I just read an article about the Sukhoi 35 that mentioned as a side note that:

The Soviet SU-27 was designed to kill the American F-15

Of course the political context of the Cold War agrees with that.

But are there specific features for which the Su-27 was such a "killer"?

My understanding of Soviet airplanes of the 1980s is that:

  • The MiG-29 was made as a light fighter to give numbers to the VVS and for interception
  • The Su-27 is made to be a multirole plane and is heavier than Mig-29
  • Older airplanes are kept for specialized tasks (SU-24, Su-25...)

I would expect the more heavy SU-27 to be designed to shoot at American bombers, and the lighter and more agile (?) Mig-29 to attack enemy fighters such as the F-15. Am I correct? What features make the Sukhoi 27 an F-15 killer?

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    $\begingroup$ And the article's authoritative source on that statement? Maybe include a link to the article... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ The Su-27 is supermaneuverable, the F-15 is not. That alone is a huge advantage, but BVR weaponry makes that almost a moot point. It all comes down to pilot skill. A skilled Eagle driver could kill a Su-27 in BFM, and a skilled Sukhoi pilot could kill an F-15 BVR. It's a very complex issue considering the number of iterations there now are of each model. $\endgroup$
    – MD88Fan
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer There was no source for this statement in this article. It was only mentionned in the intro, the rest of the article being about SU 35 ans F 15 concurrent sellings $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 8:15

1 Answer 1


Principally the SU-27 with its Phasotron N001 pulse Doppler radar provided the Soviet Air Force with a look-down/shoot-down capability designed as a counter to the American B-1 bomber. But it also had to be designed to counter the newer generation of American fighters designed around the Energy Maneuver philosophy of aerial combat. The Kremlin came to the conclusion that it, too, wanted a high-low mix of aircraft with the Sukhoi design being selected as its premier interceptor, which could provide a BVR capability plus close in maneuverability on par with high end America fighters like the F-14 and F-15. The Mikoyan Gureyvich bureau was responsible for the development of a small lightweight fighter, principally designed to counter the threat of low end, cheap and maneuverable NATO aircraft like the F-16. That airplane became the MiG-29/-35 series of fighters.

I dunno if you would call a SU-27 an “F-15 killer”, though it was designed - at least in theory - to match it. Given what I’ve seen of the Russians in action in Ukraine as of late, I’m not personally impressed with at least their conventional capabilities. The Su-27 is inferior to the F-15 in terms of engine tech (Russian and Chinese engines are about 20 years or so behind modern western jet engines), mission systems and radar. Russian and Chinese guided missile tech is inferior to western weapons as well, taking the teeth out of the Flanker compared to the Eagle or the Tomcat.

The airframe, however, is surprisingly good, and follows a very pragmatic and functional design philosophy typical of Russian military hardware. For a ‘Teen Series’ fighter, the SU-27 airframe does offer a lot of advantages:

  • It holds a lot of gas, giving it long legs to fly BARCAPS or fly deep into enemy territory on OCA missions, etc.
  • High thrust to weight ratio offers good acceleration, climbing and sustained turning capabilities.
  • Blended wing-body fuselage plus Leading Edge Root Extensions (LERX) vortex generators offer a low overall wing loading combined with excellent sustained high alpha maneuvering capabilities.
  • The fly by wire systems along with an advanced air frame design offers good post-stall maneuvering capabilities, seen in modern variants like the Su-30, -35 and -37.
  • The passive IRST capability combined with BVR IR guided missiles, helmet mounted cueing systems and all aspect off bore sight AA-11 missiles give it a big stick as well.

There are a lot of very enticing capabilities associated with the SU-27. But the limited engine tech plus inferior electronics tech handicap it compared with western equipment. It is a generation out of date compared to modern western fighters like the F-22A.

UPDATE: While I say that an SU 27 is not in the same league as American fighters, it would be an intriguing sight to see an SU-27 given a radome-to-tail overhaul and upgrade using western technology e.g. western jet engines, new cockpit, new mission systems and modern western weapons. In that fight, and against an F-15 piloted by an equally capable or lesser driver, the Flanker would be formidable adversary.

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    $\begingroup$ The SU-27 does not really have long legs though they can hold lots of jet fuel. It's engine is horribly inefficient. My country fly modified variants - SU-30MKM and they have roughly half the range of our F18. Maneuverability is awesome though so if you manage to get tangled up in a classic dogfight with it you're in trouble $\endgroup$
    – slebetman
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ "It is a generation out of date compared to modern western fighters like the F-22A" which means it can be an excellent "F-15 killer", or? $\endgroup$
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ @slebetman Negative. On internal gas alone, a hornet has about half the range and combat radius of a Flanker (~1000 NM vs ~2000 NM). The SU-27 also has a ~900 NM combat radius, something an F-18 can only dream of. Second BFM (dogfighting) is the fundamental and ultimate form of air-to-air combat. Only a fool would dismiss it as over. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 11:43

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