Fighter Air crafts:-
Modern aircrafts are like mobile phones, we can’t say which is best and which is better. All are having some unique capability designed for some specific purpose. Aircrafts are designed and weaponized according to the mission. The 4th generation Requirement of an aircraft is JET engine, Radar (Electro-magnetic sensor), Laser designation pod (Electro-optical sensor) with counter measures (Defensive systems). This aircrafts could be detected by enemy radar. The 5th generation aircrafts are 4th + stealth capability. With stealth capability the chances of detection of the aircraft is negligible. Now some basic comparison parameter of aircraft
1. Weight to thrust ratio if it is more then 1 for an aircraft. That means it can go vertically up like rocket. ( Almost all aircraft have more than 1. EF-2000 is 10, Sukhoi 15). Engine power matters a lot.
Sukhoi Fighter plane – Front view
2. Radar and Laser pod and Electronic warfare suit. More the sensor you have more the aware you were be about situation. (Sukhoi and F-16 has two Electro optic and one Radar, where as other aircraft has only one radar and 1 LDP). F-16 has 16 awareness antennas, so any single tinny missile it can detect fired on it.
3. Number of hard points how many points are there in your aircraft to fit missile and bombs. sukoi has total 17, EF 13, LCA 9, grippen 11/13
4. How sleek and fuel capacity of your aircraft is?? Big aircraft have more fuel and can stay in sky for hours. F-16 sleekest very fast turning but medium size Sukhoi Bigger so much fuel and it is even deadly. Short turning radius than F-16 other lies in this region only. LCA is too having deadly turning radius because of small size and unstable configuration.
5. Design of Aircraft fighter aircraft may be in stable Aerodynamic configuration or unstable Aerodynamic configuration Stable aircraft need not required to bother stay strait in the sky in ideal condition they will be stable, but took and need. More effort to break the stability i.e turning sequence.
While unstable aircraft always bother to stay straight in sky and for turning its way easy for them. LCA is unstable EF RAFEL these are unstable aircraft there flight control computer is very curtail factor equipment.
Sukhoai, F-16 and F-18 are stable aircrafts but Sukhoi has a leading Edge that it can vector its thrust. All the thrust force is coming out straight back in aircrafts but Sukhoi has tremendous Vectrization of thrust. It can rotate the direction of its Engine nozzle. That’s why it is air superiority stable and unstable both (main reason i like it most). Euro Fighter has some vector thrust this time i came to know when i flew it in there simulator. Sea-harrier aircraft have +/- 90 degree vector thrusting, so it can lift vertically without runway. JSF and F-35 are comes under this category.
6. Air Brake On design point of view EF rafle have one small wing called CANARD on its nose that used to work as its tremendous air break for short runway ( Specially designed for Europe to land on 700M long road). The same can find out it in Sukhoi too Also Sukhoi, F-16 and F-18 have tail wing (called horizontal stabilizer) that works as same for these aircrafts. They have separate air breaks which on apply just increase the drag surface area of aircrafts.
LCA, F-16 has 2 just beside engine, F-18 has none but it uses its RUDDER (the vertical fin). As air break Sukhoi have very BIG one just behind pilot seat on main fuse leg you see some photos it used to be open.
7. Roll of Aircrafts (mission) some aircraft are designed mainly for Ground attack some for Air combat. But some can perform any thing
JUGUAR and MIRAG are ground attack aircraft they have very high speed load capability but bigger turning radius. This aircraft may have fewer sensors and more weapons under the Cover of air superiority. (In Kargil MIG-29 gives cover to jaguar aircraft while they were bombing the bunkers and Mig were petrolling). Almost all aircrafts are all mission capable depends upon the fuel and weapon.
More the fuel more deep you can go. Sukhoi , F-18 are major Deep penetrators.
Last but not least, the pilots. Pilots are the real hero’s, whether he is F-16 pilot of Sukhoi or a Mig-21 pilot. The capability of pilot and his physical capability define the performance of an aircraft. One pilot sitting in F-16 afraid of pulling 6 G and one pilot sitting in Mig-27 pulling continuously 6G who is better who survived.
This was a real story of Iraq war, one Iraqi pilot survived of 3 missiles. But later he ejected because he has no fuel. So, if you leave technical specification and technical capability ultimately the pilots are here who made it to win the war. It is same like one AK-47 also kills and one Double barrel also.
In air combat it start with BVR missiles using radar Aircrafts will start firing (BVR) 30 -50 KM range beyond visual range missiles aircrafts used to have chaff/ flare for evading those missile. By that time they will come some more close they will fire CCM (close combat missiles) 5 -20 Km range on each other. Here chaff (Pilot) works to evade the incoming missile. Then still if both survived they will start using gun. (Called DOG-FIGHT) and who is having sharper turning ability to break (slow down the speed without losing height) and stay in air used to win.
See if some aircraft can stand in air and not losing its height then other aircraft will go forward and the rear aircraft can easily shoot. In dogfight who is behind and bellow used to in the war and the person who is ahead or in top generally used to killed.
Interesting fact is that if aircraft slows down below its limit aircraft will start stalling and it will fell down but Sukhoi is killer in this case, even F-16 and other don’t have that much capability. Sea-harrier is exception here as they can stand in air but cannot move instantly. That's why all aircraft used to show there slow speed pass in every aero show. You might have seen all aircraft used to show how slow they can move (its slow cycle race kind of thing).
Now compare to technology
There are basically two poles in aircraft technology even none can be ignored but the world or industry is divided in two thinking in COLD-WAR Era.
American’s believe in better sensor and fighting from far. They believe as soon as you detect or find your foe you kill them by long range missile. Need not to go close to them. That’s why they started developing advanced radar, tracking equipments and concentrated on Electronic warfare system. Their radar’s are best high performance algorithm for weapon is advanced.
Russian’s believe on their pilot. They do not believe more on sensor, so they are making their aircraft like "Jacky chain". Who just saw an arrow coming towards him and will bend himself in such a way that arrow won’t even touch him. This is called agility how better and fast you can change your direction. Mig-21 has more killing ratio then F-4 (previous version of F-16). It happened during Vietnam War F-4 keep firing missile on their enemy and MIGs escaping finally MIG fired and F-4 can’t escape. (Mig 21 has only 2 missile station and F-4 have 4 missile station). That’s why still MIG 21 is in service and it has clocked the highest figure in any produced aircraft. All Russian aircrafts are agile except few meant for some other mission.
Previously all aircrafts were FLY-BY-GEAR mechanical coupling from cockpit to control surface of aircrafts, now a day’s FLY-BY-WIRE. All 4th generation are 1553B protocol based and 5th generation are following high speed data transmission through fiber optic cable 1776.
EF is somehow implemented optical cable but other aircraft, I don’t know these technology information is secret only Designer/production people knows.
If you ask me to choose 5 aircraft’s, I will choose
1. Sukhoi All in one package. It is so capable that by default it need two pilot to fully operate one Pilot and one Navigator/Armament
2. F-16 Deadly turns, speed and technology.
3. EF/RAFALE Connard and short runway capability.
4. MIG-29 K navy / MIG 21
5 F-18 / jaguaar
At last you should not wonder why I didn’t compared LCA. Above all aircrafts are MIDIUM to HIGH RANGE aircraft (in terms of size and operational range). LCA is small size small range aircraft designed to engaged local target within 300-500 km. (as aircraft requires same amount of fuel to safely return back to Airbase)
So, if I say 300-500 km means actually it can go up to 600-1000 KM in a single refueling in ferry mode. Sukhoi is some 3500 KM.
LCA has all 4th++ generation sensor systems if it was an electronic warfare or technology comparison sure it is comparable. Its limitation was its size and no of stations and range. But it has advantages also less cross section for radar detection and in cost factor 1 LCA is around $20 to 35 million and same 4th generation F-16 is $ 55 million. (Refer The economics times Saturday 15 march 2008) So we will compare LCA only after final production and after operational deployment.
But it is the cheapest and best available aircraft of 4.5th generation can easily replace MIG-21 .