Despite bragging about the “excellence” of the Su-35, Russia now needs a justification for why it has lost 24 Su-35s, or two squadrons, in the battle in Ukraine.
For several years now, Russia has been “hypothecating” the greatness and capabilities of the Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO codename Flanker-E) and describing it as the most capable fighter aircraft it has. Even many Russian experts claimed that Su-35 is better than Rafale, EFT, and F-35.
Ukraine claimed 24 Su-35s had been downed in combat by Ukrainian forces. This figure is doubtful, however, as visual media confirm the loss of just four Su-35s over Ukraine as of mid-August. Just over 100 Su-35s were in Russian service prior to the invasion.
But now, Moscow had to find a reason to explain how it allegedly lost two squadrons or a total of 24 Su-35s in the conflict in Ukraine even though before that it claimed the aircraft was the best in its class and Ukraine has no weapon that can shoot down its most advanced fighter.
Allegations about the lack of encouraging performance of Russian fighter planes in Ukraine have a basis because until now after six months of conflict in Ukraine, Moscow has still failed to control the airspace of its neighboring country.
After six months of fighting in Ukraine, we still see Rplanes, includinglanes including Su-35 and others shot down by the Ukraine armed forces regular basis.
What happened to the Russian Air Force that claimed it would control Ukraine’s airspace within days of the war with Ukraine breaking out?
Six months have passed, and Russia has failed to control Ukraine’s airspace even though it has an air force that is much larger than Ukraine’s with a number of fighter jets multiple times that of its neighbors. After all Russia had the second most powerful air force in the world after the USA before the war not sure about now where it stands now after poor performance in the ongoing war.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US intelligence had predicted a likely blistering assault by Moscow that would quickly mobilize the vast Russian air power that its military assembled in order to dominate Ukraine’s skies.
But the first six days have confounded those expectations and instead seen Moscow act far more delicately with its air power, so much so that US officials can’t exactly explain what’s driving Russia’s apparent risk-adverse behavior.
“They’re not necessarily willing to take high risks with their own aircraft and their own pilots,” a senior US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity
In dealing with the “powerful and deadly” Russian Air Force, Ukraine had to rely largely on MiG-29, Su-24, and a small number of Su-27 aircraft.
In recent times, many photos and videos show how the Russian Su-35 planes were shot down either by the Ukrainian air defense system (supplied by the West) or crashed in air battles with Ukrainian planes.
Now there are reports that the Russian Air Force has been forced to send its aging planes to Ukraine to help the country’s air campaign in Ukraine.
Why did the Russian Su-35 aircraft fail to perform well in Ukraine?
According to observers, one of the main reasons is the question of the reliability of the Su-35 aircraft which still holds the 4++ generation aircraft not only serving in the Russian Air Force but also the Su-35 aircraft sold to other countries.
At this point, there are reports that out of the 24 Su-35 aircraft purchased by China from Russia, only nine are still “flyable” while the rest spend more time in the hangar.
Most recently, it has been claimed that Moscow is willing to “exchange” a total of 24 Su-35 fighter jets for hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles developed by Iran for use in Ukraine.
The allegations say that Russia has lost faith in the capabilities of its advanced aircraft so much that it has more faith in the ability of unmanned aircraft to operate in Ukrainian airspace.
Why does Russia trust drones more than its fighters?
In 2018, Egypt became the first country in the Middle East to acquire Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets when it signed a US$3 billion contract to acquire between 24 and 26 of the aircraft.
In fact, it is said that the Sukhoi factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has completed 11 of the fighter aircraft, but until now not a single Su-35 aircraft has been received by Egypt. Why?
In fact, Egypt is said to have detected the “weakness” of the Su-35 aircraft compared to the 4.5 generation fighter aircraft it is currently using, which is the “Rafale” manufactured by the Dassault Aviation company.
The “weakness” detected by Egypt against the Su-35 involves its radar system “Irbis-E”.
It said the Egyptian side had carried out a test of the actual capability of the Su-35’s Passive Electronically Scanned-Array (PESA) “Irbis-E” radar against the Rafale aircraft’s Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) system.
What they found was that the Rafale’s ECM system easily “subdued” the Irbis-E radar of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft.
There are also claims that the Rafale aircraft have easily “shot down” the Su-35 aircraft in an exercise where the French-made aircraft’s “Spectra” ECM system has easily “jammed” the Su-35’s radar before “shooting down” the aircraft.
Egyptian military officials are said to be furious because the Su-35 still uses the PESA radar while the 4.5 generation fighter jets on the market have applied the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Radar) radar.
Russian Su-35s are seeing combat in air-superiority and air-defense suppression roles over Ukraine, inflicting some damage but failing to suppress neither Ukraine’s old fighters nor ground-based batteries.