 am

    This is a woefully badly written article which is laden with lies and misinformation.
    Shame on the editor.

  28. Woodchuck

    August 20, 2022 at 6:08 am

    William Harra, I think has nailed it right square on the head.

  29. Actor

    August 20, 2022 at 6:23 am

    Russia’s hype about it’s military invisibility have been exposed to be inept by the invasion of Ukraine.. that’s why diplomatic solutions ate greater for resolving conflicts than wars… Goliath is being defeated by David 😛😛

  30. Kess

    August 20, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Am sure this is a war but I have realised from all western reports that it’s only Russia loosing planes, tanks, men, weapons etc. I have not seen a single report where Ukraine has lost a soldier or tank or plane or a single weapon. This means these reports are propaganda or the Russian weapons are only choosing to destroy civilians and civilian properties since no ukranian soldier has been killed so far

  31. joe

    August 20, 2022 at 7:00 am

    This is mostly western propaganda to boost morale aka “Ghost of Kyiv” or Snake Island or any other fake news that is collaborated and staged through various fake news MSM outlets.

    Truth is, that this is a US/NATO run operation and attempt to defeat Russia on the territory of Ukraine…and they are prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian

    Despite all of the western combined military tech (along with it’s “retired” personell and virtually unlimited budget, Russia controlls almost a quarter of Ukraine and seems to be slowly advancing, despite of the Ukro-Nazis having 8 years to fortify themselves (this war started in 2014, when the US staged a coup in which a democratically elected president of Ukraine was overthrown)…what we are now seeing is the next stage of this war.

  32. Maz

    August 20, 2022 at 7:52 am

    All lies and false propaganda by Americans to satisfy the EU aging populations who ate reluctant to fight this Moscow-Russian war.

  33. Junglelary

    August 20, 2022 at 9:02 am

    Face it Russia is a nothing more than a third world country masquerading as being equal to the west. Without oil, gas, and mineral resources it would quickly collapse. Putin’s reign of terror only sends Russia further Into ruin. Even Russia’s arms exporting trade is being questioned due to embarrassing performance in Ukraine. Sadly the Russian people are so beaten down they have lost their will to stand up to Putin and revolt.

    The inept worship one another is evident that Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran still support Russia.

  34. Adam

    August 20, 2022 at 9:38 am

    To those who question the numbers – search for before and after satellite images of Saki airbase in Crimea as well at the others hit in the last week. Russia lost a lot of aircraft there recently. I recommend reddit dot com/r/ukraine as a source of news, its well moderated and filters to trustworthy sources (or flags unconfirmed for breaking news without confirmation). You can also keep an eye on oryx site where they gather images posted to the next and catalog what has been destroyed and lost for both sides and which has visual confirmation. Obviously this is logically well below the actual losses as most would not be posted to the net, but you can visually see that there are at last many things destroyed. https://www.oryxspioenkop dot com/2022/02/attack-on-europe-documenting-equipment.html

  35. Robert Cummings

    August 20, 2022 at 11:55 am

    Sorry to write this, but we are victims of media lies of unprecedented proportions. Afraid that soon we shall see the end result of the wrongdoing. And it will be very sobering. Again, I am sorry for that but our leaders do not learn from lessons left in the past. This nonsense of two squadrons destroyed is only one of the examples of the depth of the inversion of reality for the sake of nothing. We all know what happens at the end of the day…

  36. Thomas Duller

    August 20, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Wow. Feels like the Russian Duma logged on and made most if these comments. Can’t possibly respond to everything, but:

    First, no one questions the fact Ukraine didn’t have the strongest and best equipped military. This is what made the Russia backed, supported, equipped and manned taking of Ukraine territory in 2014 possible. Since then they sought and received western training, and some weapons. For example, Ukraine obtained Javelins, but the Trump administration required they be locked up in the corner of Ukraine furthest from any “front” where they could be used. This is well known genuine fact. Nonetheless, everyone in the west believed that if Russia moved on Ukraine set on taking it entirely, they would succeed and likely it would be pretty quick.

    Now, if NATO and the US were “running the war”, why would they have gambled on an (impossible) strategy of supplying Ukraine with enough weapons, along with training, to thwart the Russians within a time frame of 3 days to 3 weeks? This would be laughably impossible. The weapons from the west capable of genuinely hurting the Russian artillery-based offense have only begun trickling in and slowly deployed over the past 6-8 weeks.

    If this was being run by NATO, those weapons would have been supplied PRE invasion.

    If everything Ukraine claims is “propaganda” demonstrating capabilities they don’t have, then why is Russia bogged down so badly? Russians & their jackboot-licking cronies want to paint Ukraine as a pathetic nation…forgetting this “pathetic” nation has stopped Russians hellbent on absorbing Ukraine for six long, costly months.

    And “propaganda”…the very word has been synonymous with “Russia” for 70-some years, the world over. Here’s the thing: Ukraine is very obviously over-achieving. No propaganda needed to see this. Posts on here boast of Russia occupying 25% of Ukraine…ignoring the fact the vast majority of this territory was taken in 2014…not since February 2022. If one aggregates the total territory taken by Russia and re-taken by Ukraine, the net newly occupied territory is very small. Again..this is the vaunted Russian military. Ukraine doesn’t need propaganda to create an impression of success. The facts on the ground, on maps & satellite photography prove it.

    What about more day-to-day propaganda, though? Claims about what happened in a specific place, within a short period? Well gee, this is tough. Ukraine has embedded reporters everywhere, as well as independent media essentially on their own. They are open to media at nearly every level of their system. Russia – the autocratic fascist Russia – is closed to outside media. They have turned away everyone from reporters, to the Red Cross to all manner of NGO’s. Mariupol? It was Ukraines Dresden…and not just razed, but the site of mass murder and atrocities. Outside humanitarian assistance was barely allowed in, and when they were they were harrased and at least a handful were kidnapped. Large mobile incinerators were plainly seen on video and in photos. Who previously used such morbid equipment? Hmmm… Oh yeah, the Nazi’s, during Operation Barbarossa. They were so good Himmler decided they’d construct giant, static versions in concentration camps. The purpose? To burn the dead, with a side benefit of hiding war crimes. We know war crimes were committed because those pesky satellites photographed mass grave sites. To this day Mariupol is still off limits and has been getting scrubbed clean by the Russians.

    So. Ukraine = open. Russia = closed. Ukraine = over achieving. Russia = under-achieving on an unimaginable scale. Which side is far, far more likely to use propaganda…along with 24/7 lying that is so bad the world is crying out “BS!” everyday?

    Lastly, back to the NATO issues. The US and NATO have been overly careful not to “provoke” Russia. If I were in command a deadline of March 24 would have been declared. By this date, all Russian forces would be required to cease shooting and move only in directions back to Russia or Belarus. A promise would be made to NOT strike them beyond those borders, but after the deadline all remains forces would be systematically destroyed. This would be done in the name of peace in Europe and abiding by “never again”, to keep this a meaningful statement.

    For those people, including some Americans, who say the west is dragging the war out with the goal of degrading the Russian military, a major detail is being ignored. As things stand, a major amount of forces which invaded in February have been destroyed. If NATO shredded Russian forces after they (predictably) ignored the deadline to leave, the entirety of Russian military woukd be burned. Destroying Russian ground and air forces in a massive, brief attack woukd have been far more “degrading.”

    And I would add the second reason: NATO will not tolerate westward expansion and Russia on its borders, which it wasn’t Feb 24, but would be if they took Ukraine. It works both ways

    I shouldn’t have to explain this to my vastly superior intellectual minds of Russians, but Ukraine’s ability to join NATO was being thwarted by Russia since 2014, as nations with active armed conflict cannot be admitted. So these NATO-based arguments are pure stinking trash

  37. Biniam

    August 20, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    As usual, this is US propaganda!

  38. Alok

    August 21, 2022 at 6:07 am

    The 2 squadrons they have counted are the ones that blew up at the air base in crimea recently . That’s not in battle but stationary targets and certainly not in a dogfight. The Americans want the to believe that they have the best weapons but time and again they’ve been proved wrong especially with sooooo hyped himars recently.

  39. Fluffy Dog

    September 5, 2022 at 3:24 pm

    @Thomas Duller
    Thank you for writing the post; you saved me time.
    “If I were in command a deadline of March 24 would have been declared…”
    It would not have worked. You can communicate with people if both perceive the same reality and speak the same language. That is not the case with Russia. The picture perceived by Putin and the upper echelon of his governing body is imaginary as it is not based on the correct info about the events. The result is that Putin and his people make decisions not based on reality but on what they were told is a reality. I would accept that their decisions are rational, given their scale of values and their perceived reality, but it excludes any possibility of rational discussion.

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