New Footage Shows Russian Su-35 Fighter Tackling Ukrainian Aircraft with Air to Air Missile

On May 3 the Russian Defence Ministry published footage of a Russian Air Force Su-35 fighter aircraft flying a patrol mission in support of ongoing military operations in Ukraine, before being approached by a Ukrainian aircraft which it subsequently destroyed. The aircraft was shown taking off, firing a missile at an unknown target, and then landing at night. Although Ukraine has seen its ability to operate its top fighter classes the Su-24M and Su-27 diminish significantly, which were both heavyweight classes inherited from the Soviet Union, its has continued to receive MiG-29 fighters, helicopters and a wide range of drones from its foreign supporters. The Su-35 has played a leading role in carrying out air superiority missions since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian War in February 2022 and gained multiple kills. One of its most notable successes came in the war’s initial days on March 5, 2022, when a Su-35 reportedly shot down four of the Ukrainian Air Force’s top fighters, the Su-27, near the city of Zhytomir. Multiple further kills have included more Su-27s, as well as MiG-29s, Su-24M strike fighters, Su-25 ground attack jets, Mi-8 helicopters, and a wide range of drone classes.

The Su-35 is considered a ‘4++ generation’ fighter and boasts a much greater endurance, longer air to air engagement range, higher manoeuvrability and larger radar than any Western fighter class. Over 150 Su-35s have been produced so far at the Komsomolsk on Amur factory in the Russian Far East, with delays fielding a fifth generation fighter having fuelled greater investment in the program and acquisitions on a larger scale. The aircraft’s elite status within the Russian Air Force has fuelled speculation that they are primarily being conserved for a potential direct hot war with NATO, and is thought to be a major reason why they were redeployed from the Russian Far East to forward bases in Belarus shortly preceding the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

From October 2022 Su-35s saw its first ever allocation to an aggressor training unit, in what was thought to be an effort to share experience gained in air to air combat over Ukraine more widely within the Russian Air Force. Operations over Ukraine have given the Air Force a much greater degree of 21st century air to air combat experience than any other service in the world, and the Su-35 itself is very likely to have gained many more against enemy aircraft than any other post Cold War fighter class fielded worldwide. MiG-31 interceptors and new Su-57 fighters, both of which have long range capabilities that in many ways surpass the Su-35, have also reportedly seen significant air to air engagements in the conflict. The Su-57 has also been involved in air defence suppression – a mission type which appears to have otherwise been primarily left to more widely used cheaper aircraft less specialised in air to air combat such as the Su-30SM and Su-34. Su-35s have also made some contributions to air defence suppression efforts, with available information indicating that Russia has lost a single Su-35 in combat to Ukrainian air defences in early April 2022.