US Navy Operations Specialist explains why Ukrainian F-16s will most probably win BVR engagements against Russian Su-35s

US Navy Operations Specialist explains why Ukrainian F-16s will most probably win BVR engagements against Russian Su-35s

By Dario Leone
Apr 13 2024
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Ukrainian F-16s Vs Russian Su-35s

American-made F-16 fighters will arrive in Ukraine this summer: in fact as already reported, the US will allow its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including Lockheed Martin F-16s, in a major boost for Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Air Force is expected to take delivery of the first tranche of a dozen aircraft in July after Ukrainian pilots have been trained and the country’s airfields prepared.

Ukraine has long sought advanced jets and President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the move as a “historic decision.”

Ukrainian F-16s could soon engage the highly advanced and capable Russian Air-Space Force (RuASF or VKS) Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E).

‘Yes, I think we will, and it will be very interesting,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora.

Louis Gossett Jr., aka Colonel Charles ‘Chappy’ Sinclair who helped Doug Masters to rescue his father in Iron Eagle, passed away
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET  YOURS.  F-16CM Fighting Falcon 20th Fighter Wing, 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers”, SW/94-0044 – Shaw AFB, SC

‘It will occur at BVR [beyond-visual-range], so not exciting for Hollywood, but we will finally see what the Russian R-77M can do versus Western jamming.’

Will the Ukrainian F-16s have a good chance against the Russian Su-35s?

The battle will favor the F-16

Wicklund continues;

‘I think this battle will favor the F-16. There’re two reasons I think this.

  • While the R-77M outranges the AMRAAM AIM-120 (C-7 model, probably), the R-77M works best against large, non-maneuvering targets like AWACS or KC-135 tankers, that have a large RCS. The F-16 maneuvers very well, has a very small RCS, and thereby will be a difficult target to hit.
  • To date, Russians have not operated against the caliber of EW (Electronic Warfare), and jamming that the F-16 can produce. You see, that longer range of the R-77M doesn’t mean much if the Su-35 cannot get a lock. Eventually, it will (burn-through of the jamming is possible at closer ranges), but that may be after the R-77M range advantage has been negated, and the F-16 pilot has launched his AMRAAM. In which case, the Russian pilot must “go cold” which means turning away from the attack. In such a position, its radar is turned away from its quarry, and it has no chance to obtain a lock while cold. The “Happy Time” of the Russian pilots will be over.
US Navy Operations Specialist explains why Ukrainian F-16s will most probably win BVR engagements against Russian Su-35s

‘While Russia tends to overstate the abilities of their weapon systems, the West tends to understate them. We can look up the numbers on the aircraft, radars, missiles, and EW systems and think we have an idea of what will happen.’

Wicklund concludes;

‘Truth is: the actual numbers are classified. So, I think we will see a BVR battle between the F-16 and the Su-35. I know Russians believe they have the upper hand, but if the tendencies on Russian versus Western reportage follow the pattern, Russian pilots are going to be in big, big trouble.’

F-16 model
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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Russian Air and Space Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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