Russia’s Su-35 Flanker-E: A Formidable Contender or Fading Star?
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A pair of Russian Air Force Su 35 jets during a training mission

By José Carlos Palma*

The Su-35, NATO designated as the “Flanker-E,” has stirred debates within military circles, hailed by some in the Russian defense community as superior to the US Air Force’s F-16. Yet, its actual performance and future trajectory are shrouded in uncertainty, as recent events have cast shadows over its reputation.

A supped-up variant of the Su-27, the Su-35 is not a conventional fourth-generation warplane. Rather, it occupies a unique niche, blending characteristics of both fourth and fifth-generation aircraft. Despite claims of superiority over the F-16 and even comparisons to the F-35 Lightning II, it falls short of being a true fifth-generation fighter.

Nevertheless, the Su-35 boasts an impressive arsenal and advanced capabilities. Armed with increased stealth features, next-generation radar systems, and potent engines, it poses a formidable threat in air defense, ground assault, and naval strikes. Its ability to engage targets at long distances, coupled with a wide array of armaments, makes it a lethal adversary in any combat scenario.

However, the Su-35’s combat record in the Ukraine War has raised doubts about its effectiveness. Despite initial reports of successes, including air-to-air victories over Ukrainian fighters, subsequent events have painted a different picture. Ukrainian forces have claimed multiple Su-35 kills, prompting questions about its performance and vulnerabilities.

Moreover, the Su-35’s production line has encountered setbacks, exacerbated by Western sanctions targeting critical components. The reliance on Western technology has hampered production, leading Russia to shift focus towards the Su-57, its true fifth-generation warplane.

As foreign interest wanes amidst reports of lackluster performance, the Su-35’s future hangs in the balance. While it remains a potent force on paper, its real-world capabilities and viability in modern conflicts are under scrutiny. As military planners reassess their strategies, the fate of the Su-35 serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the complexities of modern warfare and the pitfalls of relying on hybrid platforms.

In the ever-evolving landscape of aerial combat, the Su-35’s trajectory will be closely monitored, offering insights into the challenges and advancements shaping the future of military aviation.

* Expert in international relations, such as foreign policy, international trade, domestic security, international security, developing nations, domestic security, intelligence, IT Consultant, world history, political consultant, and military analysis.

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