Flanker vs Eagle

There has been talk of mock combat between Su-27's and F-15's when a Su-27 and a Su-27UB made a goodwill visit to Langley AFB in the USA.

Depending on whose story you believe - the Russian's wiped the floor with the Americans (according to the Rusians) - or there was no mock combat - the Russians cheated and turned what was some formation flying into air combat and caught the F-15's off guard (according to the Americans).

I make no conclusions - I am just reporting what has been claimed

This is from Andrei Fomin's book on the Su-27............

One of the first opportunities to make an unbiased comparison of the Su-27 and F-15 in action occurred in August 1992 when two Su-27UB combat trainers flown by pilots Col. A. Kharchevsky and Maj. Ye. Karabasov of the Russian Air Force’s Lipetsk-based Combat Employment and Retraining Centre paid a visit to Langley AFB (Va.) – the home base of the 1st tactical fighter wing of the US Air Force.

During the visit the first ‘joint manoeuvring’ of Su-27UBs and F-15Ds in the flight arena took place. At the time, Ye. Karabasov flew the aircraft with the rear seat being occupied by an American pilot, with two Americans flying the opposing Eagle.

Speaking afterwards with a local newspaper reporter about which aircraft was better, the American pilots, hiding a certain embarrassment, noted that both fighters were good and had more or less similar performances. But when speaking with their Russian opposite numbers and technical experts, they acknowledged the unsurpassed superiority of the Su-27. The Eagle failed to get on the Flanker's tail while Maj. Karabasov’s vigorous manoeuvring allowed him to keep the F-15 in his sights nearly all the time. The mock combat ended after several unsuccessful attempts by the F-15’s pilot to change the situation for the better.

The Su-27’s impressive superiority over the Mirage was shown during the joint Russian-South African tactical exercise held from 16 September until 20 October 1995 at the South-African air bases Hoisprut and Louie Trinchard. The Russian side was represented by a Su-30 and a Su-35 - as well as by a MiG-29 and a MiG-29UB. The Flankers were flown by Sukhoi test pilots V.G. Pugachov, Ye.I. Frolov and I.Ye. Solovyov - Their South African counterparts flew Mirage F.1AZ aircraft as well as Cheetahs (a Mirage III upgrade). The Russian fighters won all dogfights – both one-on-one and one Russian against two SAAF opponents. The Russians also displayed an impressive long-range advantage.

This a repudiation found on the internet.....

SU-27 v F-15 DACT urban legends
    Tue May 21 16:32:21 2002

Okay, I can't stand it anymore. Twice in the last month there have been threads here talking about Flankers fighting
Eagles in Summer '92 and having their lunch. After this last time I decided to check on it. I was surprised, first of
all, that I had never heard about this before. I flew Eagles in the 94FS at Langley, which was the squadron that
went to Russia then hosted them when they visited the U.S.

With my usual impeccable sense of timing I managed to leave the squadron shortly before all this happened, but I still personally knew and and had flown with 90% of the pilots assigned to the squadron at the time and 100% of the pilots that flew in these exchange visits.

Somehow in the 10 years that have passed they had failed to mention to me in numerous conversations about this very subject
that any DACT occurred, I don't think so!

In addition to still flying for the Air Force Reserve I work as an F-15 sim instructor at Langley; which means I'm current on the latest F-15 progams and performance, surely there would be some record (classified or unclassified) of this apochryphal event and the lessons learned if the Eagle had been beaten so badly.

There isn't, period dot

Rather than relying on all this hearsay I contacted three pilots that I was stationed with at Langley, and who flew in Flanker backseats, gave Russian pilots Eagle rides and flew Eagles in formation with the SU-27's and are still flying the F-15. I passed on the Air Forces Monthly "story" as quoted, and after they had stopped laughing hysterically the bottom line they told me was this: the amount of DACT that took place between Eagles and Flankers in Summer 1992 was...NONE, nada, zip, zero, nyet, a big doughnut.

DACT was not just frowned upon or discouraged; it was forbidden, mainly for two reasons. Nobody wanted the political heat/fallout that would result if one of the jets went out of control and crashed or, worse, if they had a mid-air in the hard maneuvering that DACT implies. Second, despite recent warm feelings toward the Russians nobody was going to allow anything remotely classified to be passed on, so the F-15's were flown radar, TEWS, PACS panel, ICS off. When all your weapons systems are turned off it becomes pointless to fly DACT, unless you're planning to recreate WWI, WWII, and Korea by fighting guns only.

In which case give me an A-10 that can turn up it's own ass and has a big gun.

What actually did occur (and probably the loose basis for this "dramatic story") was that, in addition to single ship   backseat rides the F-15's and SU-27's went out and flew tactical formation with each other (line abreast 1 to 2 miles apart with 2000 to 3000 feet vertical spacing). During 90 degree turns in this formation one aircraft turns first and passes 3000 to 4000 feet through the 6 'o clock of the second jet to go, at which point that second jet starts its turn in order to roll out line abreast but with both jets pointed 90 degrees off the formation's original heading.

During one of these turns the Flanker, rather than continuing to the expected heading, stopped at the Eagles dead six for 3000 feet. After several seconds of wondering what the Hell the SU-27 pilot was doing the F-15 pilot spent 20 seconds trying to shake him and was unable, and then stopped, which proves? Basically nothing.

In the fighter community nobody starts 3000 foot perch setups at the defender's dead six, because staying behind somebody after that kind of start is on a par with clubbing baby seals in its level of difficulty. Instead the offender actually moves to the defender's 4 or 8 'o clock for 3000 feet before starting the fight. Even then in this more difficult setup the offender still stays in an offensive position 95% of the time. The 5% he doesn't is usually a result of him grossly porking up his BFM. It should be emphasized this was a single event, unplanned, unexpected, and half-heartedly done and not some series of "mock dogfights."

As Paul Harvey says "that's the rest of the story" straight from participants in the event not some second, third, or fourth hand magazine article or internet rumor which just repeats what somebody else wrote. In the future if you want to argue the merits of the two aircraft please spare us the repetition of this non-event as proof and stick to comparing them based on their airframe/weapons performance as published.


Another piece about DACM between the Russians and South Africans translated from a Russian magazine article...

Under the agreement on technical and military cooperation between the air forces of the South African Republic and Russia, Hoespruit AB hosted an exercise between 16 and 30 September in which two MiG-29s participated, with a similar exercise hosted in 11-20 October by Louis Trinchardt AB, in which a Su-30 and a Su-35 (tail number 709) took part. The magazine’s Vladimir Ilyin interviewed a participant in those hallmark exercises, Col. Leksandr Nikolayevich Kharchevsky, Deputy Chief, Science, Lipetsk Combat Training and Conversion Centre. The name of this pilot has been repeated mentioned in the aviation-related press.
In the summer of 1992, Col. Kharchevsky and Maj. Karabasov flew their Su-27UB combat trainers over to Langley AFB, U.S., where they staged mock battles with McDonnel Douglas F-15s, won by the Russians.

“Aleksandr Nikolayevich, what was your role in the [South African] exercise?”
“In addition to fighting mock battles, I was responsible for flight preparation, organisation and safety during the exercises.”
“How would you characterise your ‘opponent’, the SAR Air Force?”
“We encountered with Cheetah (upgraded Mirage IIIs) and Mirage F.1 fighters. The pilots were a 15-16-personnel joint team from both air bases.
“Special mention should be made of the South African pilots’ skills – they are excellent. Our military pilots and their civilian colleagues from design bureaux (Taskayev and Antonovich participated on behalf of the MiG MAPO and Sukhoi’s participants were Pugachov, Frolov and Solovyov) were unanimous that, compared with military pilots from other countries met by them, South Africans proved to feature the best professional skills both theoretical and practical. They are proficient in virtually all dogfighting and long-range air combat techniques, their antiradar and antimissile evasive manoeuvring skills are beyond reproach and in the air they feel like fish in water. In flight they decelerate to zero speed, stall, accelerate again and in doing so use all capabilities of their aircraft while keeping tabs on the opponent.”
“Obviously, their combat experience gained in Angola came in handy?”
“Certainly, they have it alright. The meet of the matter is they succeeded in retaining that experience and basing their combat training on it. Credits for that goes to the SAR Air Force commanders.”
“Flight ours they had logged must have mattered too, mustn’t they?”
“Sure, our hosts had no lack of avgas – they get it as much as they need. Their fighter pilots log about 250 flying hours yearly. They fly virtually daily, except Saturday and Sunday, with one or two sorties flown per day. In short, they maintain excellent shape.”
“Could you compare the South African pilots with their American counterparts you have met?”
“I believe, the South African pilots have one-upped the Americans in some respects. Americans talked a lot of dogfighting but, I’d say, were not too hot on fighting actual dogfights. We had to nudge our US colleagues to make them fight, while the South Africans were gagging to lock horns. Their very first question was, “When do we start mock battles?” When I asked them about how they see US pilots whom they met often enough, they virtually mirrored our opinion that our American pilots’ self-confidence and gung-ho are not always substantiated.
“Before we came to South Africa, the SAR Air Force somehow believed that us Russians do not conduct free dogfighting (probably, this was the opinion made on the basis of the information provided by the South African pilot who had been on loan to Krasnodar’s air force academy to fly the MiG-29). Therefore, our hosts had a reason to believe that, in spite of their older aircraft their excellent flying skills would beat us in furballs.
In the first mock battle, which I fought with a Cheetah flown by a nice lad and top-notch professional pilot named Kazino [sp.?], I saw with my own eyes that the opponent’s mastery of his bird was perfect. He was unafraid to decelerate and always kept tabs on the fluid situation… What I beat him with was the Kolokol (Bell) manoeuvre which enables one to immediately gain tactical advantage when performed properly. With me pulling off the Kolokol, the Cheetah raced through, with me dropping onto her in no time. It took my opponent some time to realise what had happened… Although from the tactical standpoint, loss of speed, as a rule, equals loss of advantage. However, when employed right, the Kolokol in some situations can earn you a sure victory: literally 20 seconds are enough to attain complete advantage in combat, even though certain risk persists, of course.”
“It is known that during your visit to Langley AFB there was so-called ‘joint manoeuvring’ held by Su-27UBs and F-15Ds, in the course of which one aircraft was supposed to tail the other, with their roles being swung on order. What kind of mock battles did you fight in the SAR?”
“They resembled real encounters as much as possible. The “rules of engagement” were as follows: one aircraft was supposed to search for its adversary at an altitude of, say, over 7,000 m, with the other doing the same below 6,000 m. None of the two was allowed to change its echelon until its pilot had a visual on his opponent. The target spotted, no holds were barred.”
“Did your hosts win any dogfights?”
“First we had a few one-on-one dogfights – two to three battles in a sortie. We locked horns in a furball – he who got on the opponent’s tail is the winner. Then we are ordered away from each other again for another go… South-African pilots lost all dogfights to see with their own eyes that their aircraft were no match for the MiG-29. Following that, the hosts said that they had prepared a surprise for us in a long-range engagement. Indeed, the first long-range encounter was almost a draw. Based on gun camera recorders (I should admit that their data recorders are much superior to ours, everything is recorded on tape and one can use a Sony VCR to watch the tape and make his conclusions), the missile range was the criterion for determining the winner: our ranges proved to be only 2-3 km longer than those of the opponents: at an altitude of 6,000 m a SAR pilot ‘launched’ a missile at a range of 33 km.”
“But Aleksandr Nikolayevich, as far as I know, the South-African Air Force has none of such missiles in its inventory.”
“Right you are. We asked them the same question. At first, they tried to duck it but then admitted that the computer was programmed to ‘fire’ a hypothetical future missile. On our part, we ‘used’ organic R-27s. It should be acknowledged that even though the South Africans failed to win the long-range battles either (no doubt, our materiel proved to be superior of theirs), we still were surprised by the top-notch fighting skills of the hosts. The South Africans proved that they were proficient in all up-to-date tactics of both short- and long-range combat (for instance, they managed several times to break off our lock-on by skilful manoeuvring).
At first, all the mock battles we had were one-on-one, then a single MiG-29 would fight two adversaries. In such a situation everything looks quite clear: pursuing one opponent, you leave your tail vulnerable to the other. And our hosts realised this full well. However, we used tactics that made our opponents re-from from a frontal formation to a ‘column’ formation and then, having let the forward bandit go, we would attack the rear one, i.e. we did our best to show that we knew how to fight against two opponents.
“Also, mention should be made of the South Africans’ excellent visual target detection skills, especially those used on the head-on course.”
“How were fighters guided in long-range battles?”
“Only by commands of the ground controller.”
“What were safety measures during the exercise?”
“All safety measures were agreed upon beforehand. There were no disagreements on them: it is easy to deal with professionals. In fact, only once we had some disagreements – it was following the failure of the ground-based guidance radar, which made the planned mock battle a sort of hairy. The hosts insisted that every fighter carries its organic radar for the pilot to know his whereabouts. But what about a lock-on break-off or the radar’s failure?
“The South Africans realised this full well but they were very tempted to fly anyway. I told them: “No radar, no long-range encounters.” They summoned repairmen who fixed the radar overnight. See how keen they were to fight?”
“The press reported the SAR teaming up with MiG MAPO to re-engine the South African Cheetahs and Mirages with Russian-made RD-33 engines. Did any re-engined fighter take part in the exercise?”
“As far as I know, there is only one Mirage in South Africa, which is powered by a Russian-made engine. However, it has not completed its trials yet, so it took no part in the joint exercise. I think that no matter how hard one tries to upgrade the Cheetah and Mirage F.1, whatever engines are installed, these aircraft are unable to pull of what fourth-generation fighters can, even though the Cheetah features a good fire control radar. Its acquisition range is just 8-10 km shorter than that of the MiG-29, with its lock-on range being 5-8 km shorter, depending on the altitude. The radar features a stable lock-on. Our radars was virtually unable to jam it, even though we did or best to do so with our more powerful radars.”
“How did Sukhoi fighter perform in South Africa?”
“They were OK too. We would put a South African pilot in the back seat following a 30-minute ground school, and they would handle the fire control radar quite well in the air and could ‘fight’ against his compatriots supervised by our instructors.
“And us flying the Su-35 had to have four mock battles per sortie. The matter is we tried to save the service life of this prototype, therefore we offered to complete the whole number of mock battles with the minimum number of takeoffs and landings.
“However, our trick failed and we had to made all 28 sorties scheduled, with South African pilots managing to conduct almost as twice battles as planned.
“We put up a good fight in all situations, showing what our planes and pilots can do. However, the we fought, the more South Africans wanted to fight. They said they wanted to learn and train. Finally, I had to put it bluntly that we were no trainers, nor simulators, we had come to the SAR not as instructors, rather to show them our materiel for them to fall in love with it and buy it.”
“Well, one can see their point – they are pilots.”
“Yeah, but our mission was not provide training, we were tasked to showcase Russian planes and prompt the South African Air Force to buy them.”
“What’s your opinion of the SAR Air Force?”
“I happened to fly with nearly all South African pilots who were taking part in the exercise and I saw with my own eyes that their skills were high, real high. Each of them was worth his mates. There were 12 pilots organic to the squadron and 27 aircraft.”
“How come there are so few pilots?”
“I guess this is due to economic considerations. They have a lot of reserve pilots who could be quickly recalled to active duty, with the rather lean cadre being able to maintain their top-notch combat skills. To my mind, this approach could be put to use by the Russian Air Force too: it is the optimal approach from the money-saving and flight safety point of view. Better provide superb training to a limited number of pilots who will be able to accomplish any mission than ‘spread’ flying hours and gas amongst a large number of personnel who will be able just to take off and land.”
South African  pilots, especially fighter jocks, retire very young, below 41. They normally get jobs with civilian airlines where they are paid handsomely. At the same time, they remain part of the Air Force reserve.

“How were Russian pilots treated in South Africa, given that the SAR was regarded not so long ago as a hostile power, the ‘bastion of apartheid’, with the South African military sharing a similar attitude to the Soviet Union?”
“The commanders of the first air base, Hoespruit, gave us a cold shoulder. Fancy that – an An-124 arrives with a General Gavrilov-led delegation on board and accompanied by a pair of MiG-29s, we are met by a squadron leader, a lieutenant-colonel. Sure, this is not really in keeping with military courtesy. The air base commanding officer was said to be away, at an important golf tournament. We made acquaintance with him three days later, in a bar, where he did say hello to our delegation. He did his best to handle all issues, including signing the joint flight programme, via his deputies at the level of deputy squadron leaders. However, we received a very warm welcome at the Louis Trinchardt air base. I guess everything depends on a specific person.”
“How did the Russian and South African pilots treat one another?”
“They hit it off right away, even though they tried to bend the arguments a couple of times. You see, it ain’t easy for a fighter pilot to admit he lost a battle. Therefore, we had to prove our wins very clearly.”
“What use do you think the exercise had?”
“I think, the exercise proved to be more useful to the South Africans pilots. The matter is they fought the aircraft of another generation, far more advanced ones. And we had a chance to gauge combat training of pilots from a different air force and compare it with that of the US pilots.”
“The aircraft you brought to South Africa were designed for a somewhat different climate. How did they behave in the southern hemisphere?”
“Without a hitch. The MiG-29s had not a single malfunction, let alone failure. not a single sortie was delayed. The same is true for the Sukhoi planes. The only snag was hit by the Su-35: it was very hot, and hour planes were too large to fit the hangars available and had to be left outside. As a result we had to fine-tune the automatics of its engines.”
“Were the Mirages and Cheetahs as reliable as hour planes?”
“I wouldn’t say so. They had their failures and delays. At tomes, an aircraft of hours would take off and theirs wouldn’t. Mind you, hour hosts had substitutes and we had only one combat aircraft.”
“What did your South African colleagues think of our aircraft?”
“They gave them a high appraisal. In particular, they noted their high manoeuvrability, controllability and ease and reliability of maintenance.”
“So, what would you say about the business outcome of the exercise? When are our fighter going  to be fielded with the South African Air Force?”
“Participants in exercises are no decision-makers, theirs is to evaluate aircraft.”