Former Soviet test pilot Magomed Tolboyev told Russian reporters earlier this week that Russia’s new Su-57 fighter can “easily” defeat Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fifth generation fighter in a one-on-one engagement: “Su-57 will kill [a F-35] easily, should they meet one on one.
The F-35 cannot maneuver, it’s simply incapable. But it does have electronic might.” Tolboyev added that the F-35’s reliance on its electronics suite makes it especially susceptible to jamming. “This is why I oppose everything electronic.”
The two fighters are exceedingly unlikely to face off in a realistic combat scenario, noted Tolboyev: “Today, you no longer fight one on one. Everything depends on your support. There is electronic warfare today. This is no longer a sparring tatami, but a complex approach to tactical issues.”
Tolboyev is a well-known Soviet test pilot who flew numerous fighters including the MiG-23M, MiG-25, MiG-31, Su-24, and Su-27 over the course of a storied career. He became a politician in Russia’s State Duma in the years following the Soviet collapse, also serving in several posts as a Russian security official and military officer. He was presented with the Hero of Russia award—Russia’s highest honorary title—in 1992.
Tolboyev accurately observed that isolated dogfights are idealized relics of a bygone era. Any prospective engagement between F-35’s and Su-57’s will likely occur in the broader battlefield context of intervening missile defense systems, advanced radar installations, and significant numbers of supporting aircraft.
Two lone pilots duking it out in an isolated aerial duel makes for a thrilling action movie plot line, but has little to do with the reality of how wars are fought in the twenty-first century.