In the blue sky of military competition, a curious dance emerges between the mighty American B-52H and the speedy Russian Su-35S Flanker-M fighters. The main question is: How is this choreography carried out?

Air-to-air missiles: advantage of the Su-35S

The key lies in the impressive wingspan of the air-to-air missiles that the Su-35S houses. These missiles, which distance the competitors AIM-120D and AIM-260 of American origin, prevent Russian fighters from penetrating dangerous territory.

American B-52H vs. Russian Su-35S and its powerful missiles

The most outstanding missile is the Vympel R-37, whose range of 398 kilometers has earned it the title of “missile beyond visual range.” Each Su-35S carries two of these in its central compartment.

 

Another Russian weapon, the Vympel NPO R-77, is seen as the equivalent of the American AIM-120D, adding power to the Su-35C. With a range of slightly more than 190 kilometers, this missile represents a challenge for US bombers.

Presence of the B-52 in Eastern Europe

American B-52H vs. Russian Su-35S and its powerful missiles
Israeli and US fighter jets fly alongside a US B-52 bomber over the Mediterranean Sea during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, on January 25, 2023. (CENTCOM)

This dance of fighters and bombers is accentuated by the presence of American B-52 bombers in Eastern Europe, specifically over the Baltic skies of Lithuania and Estonia.

These air giants also make an appearance in Poland, participating in exercises over the Black Sea. However, their appearance has drastically decreased since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Despite the comparison, it needs to be stressed that pitting an air superiority fighter against a non-stealthy bomber may be inappropriate. Washington, in fact, has no plans to retire the B-52 but to improve its capacity with modern AESA radars.

Radar technology: B-52 and Su-35S

The B-52 is not the only one with technological improvements. The Su-35S features an advanced Ibris-E radar, capable of detecting enemies at a distance of 350 kilometers and tracking and engaging multiple targets simultaneously.

Although powerful, this radar requires more power to operate during the flight compared to AESA radars.

The continued modernization of the B-52 with AESA radars will improve its navigation and aim in higher-risk areas, while the Su-35S stays on the lookout with its advanced Ibris-E radar.

A possible scenario in Ukraine

American B-52H vs. Russian Su-35S and its powerful missiles
Ukrainian victory: 4 Russian aircraft shot down, including one Su-35S

Given a possible scenario in which Ukraine acquires AIM-120D or AIM-260 missiles for its Su-24 bomber, this aerial dance could have new players.

While the integration of these missiles would require considerable effort and changes to the Su-24 ‘s avionics, the conflict in Ukraine has shown that in the art of aerial confrontation, nothing is impossible.

This is how this aerial dance continues, with the B-52H and the Su-35S as protagonists, in a sky of military rivalries where each move can change the course of the game.