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Are Russian fighter jets really cheaper than Western and American?


Russian-made fighter jets are often “cheaper” than Western counterparts, creating a great competitive advantage for their defense products, but are customers really gets the benefit? To answer the question, let’s first make a comparison with a heavy fighter aircraft.

According to the reference number given by the Nation-creation website, currently, an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter is priced at $98 million, while the F-15E Strike Eagle is about $110-130 million. depending on the specific configuration.

IAF sU-30mki & USAF F-15S
IAF sU-30mki & USAF F-15S

Thus, the unit price of F/A-18 and F-15 is much higher than Russian heavy fighters. Specifically, the price of a Su-30MK is about 60-70 million USD, while the Su-35S requires customers to spend more than 75 million USD to be able to buy it.

Although significantly cheaper than American-made fighters, the Russian aircraft suffers from a major drawback of its short life span.

Specifically, while the fuselage life of the F / A-18 as well as the F-15 is up to 8,000 hours of flight and can be overhauled for up to 10,000 hours, the corresponding figure in the Su-30MK is only 3,000 hours ( upgrade is up to 4,000 hours), while the Su-35S is 6,000 flight hours.

In terms of operating costs, according to Time magazine, the F-15C costs $ 41,921 for an hour of flight, this figure in the Su-30 is estimated at $ 40,000 – 45,000. Obviously, looking at the above indicators, the Su-30 is much more expensive than the F-15.

This difference in the Su-35 seems to be less, but another factor to take into account is that its AL-41F1S engine has a 3-way thrust vectoring unit to improve maneuverability.

According to sources after only 500 hours Su-35 needs to be disassembled for overhaul, making the overall economy far behind the US and European aircraft, not to mention during the above time if spare parts are not available, the fighter will have to “lay on the ground” , i.e. complete loss of combat power.

Currently, because Russia no longer has a true light fighter, the object of comparison will be temporary variants of the MiG-29 Fulcrum with the JAS-39 Gripen as well as the F-16.

The unit price of the newly produced MiG-29SMT is currently 45 million USD, with a lifespan of 4,000 flight hours; while the MiG-29M and MiG-35 cost $55-60 million, the operating time is 6,000 flight hours (the jet engine on the MiG-35’s engine is also only 500 hours before the overhaul).

egyptian F-16 and MiG-29m
egyptian F-16 and MiG-29m

The above indicators of the MiG-29 series have a certain distance when looking at the 10,000 flight hours of the JAS-39C/D ($70 million) as well as the 8,000 flight hours of the F-16C/D Block 50/52 Plus ( $78 million).

On the opponent’s side, an hour of flight time for the F-16 costs $22,514, while the JAS-39 is super cheap, just $4,700/hour. This parameter on the MiG-29 series is about 15,000 – 16,000 USD.

With the above reference information, buying a fighter is not simply based on the offering price or accompanying weapons, but also must carefully consider the life cycle of the aircraft, the engine as well as the cost of the aircraft. operation and maintenance costs to arrive at the optimal choice.

There is a impression that buying Western fighters is like investing in building a nuclear power plant, the initial cost is huge but the money for exploitation and operation is cheap, while Russian fighters are compared. like a coal-fired power plant with the exact opposite characteristics


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