Meet the Su-35: Russian newspapers describe the Su-35 fighter jets as a “4th-gen ++,” meaning the extent of its upgrades and modernization progress have pushed the plane’s attributes well beyond standard 4th-generation capability.
This is quite significant and of course raises the question as to whether the upgraded Su-35’s existence helped inspire the birth of the U.S. Air Force F-15EX, a platform similarly described by weapons developers as a 4th-generation “Plus” as well.
Su-35: Updating to “++”
Russia’s TASS news agency describes the “heavily upgraded” Su-35S as a maneuverable, multi-purpose fighter jet developed on the “basis of 5th-generation technologies.” The “++” refers to new avionics, communications, radar technology, and what the paper calls “plasma ignition engines” to increase thrust vectoring. Much like a 5th-generation jet, the additional thrust vectoring technology enables the Su-35 to achieve supersonic speed without using an afterburner, the paper claims.
This is quite significant as it can of course extend high-speed maneuvers while also supporting longer “dwell time” and attack mission duration in high-threat environments.
Additional detail related to the Su-35 specifies that the aircraft uses Passive Electronically Scanned Array radar, a system which essentially tracks and “listens” to threats without emitting a signature itself and giving up its location.
Some of the most specific available research on the Su-35 exists in a 2020 text called “Famous Russian Aircraft – Sukhoi Su-27 and 30/33/34/35,” which describes how this cutting edge radar can track an aerial target at ranges up to 250 miles and simultaneously track eight enemy targets at the same time.
The text, written by Yefim Gordon and Dimitry Komissarov, also says the Su-35S is engineered with some “stealthy-like” radar-absorbent materials in specific front-end locations such as the engine inlets and compressor: and other radar cross section reducing technologies.
Gordon’s research also points to the aircraft’s almost drone-like or surveillance-like capability to use synthetic aperture radar, a technology that bounces electromagnetic “pings” off of the ground or air object to deliver a return “rendering” of threat specifics below.
The Su-35 operates with an infra-red search and track targeting system, which, if anything like the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet IRST, improves targeting fidelity and enables operations in a high-threat electronic warfare environment. The 2020 text also cites that the Su-35 is built with electronic countermeasures.
In a more general sense, the TASS article says the aircraft weighs 19-tons, can fly to 20,000 meters, and hits a maximum speed of Mach 2.25. After emerging as an upgraded Su-27 in 2014, the Su-35 still flies today and, should the research be accurate, it seems it could potentially rival the U.S. F-15EX.
Su-35 vs F-15EX: What Plane Stands Out More?
As for the U.S. Air Force – Boeing F-15EX, it also incorporates a wide sphere of very substantial cutting-edge enhancements such as the anticipated ability to launch hypersonic weapons.
In recent years, Boeing developers have said that the F-15EXs Advanced Display Corps Processor performs 87-billion computing functions per second. The F-15EXs speed is cited as roughly equivalent to the Su-35 and, if integrated with its breakthrough high-speed computing, the F-15EX could quickly leverage electronic warfare, threat data, and better utilize its Active Electronically Scanned Array radar.
Su-35 Photo Gallery
Air Force officials cited in a recent article in the EurAsian Times, say the new variant of the F-15EX is now breaking weapons payload and delivery records by demonstrating an ability to operate with 12 air-to-air missiles. The news report says the F-15EX can ultimately carry 13.6 tons of payload, giving it an Su-35S-like “bomb-truck” capability.
As for which aircraft is ultimately superior, it likely comes down to difficult-to-answer questions such as the range of sensing, fidelity and resolution of targeting and weapons guidance and precision, among other things.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.