Why Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 Multirole Jet Is Failing to Meet Expectations in Ukraine

The Sukhoi Su-35's specs make it look like a reasonably modern aircraft with excellent capabilities. But, it has certainly not been up to the task in the Ukrainian skies.
Russian Air Force, RF-81719, Sukhoi Su-35S

Russia has lost two squadrons of its top-of-the-line Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets during six months of the War in Ukraine, according to reports.

And this is a massive blow to the Russian military, which has been relying on the Su-35s as one of its best fighter jets.

The Sukhoi Su-35

Sukhoi Su-35 by pxhere.com. Public Domain

The Sukhoi Su-35 is a Russian multi-role fighter that first flew in 1988. It is a derivative of the Sukhoi Su-27 and was designed to compete with top American aircraft such as F-15, F-16, and F-22.


It is one of the most sophisticated planes in the Russian military’s arsenal, with a top speed of Mach 2,25 and a range of nearly 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles). It is equipped with an array of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and can carry a payload of up to eight tons.

However, its wartime performance has been well below expectations, and it has been quite vulnerable to other aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.

The loss of two squadrons of Su-35s is a significant setback for the Russian military

Sukhoi Su-35 by Rob Schleiffert. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

The loss of the two Su-35 squadrons accounts for about 24 of these aircraft lost – and it will likely have significant implications for the country’s defense in the coming years if the war is extended.


The Sukhoi Su-35 is a capable fighter jet, but it’s not as good as its American and European counterparts. One reason for this is that the Su-35 uses an older engine model, which gives it lower performance figures than newer jets.

Additionally, the jet’s avionics are not as advanced as those of its competitors, and it lacks some of the latest sensors and countermeasures.

The Su-35 won’t be replaced soon anyway

Sukhoi Su-35
Sukhoi Su-35S by Alan Wilson. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

Russia is taking too long to produce modern aircraft like the Sukhoi Su-57 that will probably replace the aging Su-35. However, the Su-57 is still in the early stages of development, and it has yet to undergo extensive testing.


Similarly, more modern aircraft like the Su-75s are only a dream for the future. So, Russia had to manage the war with the Su-35, which was not as effective as stated on paper.

However, Russia is looking to get rid of some Su-35s and has offered to exchange its Su-35 fighter jets for Iran’s Shahed drones.

The Shahed drones are considered to be reliable, and they would be a valuable addition to Russia’s military arsenal to attack Ukrainian positions being overlooked by the radars.


It would be a significant increase in firepower for Russia, and Iran could modernize its outdated air force fleet.

Su-35 specs

Sukhoi Su-35S 07 RED PAS
Sukhoi Su-35S 07 RED PAS by Julian Herzog. Licensed under CC by 4.0.

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 21,9 meters (71 feet 10 inches)
  • Wingspan: 15,3 meters (50 feet 2 inches)
  • Height: 5,9 meters (19 feet 4 inches)
  • Max takeoff weight: 34,500 kilograms (76,059 pounds)
  • Maximum speed: 2,400 km/h (1,500 mph) or Match 2.25
  • Cruise speed: 1,170 km/h (730 mph) or Match 1.1
  • Range: 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles)
  • Combat range: 1,600 kilometers (990 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 meters (59,000 feet)

The Su-35 is armed with a 30mm cannon and can carry up to 12 air-to-air missiles.

It can also carry up to 8,000 kilograms (17,630 pounds) of bombs and missiles for ground attacks. In addition, the Su-35 has numerous countermeasures to defend against enemy missiles, including infrared jammers and chaff dispensers.


The Su-35 has been the top aircraft on paper – but on the battlefield, it has performed poorly

The aircraft performance has not been as expected and will undoubtedly affect the orders that Russia may have from other countries interested in buying the Sukhoi Su-35 in the future.

In addition, Russia will have to face the rest of the war with an aircraft that performs poorly on the battlefield, and pilots who know they are probably going to certain death in a war that makes little sense to them.

Featured image credit: Russian Air Force, RF-81719, Sukhoi Su-35S by Anna Zvereva. Licensed under CC by 2.0.


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