The Indian air force is in the process of a major overhaul. Recently, at the height of India-China border conflict, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh flew to Russia and signed a $2.3 billion deal for Russian jets which included 21 MiG-29s and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKIs.
Many experts have questioned whether the Russian jets operated by the Indian air force can overwhelm Chinese planes which are mostly modelled on Russian technology?
According to Nitin J Ticku an expert with the EurAsian Times, the difference between the US and Russian jets lies in two fundamentally different approaches to aerial combat and New Delhi needs to make a pick.
In conversation with the EurAsian Times, Nitin J Ticku argues that compared to US fighter jets, the Russian Air Force fighter planes usually have a higher thrust and, as a result, better manoeuvrability.
The Russians still consider mid-range or short-range air combat relevant, so their basic concept is to make their jets competent in super-manoeuvrability, a role that might be overrated.
For instance, if the most advanced Russian jets like Su-57 or Indian air force operated Su-30MKI gets detected by enemy radars or is unable to detect stealth or semi stealth enemy jets, the thrust or manoeuvrability factor is of no use, Ticku argues.
US Stealth vs Russian Thrust
For the US and much of the world, the stealth fighter jets – F-22s and F-35s indicate US air dominance and prowess. However, with the arrival of ‘highly manoeuvrable’ SU-57, the Russians are confident that they can challenge American dominance.
In fact, the Russian are so confident that they named the ‘SU-57’ because it combines the best of both F-22 and F-35 and if you add the suffix for both the planes you get 57.
As expected, Russia has kept the details of the aircraft under wraps but leaked reports on the internet do give some interesting insights. Experts believe the SU-57 is an evolution of the SU-27 Flanker’s shape, modernized for low radar observability but also even greater manoeuvrability.
Aviation author Piotr Butowski claims that its high static instability makes it more manoeuvrable than any modern fighter plane. The blended wing design increases internal volume for avionics, fuel and weapons.
The major component of the SU-57’s performance is its two engines. The Saturn izdeliye 30 engines are each meant to generate between 24,054 and 35,556 pounds of thrust, with the high end in the same territory as the F-22’s F119 engines.
These are meant to drive the fighter to speeds of up to Mach 1.5 in supercruise. The SU-57 will equip with the N056 Byelka (“squirrel”) radar system and the L402 electronic countermeasures suite. L-band arrays will be the fighter’s primary means of detecting stealth aircraft, while at shorter ranges the 101KS Atoll electro-optical suite, including an infrared search and track system, will help the pilot track and engage targets with infrared-guided missiles.
In comparison to the F-22 Raptor, the SU-57 has two large internal weapons bay. Each bay can carry up to 4 K-77 M and the K-74M2 missiles. The former is a beyond visual range radar-guided missile and has the capability to engage agile targets up to a 100 miles.
Experts write that the SU-57 is thoroughly inclined towards manoeuvrability and speed while its counterparts in the US rely primarily on the stealth factor, making them almost invincible.
The US jets clearly get an advantage as they can detect ‘highly manoeuvrable’ Russian aircraft early and counter it without showing on its radar. Experts argue that if India has to counter the PLAAF (Chinese air force) India needs more western, especially US jets that can outgun any aircraft in the region.
A tweet by Global Times read: The #US gives the green light to #Japan‘s F-35 jets purchase. Such a large-scale military expansion in Japan is worrying, especially to its neighbours. There are concerns Japan will break its peaceful constitution.
The #US gives the green light to #Japan's F-35 jets purchase. Such a large-scale military expansion in Japan is worrying, especially to its neighbors. There are concerns Japan will break its peaceful constitution. https://t.co/CwgHDxSytr pic.twitter.com/VmVnZ4ovlr
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 12, 2020
This was recently acknowledged by China after the US recently approved the sale of F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan. China, via its media, expressed serious concern of having such advanced aircraft in the region which could severely impact the security of both China and Russia.