Competing the power of Russia’s Su-57 and the Western F-16 about to be transferred to Ukraine

Ukraine is about to receive the first F-16 fighter jets from Western allies in the hope of balancing air power with Russia.

After many diplomatic efforts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky finally got the nod from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, NATO members committed to providing F-16 fighter jets to Kiev.

Since early April, Washington and its allies have been training Ukrainian pilots on US-made fighter jets, and are expected to hand them over to Kiev in the next few weeks. According to Mr. Zelensky, Ukraine needs about 120 to 130 F-16s to balance the air superiority of the Russian air force.

Ukraine expects these F-16s to be as effective as Russia’s Su-57 fleet, a fighter line that has been deployed by Moscow since the early days of the conflict.

Many argue that while the F-16 brings high reliability and flexibility to Ukraine’s defense system, Russia’s Su-57 also poses a significant challenge despite its limited numbers and program. development faces many obstacles. 

This means that the Su-57 is unlikely to operate in conflict hotspots on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Su-57: Stealth capabilities and advanced technology

Russia’s 5th generation fighter is equipped with advanced stealth technology, 3-dimensional thrust vector control engines, and a variety of weapons.

According to Russian military documents, the Su-57 can fly at a speed “twice the speed of sound”, a maximum altitude of about 18km, and a range of up to 2,900km.

Accompanying weapons include radar-guided or infrared-guided air-to-air missiles, unguided air-to-ground missiles, conventional bombs, cluster bombs, and 30mm artillery.

This twin-engine stealth fighter was developed by Sukhoi in the early 2000s and has its roots in the Cold War era. During that period, the Soviet Union positioned the next-generation fighters of the Su-27 and MiG-29 fleet in tactical military operations.

However, the Su-57 encountered obstacles such as production delays and many performance problems, especially with engines and stealth features. Some air force experts believe that the circular engine nozzles could cause the aircraft to be detected by radar, weakening its stealth function.

Russian Su-57 fighter jet (Photo: Getty).

Despite the above disadvantages, the Su-57, designated “Felon” by NATO, still has certain advantages compared to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Defense magazine National Interest commented that the 5th generation Felon can synchronize with ground radar, providing the advantage of seeing first and shooting first compared to older aircraft.

F-16: Flexibility and mobility

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is known for its flexibility and maneuverability. This weapon has played a key role in the air forces of many countries since the late 1970s.

The F-16 was initially designed as a light air superiority fighter and gradually evolved into a multirole fighter that can operate in all weather conditions. The F-16’s versatility, combined with years of upgrades ranging from radar systems to avionics to advanced weapons, has created a powerful fighter that meets operational needs. Modern air warfare.

The F-16 can fly at speeds of over 2,400km/h and operate at altitudes of up to 15km, slightly lower than the Su-57. The F-16 Falcon’s combat radius is about 350km with internal fuel and the transfer range is up to 3,200km with external fuel tanks.

US jets are also equipped with upgraded radar systems such as the AN/APG-66, helping them track targets both in the air and on the ground from a distance of nearly 100km. The F-16 is equipped with a larger and more diverse range of weapons than the MiG-29 or Su-57, including missiles, bombs and anti-radar weapons.

These fighters will replace Kyiv’s gradually exhausted MiG-29, Su-24, and Su-25 fleet, fighter lines that their opponents have long known.

However, a report by the US General Accounting Office last year placed the F-16 on the list of the most difficult military aircraft to maintain. Mark Cancian, former US Marine Corps Colonel and senior advisor to the Center for International Strategic Studies Security Program said that this could be a challenge for Ukraine when receiving the F-16.

“For the F-16 to operate effectively, Ukraine needs to build and maintain an extensive logistics infrastructure. This includes training pilots, establishing maintenance, refueling, and supply systems ammunition,” Mr. Cancian said.

At the same time, this expert said: “The F-16 will not be a factor that can immediately change the game.”

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