TechUkraine prepares for showdown: F-16 versus Su-57 in the skies

Ukraine prepares for showdown: F‑16 versus Su‑57 in the skies

F-16 - illustrative photo
F-16 - illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Images | Murat Taner
Norbert Garbarek

19 June 2024 14:09

Soon, F-16 fighter jets will appear over Ukraine. Their direct competitor will be the most advanced Russian design, the Su-57. Can either of these machines boast an advantage in this duel? An American pilot, USAF Reserve Colonel Jeffrey Fisher, has assessed this.

The Ukrainian army has been preparing for the arrival of F-16s in the country for several months. This can be concluded from recent actions by Ukraine’s armed forces, specifically targeting the greatest threat to the American fighter jets—the S-300/400 air defence systems.

According to Ukrainian analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko, the Russians will face the most difficulty repelling attacks in the southern part of Ukraine and in Crimea. These are the areas where the Ukrainians have destroyed most of the aforementioned anti-aircraft systems. However, these are ground-based tools. It should not be forgotten that Russia's arsenal also includes aircraft, including Su-57 fighters, which Jeffrey Fisher, a US pilot, compared to the F-16.

American or Russian? Which fighter jet is better?

“The Russian AWACS counterparts, the A-50s, have been shot down. Because of this, Russian pilots find it difficult to fly; they do not have sufficient vision in the air. Moscow believes it has many aircraft, and they are ready for combat, but I bet on the F-16,” says Fisher. “In aerial combat, the aircraft with the advantage in speed, maneuverability, and data wins.”

According to the expert, Western machines also have the advantage of being designed for combat and supported by multiple auxiliary systems.

“It's not just about the F-16 fighter jet itself but about many auxiliary elements: the onboard warning and control system, the refuelling system, the joint radar system for tracking targets, the high-altitude remote-controlled observation aircraft, sensors above the pilot’s head, and the Patriot radars on the ground. It's an advantage for the pilot,” explains Jeffrey Fisher. He emphasizes that the Russians have not yet proven they have such capabilities.

Su-57 versus f-16

In a direct comparison, both fighters have similar characteristics, at least in maximum speed. Both accelerate to a speed of about Mach 2, or over 1,300 mph. The F-16, however, is smaller and lighter than the Su-57. It has a wingspan of just under 10 metres and a length of just under 15. The Su-57, on the other hand, has a wingspan of 14 metres and a length of over 20 metres. Moreover, the American design is about 10,000 kilograms lighter than the Russian one (8,000 kilograms compared to 18,000 kilograms).

These parameters are crucial in the air as they indicate overall maneuverability and agility in combat. A smaller aircraft is harder to shoot down and can maneuver more easily in critical situations. However, the size difference means the Su-57 can carry weapons on 12 hardpoints, while the F-16 has 9.

It is worth noting, however, that the potential difficulties of the Su-57 in a confrontation with the F-16 are not the only challenges the Russians will face. Currently, in the Russian Federation, only about 10 Su-57s may be capable of conducting combat missions. On the other hand, the Ukrainians are expected to receive over 60 American F-16 fighter jets.

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