The United States Air Force is by far the most superior air force across the globe. But what makes it the strongest? To start with, USAF has over 13,264 aircraft with more than 462,000 workers!
Surprisingly USAF is three times larger than the Russian Air Force, the second most superior air force globally. Russian Air Force has around 4,163 military aircraft and about 148,000 trained personnel. However, even with the enormous marginal difference, Russian military aircraft still commands power over some of America’s military aircraft.
You are probably wondering, “How can Russian Military Aircraft be superior to the US Airforce military aircraft?”
Well, let’s find out.
Russian Airforce vs. US Air Force Ideology
Before we get to how Russian Military Aircraft is superior to the US, it is imperative to understand the military ideologies between these two superpowers.
Russia’s main military focus is defense. Towards the end of World War II, Russia established satellite stations in Eastern Europe to protect itself from possible ground attacks. In this regard, Russia focused more on defending its grounds and military aircraft rather than attacking. Their ground stations control the actions pilots take in their military aircraft.
More so, rather than relying on military aircraft or Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), Russia relies on ground-based radar stations to detect their enemies. Why this reversed approach? Simple, it’s easier and cheaper to repair or replace radar stations compared to AWACS or military aircraft.
On the other side, the US’s main ideology is powerful military machines. Currently, their main focus during military aircraft production is stealth. Stealth aircraft focuses on being invisible from the enemy’s radar, attacking, then flying away before the enemy has a chance to attack.
For instance, the F-22 can get into a war zone, fire a long-range missile, then stealthily and swiftly get out. However, that doesn’t mean that enemy aircraft can’t shoot stealthy airliners down.
The US does not rely on ground-based radar stations but instead focuses on technology that enables them to detect enemy aircraft even at BVR, i.e., Beyond Visual Range. Thus, their aircraft have more complex and advanced communication devices, data links, and radars than Russia’s aircraft.
Having gone through the different military ideologies between Russia and the US, it’s time to dive into the differences between their military aircraft.
Russia has more powerful helicopters than the US when it comes to military helicopters. The Russian Mil Mi-26, the current heaviest lifting helicopter globally, is at the top of the list.
The Mi-26 or Halo is a twin-turbine helicopter designed by Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant. Halo weighs about 7 tonnes and can carry up to 4,000 kg of external cargo.
Service and Maintenance
Russian military aircraft are not highly-budgeted and advanced as the USAF military aircraft. Therefore, they can be serviced easily and quickly in the field without being taken to specialists in a specialist facility.
For instance, the Saturn AL-31 engine– a military turbofan engine that powers the Su-27 derivatives of Russia- can run for 1500 hours without overhauling. Further, with only a cost of $3.5 million, it makes it cheap to service and maintain.
This ease in servicing and maintaining the military aircraft of Russia makes them more superior since on a battlefield, they can run longer, be serviced quickly, and get back to business!
Rough Field Performance
Since airfields are among the most targeted areas during a war, the Soviets built aircraft capable of landing or taking off in dispersed airfields like gravel runways or highways. To be more specific, let’s look at the MiG 29 features geared towards this rough field performance.
The MiG 29 aircraft has blocked inlets to let the supplementary air intakes mounted on the upper surface to supply air into the engines.
Secondly, the Russian military aircraft are built to withstand the harsh climatic condition of their homeland. Therefore, the aircraft is constructed toughly to survive adverse meteorological conditions that USAF aircraft cannot operate in.
Russian Military aircraft offer highly advanced maneuverability and stunts that most US aircraft cannot. For instance, the Su-27 and its derivatives can perform post-stall maneuvering. Some of these derivatives utilize 3d thrust vectoring, enabling the pilot to control the aircraft at all speeds.
One Russian aircraft with super maneuverability is the Su-35, which features 3D thrust vectoring nozzles, an advanced fly-by-wire flight control system, and powerful AL-41F1S engines. The Su-35 maneuvering capabilities went viral during the Marquee Air Show and Weapons Expo (called MAKS) in 2017.
It’s also good to give credits where they are due. Russia has produced one of the fastest fighter jets, which are still in service today. The MiG-25 Foxbat can reach Mach 3.2 speed, which equates to 2,190 mph.
What’s Mach speed? This speed represents the speed of sound, which travels at 717 mph or 1195 kmh, a speed referred to as Mach 1.0.
Since USAF military aircraft, especially jet fighters are expensive and are fitted with top-notch technology, they focus on long-range fights. They use advanced radar systems and Medium/Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (LRAAR) and (AMRAAM).
For example, the AIM-120 AMRAAM can shoot BVR regardless of the weather conditions or time of the day.
On the other hand, Russian aircraft, more specifically the current Russia’s superior fighter Su-35, is the best dogfighter. Su-35 has 12-14 weapons hardpoints, more than F-15C and F-22 eight weapons hardpoints. Besides the K-77M radar-guided missiles and R-74 infrared-guided missiles, the Su-35 has a 30mm cannon fitted with 150 rounds for dogfighting. Additionally, this fighter can mount up to 17,000 pounds of air-to-ground ammunition.
Additionally, the super maneuverability and speed of the Su-35 make it an unmatched dogfighter. In close range, the Su-35 would be capable of gunning down an F-22 or F-15.
However, it’s unclear how it would get to a short-range fight with the stealth US fighters like F-35, which can fire BVR without being detected.
Russia Air Force vs. USAF: Final Verdict
Though the military budget of the US is unmatched by that of Russia, the Soviet Union still commands power in the air force arena. It is clear to note that the technology installed in USAF aircraft is superior to that of Russia. However, Russia focuses on quantity over quality.
If air warfare was to break out between these two nations, Russia might emerge the winner since they have more cheap aircraft to spare than the US. However, please don’t take my word for it; US fighters’ advanced technology and stealth capability make it very hard for enemy aircraft to locate and fire at them.
Anyway, the two remain to have the most superior air forces, and we hope they never come into any war.