Russian Super-Fighter: Not So Scary?

10.02.09

Categorie: Air |

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Harry Hillaker, the man who played the biggest part in designing the world’s greatest fighter jet, the F-16, died on Sunday. But another man involved in the plane’s development, Pierre Sprey, is alive and well — and still firing frequent rhetorical darts at the U.S. Air Force and its force planners.

Sprey, a long-time critic of a military bureaucracy that consistently produces bigger, heavier and more expensive aircraft that can be bought only in limited quantities, now is poking holes in the Air Force’s rationale for wanting more F-22 stealth fighters.

The Air Force, you see, claims it needs F-22s in part because air forces across the world are buying up Russian-made Su-30 fighters that can whip old-model U.S. fighters. Fear of the Su-30, pictured, has been stoked by videos depicting dramatic airshow maneuvers by the Russian plane.

But the Su-30 ain’t all that, Sprey contends:

1. The Su-30MK is simply another modification of the Su-27, a not-very-high-performing Russian imitation of our F-15 that had its prototype flight in 1977. The new version is significantly heavier and has poorer dogfight acceleration and turn than the original, mainly because of all the weighty and draggy gadgetry (e.g., canards, vectored thrust nozzles) added to allow these spectacular maneuvers.

2. The spectacular maneuvers … are purely and simply airshow tricks, intended to wow the gullible. Not one of these maneuvers has any application to combat, because they can only be performed at speeds well under 150 knots. At that speed in a dogfight against any competent pilot, your life expectancy is measured in seconds.

3. My guess is that there are no more than six pilots in all of Russia that can actually fly these maneuvers — and that they have been in training for years in order to trot out these tricks at international airshows.

4. Executing these wonderful tricks at the Paris airshow with these Olympic-athlete type of pilots, the Russians have crashed two of the Su-30 “Wunderwaffen,” one in 1999 and one in 2006.

5. The Russians have, in fact, palmed off versions of the Wunderwaffen to the Chinese, as well as to the Indians, Malaysians, Algerians, and the dreaded Venezuelans. Despite these triumphs of Russian salesmanship. I’m not losing much sleep over the specter of the awesome Su-30 in the hands of these superb air forces.

5. The more of these turkeys the Russkies sell, the longer the now-ancient F-16 (designed in 1972) will reign supreme as the world’s best fighter. And the less reason we will have to buy F-22s at $355 million each.

Just one thing: didn’t the Indians in their Su-30s kick the U.S. Air Force’s ass not once, but twice?

(Photo: BW Jones)

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29 Responses to “Russian Super-Fighter: Not So Scary?”

  1. SuperCorgi says:

    Maybe the USAF was set up to fail by the USAF in knowing that failing would trump up the call to buy them new super expensive and sexy F-22s. Maybe.

  2. ELP says:

    Have Sprey explain to you in detail the relationship between the AN/ALR-94 and the APG-77 on the F-22. That is one way that it kills. Something that can’t be shown at an airshow. And have him explain to you its ability to contempt of engage and setup an attack on its own terms. If is is unwilling or unable, contact me and I will explain it.

    As for the newer Flankers, it isn’t your daddy’s Flanker. Old ones had questionable avionics and maintenance issues. USAF is yet to buy anymore F-16s, that is also a dead end unless that changes. Ask Sprey also which one will Bingo fuel quicker… an F-16, or F-18 or the Flanker. I’ll take the bigger payload and the ability of growth room with a bigger sensor footprint. Then too the things that make the new Flankers kill well… can’t be shown at an airshow.

  3. ELP says:

    Replace

    If is is unwilling or unable, contact me and I will explain it.

    with

    If he is unwilling or unable, contact me and I will explain it.

  4. B.Smitty says:

    You can’t really judge winners and losers in exercises like the ones with India. They are teaching instruments. They are not free play.

  5. Headfake says:

    “Ask Sprey also which one will Bingo fuel quicker… an F-16, or F-18 or the Flanker”
    How about the F-22? One pass across the training range and the pilots panic for tanker location.

  6. MoBeau says:

    Time for a nursing home wake up call! Sprey, Spinney, Riccione and their anit-defense spending buddy, Winslow Wheeler are the old “Fighter Mafia” dudes who refuse to listen to the new FM bros facts (1990-2005) about the F-22 and F-35. They new still think of 1950-70s dog fights ending in gun shots. Their knowledge is so antiquated they cannot even comprehend the data on AIM-9L/M, let alone the AIM-9X. Same for the old AIM-7K/M or, God forbid, the AIM-120A/B/C. We tried to explain it but they simply refused to listen. When these weezers were “flyin and drinkin” these A/A weapons were still unreliable and most A/A combat ended in a 3K gun fight. Which is why these loud knobs all HATED the F-15′s 107:0 actual combat kill ratio–they predicted the exact opposite! But the F-15 is 25+ yrs old and its past time to retire the last 450. The F-22 wins any BVR or WIVR fight in any wx against any foe, from now for 20+ years. That is a fact. Training Ex kill ratios against our own very best F-15C/APG-63v2, F-16B50+, F/A-18E/F have proven it. Stop listening to these old FM dogs and stop giving credence to their their lies. Talk to the new FM dudes who know the new shit. Why do we need 240-280 F-22s? Because the Chinese are buying 500 Flanker/Super Flanker and will buy 100′s of the new 5th Gen XXJ. Same for the Russian’s switch from Super Flanker to their T-50. XXJ/T-50 are THREAT twin engine, hi altitude, hi mach, air superiority stealth fighters. The Russians and Chinese are not our frinds and do not want to be our friends. Get Real.

  7. Jeb says:

    I love Sprey calling the 16 the best fighter in the world, when in order to get it where it is, they’ve had to do the same addons in hardware (and fuel!) that the Russkies have done to the Flankers. Today’s F-16 isn’t anything close to lightweight, and while it may still contend with a Flanker, I wouldn’t call it anything close to a guaranteed win.

  8. WECIV says:

    The F-22 is about defeating future 5th gen fighters. But, it is more than that. The F-22 is to be a SEAD aircraft to take on IADS consisting of Double Digit SAMs and 4.5-5th gen fighters.

    W

  9. James says:

    As a former RAF Jaguar pilot I don’t think Sprey has a grasp of modern air-combat.

    He cites airshow performance as a basis for hard-facts. Having sat in the Su27 at Farnborough in the late 90′s I still would not want to fight against one of these without a piece of kit that will hold it’s own.

    The Su30 is still a very nasty piece of kit!

  10. Actions Cancelled Department says:
  11. [...] The world’s number-two air force, the U.K. Royal Air Force, will top out at probably fewer than 200 Typhoon fighters, which aren’t even as capable as the F-22. And the U.K. is our closest ally, so there’s no need to worry about buying enough Raptors to shoot down 200 Typhoons. The only major non-Western fighters in production or serious development today are Russian Su-30s that are contemporary of our F-15s, and Chinese J-10s that are perhaps equal to our F-16s. All talk of Indian- or Russian-made stealth fighters is just that: talk. Advanced air-superiority fighters are awfully expensive, and nobody but the U.S. is making serious investment in buying lots of them over the long term. The F-22 represents the pinacle of manned fighter technology for the next third of a century. At 240 airplanes, the Raptor fleet will be more capable (and in most cases, bigger) than any other country’s air-superiority force. We’ve already bought 180 of those 240 planes. Meanwhile, we have new F/A-18E/Fs and F-35s rolling out of the factories, and there’s no reason we couldn’t buy modernized F-15s and F-16s, too. While hardly equal to the F-22’s talents, those aircraft are not incapable of winning control of the air. [...]

  12. [...] Related: Growler Chomps on Raptor A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic! Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22 600 F-22s? Hilarious F-35 jumps the shark Raptors in Japan New Russian fighter to challenge F-35 The amazing shrinking air force No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  13. Bru328 says:

    Where did you find Sprey’s comments on the Sukhoi jets and do you have a link for it?

  14. David Axe says:

    Bru328,

    Sprey’s comments were emailed to me by the Center for Defense Information.

  15. [...] Related: Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 Getting the Most from Your New F-22 F-22s to Darfur? Not so Fast … Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority More fighter-jet hyperventilating Growler Chomps on Raptor A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic! Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22 600 F-22s? Hilarious F-35 jumps the shark Raptors in Japan New Russian fighter to challenge F-35 The amazing shrinking air force No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  16. [...] Related: Analysts: Buy Fighters, or Die Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15 Getting the Most from Your New F-22 F-22s to Darfur? Not so Fast … Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority More fighter-jet hyperventilating Growler Chomps on Raptor A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic! Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22 600 F-22s? Hilarious F-35 jumps the shark Raptors in Japan New Russian fighter to challenge F-35 The amazing shrinking air force 3 Comments so far Leave a comment [...]

  17. DMITRIY says:

    “The Su-30MK is simply another modification of the Su-27, a not-very-high-performing Russian imitation of our F-15″

    And what about that your f15 is imitation of our mig-25?

  18. Aaron says:

    The F-15 is hardly an imitation of the MiG-25.

    The MiG-25 was a purpose-built, high-altitude, high-speed interceptor that the Soviets designed and built to counter the (made up) threat of XB-70 “Valkyrie” mach 3 bombers. It had two massive engines, a small load of missiles and very little in the way of agility or avionics. It was designed to go high and fast to shoot down those bombers, never for air superiority, which was left to the MiG-23/27 and (later) MiG-29.

    The F-15 was designed from the start to be an air superiority fighter. It had a powerful & advanced radar, superb agility (for its time and altitude), strong engines, a large load of missiles, and a commensurately high price-tag. It was not designed to be a super-high, super-fast interceptor against enemy bombers. It was designed to fly and fight against the best and most capable fighters and prevent enemy planes from posing any threat to any allied planes in the sky.

    Two different planes, two different missions. They only resemble each other in overall layout/silhouette(sp?)–high-wing, twin-engine, twin-tail with square intakes–but the similarities end there.

  19. [...] of New Air Force Bosses. Asociacián AIRE Portal Aeronáutico: El blog del Red Flag War is Boring: Russian Super-Fighter: Not So Scary? War is Boring: F-15Cs for Future Ground [...]

  20. Picard578 says:

    Well, everything he says is correct, except F16 still being worlds best fighter. Sorry Sprey, but that title now belongs to Eurocanards, specifically Saab Gripen NG when it arrives.

  21. Picard578 says:

    Oh, and I missed it originally – Indians have very good pilots.

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  27. [...] to fly it instead of the F-22 and claims that it’s better at air superiority than the Raptor. WarIsBoring.com says that “Sprey, a long-time critic of a military bureaucracy that consistently produces bigger, [...]

  28. [...] and deride newer, better fighters (American and foreign) such as the F-22 and the Flanker family. In 2009, he ridiculously claimed that: “The Su-30MK is simply another modification of the Su-27, a not-very-high-performing Russian [...]

  29. Picard578 says:

    Indian Su-30MKI got creamed in WVR dogfight by Eurofighter Typhoon, as did F-22 later. I guess that proves Sprey’s points.

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