JAS 39 Gripen vs Su-27 : which fighter will be better and under what conditions?

Apparently, such a comparison was made only by the Chinese in 2015, but it will also be relevant for the Armed Forces in 2023

Sweden officially refused to give Ukraine JAS 39 Gripen fighters, but it still gave permission to train our pilots for these planes. The Swedish media assume that this may be the first step on the way to the fact that after some time, the Armed Forces will receive Gripen, especially since our country has the corresponding intention. Sweden has the will to support our state in the war against the Russian Federation.

JAS 39 Gripen vs Su-27 : which fighter will be better and under what conditions?
JAS 39 Gripen of the Royal Thai Air Force, illustrative photo by Saab

In practice, the JAS 39 Gripen showed its superiority over Soviet-type aircraft, even if it happened in 2015 during exercises in Asia under very specific conditions.

In the public domain, we can read that in the same 2015, China and Thailand conducted the Falcon Strike exercise, where the participants from the Thai side were JAS-39C and JAS-39D from the 701st squadron of the Thai Air Force and from the Chinese side – Su-27SK. This training lasted 4 days and showed the following result.

During training battles “beyond visual visibility” (BVR – Beyond Visual Range), Thai JAS 39 Gripen pilots showed 41 “effective impressions of the enemy,” and Chinese Su-27SK pilots – only nine. 

During training battles at a distance of more than 30 km, the Thai “Gripens” had 88% of “effective hits,” and the Chinese Su-27 – only 14%. And during simulated fights at a distance of more than 50 km, the JAS 39 Gripen of the Thai Air Force showed 10 victories, while the Chinese on the Su-27 – none.

As it turned out, Russian-made air-to-air missiles RVV-AE, also known as R-77, at the disposal of the Air Force showed an effective range of only 50 km, while the AIM-120 AMRAAM has an effective range of at least 80 km.

The difference in the characteristics of on-board radars was also important: the Chinese Su-27 uses H001 “Sword” (RLPK-27) with a target detection range of up to 120 km, while the JAS 39 Gripen uses Ericsson PS-05/A with a detection range of targets up to 160 km.

The “effective scattering area” indicator also played its role, which for the JAS 39 Gripen was only 1.5 square meters, while for the Su-27, it was as much as 15 square meters (and the F-16 was only 1.2 square meters).

JAS 39 Gripen vs Su-27
Chinese Su-27SK

The only combat format where the Chinese on the Su-27 were able to show an advantage over the Thai “Gripens” was dog fight-style fights literally at a distance of visual visibility, and there the simulated result looked like 25 “destroyed” JAS 39 Gripens against one Su-27.

But here, even the Chinese themselves admitted that they managed to show such a result only because the Thai Air Force used old short-range air-to-air missiles AIM-9L instead of IRIS-T for such clashes. At the same time, what type of missiles was used by the Chinese side for these exercises, the representatives of the Armed Forces remained modestly silent.

Nevertheless, the above is enough to show at least one example where the JAS 39 Gripen is superior to Soviet-style machines. And this will be useful in the context of the transition of the Armed Forces to modern Western-style aircraft.