New Russian Su-35S Super-Maneuverability Display Wows MAKS Crowds, Videos Go Viral

Following New F-35 Display at Paris, Moscow Wows with Sukhoi Su-35 Super-Maneuverability Display: But Does it Matter?

Video of Sukhoi’s Su-35 super-maneuverable aircraft flying an impressive new demonstration routine at the MAKS airshow in Russia this week has gone viral on social media.

This year’s updated Russian Sukhoi aerobatic demonstration, similar to previous Sukhoi and MiG demos, follows the first-ever aerobatic display of the American F-35A Lightning II at the Paris Air Show a month ago.

The Su-35S “Flanker E” is the 4++ generation variant of the Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

The multirole aircraft features thrust-vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) and the said ability to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers (…), the Khibiny radar jamming system along with the ability to use some interesting weapons, including the ultra-long range R-37M air-to-air missile that could target HVAA (High Value Air Assets) such as AWACS and tanker aircraft.

The aircraft were deployed to Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in February 2016 to undertake air superiority and escort missions over Syria.

Aviation analysts have long contended that displays of so-called “super maneuverability” at low speeds have little or no tactical value in the real world air combat environment. These displays do often lead to conversations comparing aircraft capabilities and re-open the never-ending debates about which aircraft design doctrine provides a real world tactical advantage.

Are such low speed maneuvers worthless to fight against the U.S. 5th Gen. stealth aircraft that would engage the Su-35S from BVR (Beyond Visual Range) exploiting their radar-evading capabilities?

Real world tactical merit aside, Sukhoi’s display is sensational. The aircraft seems to depart the conventional control regime as it flips, twists and tumbles. The Su-35’s most remarkable sequence is a low speed “Pugachev’s Cobra” transitioning to a tumbling back flip followed by a side-slip to an inverted spin and then a classic recovery gained by pointing the aircraft’s nose to the ground to regain lost energy in exchange for altitude. The entire sequence is flown at altitude that presumably lives little margin for error, making it even more thrilling.

The massive International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS Airshow is happening now at Zhukovsky International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. The show, that runs from July 18-23rd, is one of the most important international airshows in the world. Some estimates suggest 40,000 more aviation enthusiasts and business people attend MAKS than the famous Paris Air Show that took place in June.

“In 2015, MAKS welcomed 404,000 visitors – 52,000 more than attended the Paris Air Show held at Le Bourget in the same year.” According to Russian Aviation Insider.

The MAKS Airshow continues through this weekend. We will report on highlights from the show after it concludes next week.

Top image: The SU-35 wowed MAKS audiences with a new demonstration routine outside Moscow. (Photo: RT)


About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. Aviation “analysts” should read history. The knife simil works the opposite of what they claim. It was created by an American real expert who, during the Vietnam war, blasted the US decision to remove guns from fighters and rely solely on air-to-air long range missiles. He said:
    “The fight between a long-range missile-equipped fighter and a cannon-equipped one resembles the fight between a guy with a shot gun and one with a knife inside a telephone booth.”

    He was so right that the Pentagon rushed to install gun-pods on Phantoms that were suffering losses against less sophisticated MiG-17s. Fortunately for the anti-communist forces, the Soviets had copied the same doctrine, and one of the first series of supersonic fighters that they supplied to N. Vietnam, the MiG-21PF, had no gun and carried only two K-13 ( Sidewinder copies). Air combat became a hit and run affair. It did not take long for a gun pod to be also appended to the MiGs. That lesson was never forgotten. Today all self-respecting fighters carry a properly integrated gun. The rationale for the gunless Phantoms and MiGs was that both were created not as dogfighters, but as interceptors. Both ended tangling in the bushes.

    Which brings back to today’s BVR mantra. Remember the old wisdom? Those who ignore history……..
    Well, say the stealth fans ( short for fanatics), I will shoot him before he knows I am there. Perhaps true. But what will happen if two perfectly stealthy guys occupy the same area? They will end so close that only the old Mark I Eyeball detector will work! That means,

    Supermaneouverabiliy allows you to do things that your opponent cannot. Therefore, you have some advantage and that allows you to rewrite the air combat book.

    It is amazing that the only western media who got it right is not aviationist like the rest of us. The Italian newspaper IL GIORNALE wrote:
    “spinta vettoriale consente elevati angoli d’attacco: il caccia può così inquadrare facilmente un bersaglio, eseguendo manovre strette”
    “Thrust vectoring allows high angles of attack: this way the fighter can easily frame an adversary by performing tight maneouvres”
    David, please check my Italian. :-)

    This awesomely simple sentence brilliantly summarizes the whole philosophy behind supermaneoverability better than any Russian, American or Namibian expert blurbs ever written.
    And, if it is so useless, why did the “bestest” fighter in history, the F-22, spend so many taxpayer millions adopting it? Go figure!

    • Thanks for writing this.. just want to add that this goes for everything, ..why we ignore history all the time, well I know why.. the more you read it the more evident the reason is, but it does have tremendous value and we better do not ignore it

    • Thomas Rodriguez…our missiles have advanced immeasurably since the Viet Nam war, so no real comparison. Back then, our F-4’s relied on the Sparrow missile, which was large, and not that manueverable. To use a Sidewainder, you had to get close-in to get a “lock on” and with the F-4 only having speed on its side we suffered losses. Today’s missiles lock beyond visual range, and beyond enemy radar capability. In a fight..stand-off is better than dog-fighting, and altitude is bliss.

      • True for us now; but the decision makers of that time had exactly the same high confidence in their missiles as you have in today’s. Actually, they had even more confidence, since they were facing a tiny “Third World air force considered by some analysts to be made up of peasants”. (Airpower History, Winter 1995, Vol.42, #4, pg.58), and were fielding everything in their inventory, even aircraft resurrected from Davis-Monthan down to the venerable C-47.

        Everybody knows that the new wunder weapons are almost infallible. That includes the potential opponents. And that is why the new anti-missile defences are also almost infallible. So if the missiles are 100% effective and the defences are only 80% effective, the wunder missiles have only a 20% chance of success. Sounds like dejavu, eh? These numbers are made up just to illustrate the point that we should not repeat the same mistakes and expect a different result.

        The Aviation Anal.ists that enlighten us imagine that stealth will make air combat like the proverbial fight between a lion and a monkey tied to a tree. That sounds comfortable ; but it may kill valuable young patriots who, believing them, overestimate their possibilities and underestimate the other side. The opposition is not sleeping.

      • Phil, you are right; but so have advanced the anti-missile defences. If missiles achieve 100% effectivity, and the defences a low 80%, that results in a 20% success rate for the missiles. Not much to brag about. I made these numbers up just to illustrate the point that repeating the same mistake and expecting different results is not a sign of wisdom.

        The Vietnam era experts were convinced of the infallibility of their wunder missiles against a tiny Third World Air Force considered by some analysts to be made up of peasants. They learned a bitter lesson (Airpower History, Winter 1995, Vol 42, #4, pag. 58)

        It is unwise to overestimate ourselves and underestimate the opposition. Objective assessments save lives. Avoiding war saves even more.

  2. Perfect aircraft for Turkey’s aegean operations. Turkey and Greece have narrow gap between airports so when they just come up dogfight very high possiblity. Then if you have this kind of plane it would be so easier to silent them all.

  3. Lots of talk about how it’s going to be all about BVR, but hey, realistic scenarios are not all that. After all, that Su-22 engagement over Syria was short-range, wasn’t it? I’m thinking something similar in 20 years, might well be an F-35 on a Su-35 engagement. And what if it’s the other way around?

    Dogfight is a possibility, and stealth isn’t all there is to it. There’s jamming too at least

  4. “So what would be accurate according to you? Claims made by self-proclaimed interweb “experts” or claims made by Russian officials? ”

    Actually, it’s far away to be just a claim made by some “proclaimed interweb experts” when those are claims made by Tikhomirov NIIP (developer of Irbis-E) and by Sukhoi Design Bureau itself.
    According to their data the maximum detection range of Irbis-E is up to 400 km for targets with RCS 3m2 and up to 90 km for stealthier targets with RCS 0.01m2, so the estimated detection range of F-22 can be calculated of this.
    As long as you don’t have any problem to believe officials of one side it shouldn’t be problem for you to believe also officials of other side. Even if it would be just a theory, but still with same informational value as all those (not combat proven) claims about superior U.S. stealth technology that Westerners mostly use for arguing.

    “We do however get an idea just how stealthy the F-22 and F-35 are…”

    Just ideas acquired during exercises like the Red Flag, that tries to imitate real aerial engagements but still it CAN’T predecit anything, may not be enough.

    Well, when it come to the claims of pilots then let’s mention when Russian pilots claimed how they beat couple of F-15s during simulated dogfight after their visit of Grand Forks AFB in early 90’s. Although, it has nothing to do with 5th generation fighter jets, what I’m trying to point out is that many Westerners feel so upset about it until nowadays and are not able to accept (I don’t even expect that you will agree with those claims, but that’s doesn’t matter) that is likely that such event could took a place. But yeah, let’s rather believe in far less likely and still not proven claims about how F-22/35 would undetectable penetrate through any modern air defense system in the world, splash everything out of the sky and return back with minimal losses or without any losses.

    “+Russian and Syrian pilots are “interested” in the F-22, and may have tried maneuvering close by to see how the jet operates, but “because of our sophisticated avionics and … stealth and … supercruise and maneuverability,” there’s “not a time where we allow Syrians or Russians to see us or influence us in any way without us choosing for them to do that”

    Nice joke. Interestingly, somehow the very first engagement between F-22s and Russian Sukhois didn’t take place in Syrian air space (as you claim) or somewhere near Russian borders but near Alaska. Guess why.

    “Although we have no confirmed reports of “close encounters” between the F-22 and the Flanker in the skies over Syria…”

    “In 2013 an F-22 pulling up beside an Iranian F-4… undetected by the F-4 crew and (I’ll make an assumption) Iranian ground radars that area…”

    Because intercepting of aircraft that is 2 generation behind and is comparable with MiG-21/23 could be ever difficult for an aircraft such as the F-22, right? Anyway, nothing surprising here. It is well known that during whole U.S. presence in the Middle East, U.S. pilots dared to intercept mostly just decades old enemy aircraft and they continue with it also in nowadays.
    For example, when Su-22 is bombing possitions of U.S-backed groups, U.S. send fighter jets to shot it down. But when Su-34s are bombing possitions of U.S.-backed groups, U.S. dares to do nothing.

    “So if you agree, what are you protesting about?”

    Did I say I fully agree? Neither you seem to fully agree with Russian official claims.

    “You’re the one constantly implying the supposed superiority of the Su-35 over the F-22 (and even F-35).”

    Where I exactly suggested seperiority of the Su-35S over the F-22? What I claim is just that the Su-35S is no way to be some significantly inferior to the F-22 regarding to BWR/WVR capabilities, sensors, avionics, etc.

    “The golf ball were early assessments of the F-35’s RCS… the F-22 was quoted to be a marble.”

    “Given what is being experienced… no I am rather impressed just how stealthy the F-22 and F-35 are.”

    Experienced where? Only in excersises that may be far away from how real aerial engagements could look like if it ever comes to the worst? Not that I’m trying to somehow deny F-22’s or F-35’s low RCS, but what’s funny is that people are mostly forgetting that the “stealth” doesn’t makes any aircraft trully invisible or unbeatable. Sure that stealth can increase survivability of the aircraft at distance of hundreds kilometers but it has also its limitations.

    “Is that an actual agreeable fact by experts or your personal opinion?”

    Not just my personal opinion, but also an opinion of various military analysis that see the Su-35S as the most likely rival to the F-22/35 considering the specs and capabilities that the Su-35S has.

    “Meanwhile, The National Interest reported that US defense officials were quite impressed with this latest Flanker variant. “It’s a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them,” the international affairs magazine cited a senior US military official with extensive experience on fifth-generation fighters as saying.

    The US military official compared the Su-35 to the F-15 and F/A-18E/F warplanes, which “would both have their hands full” when encountering Russia’s advanced fighter jet.”

    “The Su’s ability to go high and fast is a big concern, including for F-35,” an Air Force official with experience on the Joint Strike Fighter program told The National Interest.

    “What features are those? Obviously the Su-35 isn’t stealthy so that wouldn’t qualify it.”

    As I said before, lower RCS is one of the main features. The original RCS of the Su-27 is about 15m2 but the adjustments made in the Su-35S allowed significantly reduced it. So now the Su-35S’s RCS should be not more than 2m2, some sources claim even lower RCS, 0.5m2.

    Another thing regarding to the stealth that worth to mention is using of ionized plasma gas that may decrease RCS of any aircraft. Russians were/are experimenting with use of plasma technology in military aircraft at least since 90’s and is believed they tested it for the first time on the Su-27 around 2002. Anyway, what can be said for sure is a fact that studying this kind of technology allowed to create and implement the plasma ignition system to the AL-41F1S and AL-41F1, jet engines used in Su-35S and PAK FA (Su-57).
    I didn’t hear about anything similar used in the Western counterparts.

    Newly designed infrared search and track sensor in another feature of the Su-35S. According to Russian officials, in ideal weather conditions it is capable to detect and track also stealth aircraft even due to their lower heat emissions.

    “A portion of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet development took time around the same time as F-22, does that mean that the Super Hornet is close to 5th generation aircraft?”

    The Super Hornet is also considered to be 4.5 generation fighter jet, so yes it is close to the 5th generation in some aspects, for example in use of AESA radar, enhanced avionic, etc.

    “(b) 4.5 Generation Fighter Aircraft Defined.–In this section, the
    term “4.5 generation fighter aircraft” means current fighter aircraft,
    including the F-15, F-16, and F-18, that–
    (1) have advanced capabilities, including–
    (A) AESA radar;
    (B) high capacity data-link; and
    (C) enhanced avionics; and
    (2) have the ability to deploy current and reasonably
    foreseeable advanced armaments.”

    “Fun fact… Its still in the category as…”

    Did I claim the Su-35S is in category of 5th generation fighter jets?

    “So in that aspect its (trying to be) in the same league as the Super Hornet or Rafale.”

    It’s not just trying to be, but it already is there pretty long time. I even dare to say the Su-35S is on top of this league.

    “so at 1sqm that would mean the AN/APG-77 in search mode would be able to detect the Su-35 out to 120-150mi (200-240km).”

    Let’s say it can detect the Su-35S at such distance, but what the F-22 could do at this point? Probably nothing, firstly the F-22 would have to go more closer, at least at distance of 150-160km (93-99mi) to be able to fire the AIM-120D against the Su-35S. Even if something like this would occur, don’t forget the Su-35S has the abilities to deal with such situations. After the AIM-120D would be fired, possition of the F-22 would be revealed so there would be possibility to estimate a location where the F-22 currently is. What would happening next is that electronic warfare suite of the Su-35S (Khibiny-M), that main part consists of two L-265M10-02 jamming containers, would be automaticaly activated in order do disrupt the missiles’s guidance and make the missile deviate from the course.

    Some High-G maneuvers are likely to be performed as well, thanks to the Su-35S’s 3D thrust vector control and supermaneuverability, what could help to avoid the incoming missile yet more effectively.

    Sergey Bogdan, Sukhoi chief test pilot and reserve colonel of Russia noted during Paris air show in 2013:

    “The classical air combat starts at high speed, but if you miss on the first shot—and the probability is there because there are maneuvers to avoid missiles—the combat will be more prolonged.”

    “After maneuvering, the aircraft will be at a lower speed, but both aircraft may be in a position where they cannot shoot. But supermaneuverability allows an aircraft to turn within three seconds and take another shot.”

    “Bogdan repeats a claim made when the Su-27 first performed the cobra maneuver: The rapid change in velocity can cause a Doppler fire-control radar to break lock. The maneuver is more useful on the Su-35S because the pilot can fly the aircraft out in any direction.”

    “In others words, if a stealth aircraft need a 10 kW jammer , a conventional asset will need jammer with power of 10Mw or more.”

    “If the jamming power is keeping the same then burn-through range is reduced by 10 times, which mean stealth assets( RCS =0.001m2 ) can get 10 times closer the threat compared to conventional aircraft ( RCS=0.1m2).”

    The effective range of EW countermeasures of Russian fighter jets is classified, logically. So we can just speculate at what distance could stealth targets be safe. Even if your claims would be true, then realize that jamming aircraft’s sensors is just one of many other options EW of the Su-35S is capable to do, according to the KRET (developer of electronic countermeasures for Russian military aircraft).

    A citatitation from official website:

    “The multifunctional anti-missile complex “Khibiny” developed by KRET provides individual defense of aircraft from missile attacks by enemy fighters and ground-based air defense systems. This complex creates a protective radioelectronic field around the aircraft, as a result, guided missiles lose their purpose. Thus, our fighters become invisible to the enemy.”

    No doubts that Russians are aware of BWR capabilities of U.S. stealth fighter jets, and because of this reason those EW countermeasures were created and are currently in active use on almost every fighter/bomber that RuAF has in its inventory.

    Take a look at the wing-tips.

    Just for imagination, here is a video of similar countermeasure intended primarily for Russian military helicopters, that can deviate incoming missiles from the course as well.

    • Firstly, you should make it clear what are you talking about, because you are asking wrong questions.
      No Russian (Post-Cold War) made aircraft nor aircraft belonging to the Russian Air Force were involved in those wars, only aircraft that the USSR supplied to those countries decades ago.
      And secondly, it has no sense to use air-to-air kills of the F-14/15 against obsolete 3rd generation fighters such as the MiG-21/23 or military helicopters and transport aircraft (which make the biggest part of the F-14/15s kill ratios), as a proof of air superiority of the Western fighters.
      If you want to comparing air-to-air kills between Soviet and American fighter jets so much, then let’s compare kill ratios of the F-4/5 and the MiG-21/23, that are counterparts to each other. You will see there’s not much difference.

Comments are closed.