Photos have emerged showing the wreckage of an Su-35S “Flanker-E” fighter jet, lost near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The Su-35S is the most advanced jet that Russia’s Aerospace Forces operates in significant numbers.
Ukrainian air defenses reportedly shot down the jet, which boasts sophisticated self-protection systems.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going well, and this week brought even more bad news for Moscow: the loss of one of the country’s most advanced fighter jets. Ukraine’s military shared photos on social media showing the wreckage of an Su-35S multi-role fighter jet, the first lost in the war. Ukraine’s aging air defense network allegedly shot down the fighter, often characterized as a fifth-generation fighter ... just without the stealth.
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On Facebook, the Ukrainian General Staff shared the images (below), which depict the flaming remains of a large, twin-tailed fighter jet. A red star—a holdover from the days of the Soviet Union, common to Russian Aerospace Force aircraft—is visible on the starboard wing. The rest of the plane appears to be burned to ashes.
So far, Russia has lost 19 jets throughout the course of its invasion, as documented by the Oryx Blog. The photos confirm the first documented loss of an Su-35S, known to NATO as the “Flanker-E.” The Su-35S is an evolution of the Cold War-era Su-27 Flanker, a dedicated air superiority heavy fighter. Just like the U.S. Air Force F-15A Eagle air superiority heavy fighter gradually morphed into the F-15EX Super Eagle multi-role fighter, the Su-27 in time morphed into the multi-role Su-35S.
The Su-35S is Russia’s most advanced frontline fighter. Developed by the legendary Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-35 is a single-pilot fighter. The aircraft is large at 71 feet, with a wingspan of 50 feet. Two thrust-vectoring AL-41F-1S Saturn engines power the aircraft, giving it a maximum speed at altitude of Mach 2.25 (1,726 miles per hour). The Irbis (“Snow Leopard”) radar can detect an enemy fighter at up to 249 miles, and the aircraft can carry up to 17,637 pounds of fuel and weapons on external hard-points on the wings and fuselage.
All of this makes the Su-35S quite heavy; it’s armed with four air-to-air missiles of 27.9 tons. Despite this, the high thrust-to-weight ratio, as well as the thrust-vectoring controls, make the aircraft quite maneuverable. Here’s footage of the “Flanker-E” performing some jaw-dropping maneuvers at the Dubai Air Show back in 2017:
The Su-35 is often referred to as a fifth-generation fighter—like the F-22 Raptor or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Su-35’s offensive and defensive systems, as well as its sensors, are some of the most advanced in Russian service. The Su-35S was meant as a transition fighter, to hold the line until the Su-57 was ready for production. However, technical difficulties and a lack of cash have caused the “Felon” to slide several years behind schedule.
Ukraine’s air defenses have claimed responsibility for the downing. They’re dated by modern standards, relying mostly on ex-Soviet air-defense systems such as the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile. More advanced surface-to-air missiles, such as the short-range Stinger missile provided by the U.S. government, are more lethal to Russian jets, but require enemy fighters to fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet or less.
The pilot, according to Ukrainian sources, ejected from the aircraft and was captured by local forces. He will reportedly be charged with up to 12 war crimes, under the Geneva Convention, pertaining to attacks on civilians.
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