A Russian fighter pilot claims he and his Su-35 got the better of an American pilot flying a F-22 Raptor. The F-22 is known for its stealth capabilities. The Su-35 is not. Yet the Russian pilot, bragging on Instagram, claims that he not only spotted the F-22, but showed up the pilot and the plane in a mock dogfight.
The incident allegedly occurred over Syria. U.S. fighters and Russian fighters are both flying missions above the country, though the two countries take great pains to keep their planes away from each other.
The pilot posted an image on Instagram as proof of his exploits.
“The picture shows an F-22 in flight on what looks broadly like an image produced by an infrared search and track (IRST) system,” Business Insider notes, “which the Su-35 houses in its nose cone area and looks for heat, not radar cross section, potentially helping it find stealth aircraft at close ranges.”
The Russian pilot claims he was able to lock-on to the F-22. BI translated the Russian: “F-22 was arrogant and was punished after a short air battle, for which of course it got f—–.”
The F-22 is all-but invisible to the Russian pilots. As they are hard to find on radar, the Russians have begun trying to track them by their heat signatures.
Some are questioning the truth behind the claim. Many doubt the veracity of the photo itself. And even if it was genuine, “it doesn’t alone suggest that the Su-35S is reliably capable of detecting and intercepting the F-22,” Justin Bronk told BI. Bronk works for the Royal United Services Institute where he studies air combat.
“Furthermore, the F-22 will have been aware of the Su-35’s presence since the latter took off so it isn’t really any indication of a diminishment of the F-22’s combat advantage,” he said.
“IRST systems can be used to detect and potentially track stealth aircraft under specific conditions,” Bronk added. Even so, that “doesn’t mean that they are anything approaching a satisfactory solution to the problem of fighting against such targets as they have limited range compared to radar, and are vulnerable to environmental disruption and degradation.”
Even Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon has weighed in on the post. The Pentagon, he noted, was “unable to verify the claims made on Instagram.”
“Russia has been conducting a concentrated disinformation campaign in Syria to sow confusion and undercut US and allied efforts there,” he added.