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Sukhoi SU-35 fighter has all the right moves at Paris Air Show


June 17, 2013

Sukhoi Su-35 at the 2013 Paris Airshow (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag)

Sukhoi Su-35 at the 2013 Paris Airshow (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag)

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The Paris Air Show this week hosted the first foreign demonstration of the Russian supermaneuverable multirole fighter the Sukhoi Su-35. The specific aircraft on show is the latest iteration of the aircraft, designated Su-35S, 48 of which have been allocated to the Russian Air Force as they roll off the production line between 2011 and 2015. Visitors to the air show were treated to a display of the Su-35's impressive aerobatics, including a demonstration of the breathtaking Pugachev's Cobra maneuver.

Describing the Su-35S as a "4++ generation" jet fighter, Sukhoi claims that the characteristics of the aircraft exceed those of all European tactical fighters including the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon. Further, the company claims the aircraft can "successfully counter" fully-fledged fifth generation US jet fighters, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor – a bold statement given the stealth capabilities of the latter.

Like the F-22, the Su-35S is capable of thrust vectoring, which is the ability to change the direction of thrust from the engines. This simplifies (in relative terms, at least) the execution of Pugachev's Cobra, a maneuver in which a jet fighter raises its nose to a vertical position (or even a backwards lean), greatly reducing its forward speed. In this position the pilot must increase power to maintain constant altitude, which, combined with a continued forward motion without roll or yaw, is a prerequisite of a properly executed Cobra.

The maneuver was first demonstrated at the 1989 Paris Air Show by Viktor Pugachev in a Sukhoi Su-27, the aircraft from which the S-35 has evolved, without the benefit of thrust vectoring. Though it has been claimed that the Cobra could theoretically be used in combat to cause a chasing assailant to overshoot, it has been dismissed by some as little more than a marketing gimmick and party trick, not to mention one that has been replicated by the F-22.

Window shoppers from potential export markets (i.e. those not on the USA's Christmas card list) in Paris this week may be more interested in more concrete aspects of the Su-35S' specification. Its maximum speed at altitude of 2,400 km/h basically matches that of the F-22. The Su-35S is also equipped with an infra-red search and track system that could conceivably used to detect stealth aircraft within a reported range of roughly 80 km (50 miles) – though whether an F-22 would let an assailant get within 80 km on its own terms is questionable. It has an operational range of 3,600 km (1,940 nautical miles) at high altitude.

There's doubtless a degree of bravado to Sukhoi's claims, and comparing fighter against fighter is far from straightforward. However, there's no doubt that the Su-35 is a capable and fearsome jet fighter.

Source: Sukhoi

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Search for "Saab J35 Draken trainers doing the Swedish Cobra Maneuver" The Swedes have been able to do this for a LONG time in old trainer planes and it isn't nearly as impressive as the x-31's Mongoose. I also saw an F-14 do this when I was a kid.

Ian Mitko

Underestimating an opponent is the first mistake. Man has the ability to learn, and innovate so believing that ones own side has a superior widget will lead to a painful lesson. Training to think under new rules, and more training. Is what can determine who's toys win at the end of the day.

Having said enough its a awesome looking aircraft. Now if the USAF could figure out whats wrong with the air supply with the F-22, and cancel the cancerous F-35, bla,bla,bla,bla


Wonder about the stealth effectiveness not of the F-22, but the F-35... This must be a bit of a worry for the RAAF here in Oz.

Simon Gray

Wow! It is so lovely bird! It would be interesting to see the results of its fight with the F-22. For example, this could be done within the framework of the exhibition, and they could use a photo-arms and videos for this purpose.

Rafael Kireyev

Now, why doesn't Australia order a few of these, instead of patching our aging F-18s while waiting for America's 'amazing' 'paper plane'? (which, btw, seems to have already been TOTALLY COMPROMISED and COMPLETELY COPIED by the Chinese, which I thought was hilarious and highlights many flaws with the entire US system of R&D and Implementation, which, if we are wise, is some of the reasons Australia should look elsewhere for allies in the 21st century.....and, besides, why Australia is buying a totally compromised and outrageously expensive aircraft, all without going through the correct tender process, is a mystery to me and quite a few others as well, though possibly the Federal Police may be interested in some golden handshakes that no doubt took place and could lead to Australia being left strategically extremely vulnerable by our capitalist 'allies'......that's a Royal Commission sized screw up.....we should have bought a heap of Flankers instead....or maybe just buy the Chinese knock offs of the F-35...they probably work WAY better anyway lol)

Vincent Najger

Vincent and others who dismiss the F-35. OK, there was no competition for the selection of the F-35 - question - what aircraft can compete given it was only the second 5th gen fighter/strike airframe in production and the only other one, the f22 wasn't available? Answer - there was no competition because there were no competing 5th gen aircraft.

Have you ever wondered why its not just us buying the F-35? Perhaps its because it is a serious step forward. Don't believe everything the media or APA feeds you.

Marc 1

You should also try to compare prices: su-35S - US$65 million (estimated) f-22 - US$150 million F-35A: US$153.1 million F-35B: US$196.5M F-35C: US$199.4M

Question does two Su-35S can be compared to one f-22?

Anton Dubov

The issue of the Su-35S maneuverability is not about close range shooting, it is about closing the range of an attacking stealth aircraft. If the attacking aircraft can be detected at 90 or 80 km, and the Sukhoi has the ability to evade a missile (that would be running out of fuel at that range), then the attacker must close to a much closer distance before firing. This effectively erases the stealth advantage and greatly levels the field of battle. THAT is the point of the maneuverability.

Secondly, since the US is not selling the F-22 abroad, how likely is it that an Su-35S will encounter one? The F-35? Give me a break. An over priced and under-performing air barge. There are many tactics which can nullify this aircraft already.

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