According to a former US Air Force pilot, Russia’s Su-35 multirole fighter jet is “junk” compared to the United States’ F-16 Fighting Falcon fast jet.
The Su-35 is a “typically Russian machine” that “looks good” but “basically isn’t that good of a plane,” retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton told the Voice of America in an interview in Ukrainian language. “It looks good at air shows but my personal opinion is that it’s junk,“ he added.
Both the Su-35 and F-16 are multi-role, often single-seat, fighter aircraft. Russia’s Su-35s have been used in Moscow’s war against Ukraine, but the fast NATO-standard F-16 jets have not taken to the skies of Ukraine.
The US has so far vetoed Kiev’s repeated calls for the advanced jets. Earlier this week, Poland confirmed it would send MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, and on Friday Slovakia’s prime minister said 13 MiG-29 jets would arrive in Ukraine. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that Warsaw’s decision “does not change our calculus regarding F-16s.”
On the first anniversary of the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine on February 24, President Joe Biden said he was ruling it out (deploying F-16s) for the time being. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “doesn’t need an F-16 right now,” he added.
The F-16s “could make a world of difference in wartime,” Hampton said, but their success would depend on the pilots in the cockpit. The F-16 “is a very different type of modern fighter than [Ukrainian pilots] used to it, he explained, adding that it takes “time to train, get used to and master a new type of aircraft, especially one as advanced as the F-16”.
The US has confirmed that two Ukrainian pilots have traveled to Arizona for a “familiarization event” to help Ukrainian pilots become “more effective” and to advise them “on developing their own skills,” a military official said.
The UK also pledged to expand its training program for Ukrainian military personnel to include fighter jet pilots. This “will ensure that future pilots will be able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets,” Downing Street said on February 8.
The Russian Su-35 is a “very large” twin-engine aircraft that is “easy to see, easy to spot on radar, and easy to shoot down with a long-range missile,” Hampton said.
“Our planes are more durable. I wouldn’t bet on the Su-35 or any Russian-made aircraft in combat,” he said.
The “highly maneuverable” and “highly capable” F-16 aircraft is used for air-to-air and air-to-ground strikes, according to the US Air Force. An all-weather aircraft priced between $14.6 million and $18.8 million, F-16 variants have “superior accuracy” and the ability to defend against enemy aircraft.
The F-16V is touted by defense contractor Lockheed Martin as the “world’s most technologically advanced fourth-generation fighter” with some fifth-generation capabilities. The Su-35 is similarly hailed as a fourth-generation jet with fifth-generation elements by Russian state export organization Rosoboronexport.