Dogfight! F-16 Fighting Falcon vs. MiG-29/35 Fulcrum – who is better?

Perhaps there is no greater rivalry in the air between these two fighters – the American F-16 and the Russian MiG-29. When we talk about them, we have the feeling that they cannot really exist without each other. If you remove only one plane from the equation, the other one will no longer be the same.

Today we will look at, compare and contrast their best available versions – F-16 Fighting Falcon* and MiG-29/35 Fulcrum.

Both fighters will be compared according to the following criteria:

  • Value of one base model and cost per hour of flight [$];
  • Speed and maneuverability;
  • Beyond visual range
  • Weapons;
  • Basic dimensions

#1 – Value and flight cost per hour – F-16 won

Both basic models have a significant difference, both in the price of one aircraft and in the flight cost per hour.

The base model of the F-16 costs about $ 35 million, while its Russian rival is nearly one and a half times more – $ 55 million.

A similar difference is observed in the flight cost per hour – F-16 consumes about 12,000 US dollars, while MiG-29/35 consumes 15,600 US dollars.

According to this indicator, we have a clear favorite and winner and this is the American F-16 aircraft.

#2 – Speed and maneuverability – MiG-29/35 won

We need to understand one thing about Russian fighters – in general, there are no more maneuverable than them in the world. No matter which models we’re tallking about and no matter which models we’re comparing them with. This is a distinctive feature of the Russian military aircraft industry.

We explain this fact with the historical DNA of both countries. Ie – The United States has never been attacked on their land and therefore prefers to deal with the enemy from a distance. Russia, on the other hand, was attacked by Napoleon and Hitler, in both cases accepting the enemy close to itself and then defeating it in close combat. Ie Russia prefers close combat because it has done so over the years on its own land.

That is why the characteristics of this indicator are identical to their historical DNA. The Russian fighter develops a speed of 2.25 Mach and has a coefficient of maneuverability of 9.6 out of 10 possible (3D Thrust), while its American counterpart develops a speed of 2.00 Mach and a coefficient of maneuverability of 7.9 out of 10 possible

Here, the undisputed winner is the Russian MiG-29/35 fighter.

#3 – Visual range – F-16 won

As mentioned before, both sides have different ways of thinking. And if before the Russians led with speed and maneuverability, now the Americans are leveling the score, precisely because they prefer to solve things at a distance, avoiding problems on their territory.

The F-16 uses AN / APG-80 AESA radar, which according to accepted international standards for military equipment is rated excellent. The Russian MiGs use Phazotron Zhuk AE AESA radar, which is rated very good by the same standards.

The main difference comes from the fact that the Russian radar is the first Russian Active Electronically Steered Array and they have not yet mastered and developed this technology to the level of American competitors. Ie the Russian radar employs lower density liquid cooled quad channel transmit receive module packaging technology which is comparable to first generation US AESA designs.

At the same time, the Americans are constantly upgrading and improving their AN / APG-80 AESA, both for the needs of the US Air Force and those of their partners around the world. And if the Russians are now new to this technology, the Americans are already a few laps ahead of them.

Realistically, the indicators are in Russia’s favor, but the winner in this category is the F-16 because of the continuous upgrade of systems that you can trust more.

#4 Armament – F-16 won

In reality, it is very difficult and almost impossible to compare the armament of both aircraft for one reason: their end result is the same and it depends on the ability of the pilot, not so much on any characteristics.

However, we can compare the rate of fire, which is a factor. The F-16 is equipped with the M61A1 Vulcan Cannon and has a 6000 rpm rate of fire, while the Russian aircraft is equipped with the GSh-30-1 Cannon and has an 1800 rpm rate of fire.

Also, the muzzle velocity of the Russian MiG is 800 m/s, while the F-16 is only 1050 m/s

In this category it is difficult to determine a winner because of the subjective factor – the pilot. However, due to the important characteristics of the main gun, the F-16 is the winner.

#5 Size – MiG-29/35 won

Dimensions are also a more or less subjective factor that cannot guarantee the superiority of one of the two fighters.

To be more maneuverable, the Russian fighter has a larger wingspan (12 m. while the F-16 has 9.45 m.), has a greater length (17.30 m., while the F-16 is 15 m. long) and the wing area is larger than the American F-16 (38 sq.m. versus 28 sq.m. of the F-16).

Precisely because of its better maneuverability in the air, which is achieved with the help of some of these characteristics, the Russian fighter wins in this category.

# 6 The winner is F-16 Fighting Falcon

The winner, in our opinion, is the American F-16 fighter. Why?

The main reason is not in the fact that the F-16 won one category more than its Russian competitor, but because it lost in one of the categories.


If we had made this comparison 30-40 years ago during the Cold War, then the Russian fighter would have won, based on the fact that a clash between the United States and the Soviet Union was possible.

But we are comparing now. Nowadays, wars are fought from a distance, which is why unmanned technologies are being improved.

With its ability to strike from a distance, the F-16 can save the life of the pilot and the equipment, which costs millions of dollars. In a direct one-to-one combat, the chances of the Russian MiG winning are high, but so is the chance that both planes will be damaged.

“Know your enemy” is a basic principle in war. When you know him so well and you know that if you get close to him you can get hurt, why take the risk and not try to anticipate and prevent his advantage.

Maneuverability was an advantage before, now it is the ability to avoid direct combat, and still be the ultimate winner.

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