How Fighter Jet Compares To Ukraine’s Incoming F-16s

Ukraine is anticipating the arrival of the first F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from its Western allies. These much-needed aircraft are expected to bolster Kyiv’s efforts to counter Russia’s air advantage after more than two years of intense conflict.

Following months of diplomatic efforts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky successfully secured the jets from NATO allies Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, all of which have donated their fleets to the Ukrainian Air Force. Since early April, Ukrainian pilots have been training on the American-made jets, with deliveries expected within weeks. Zelensky has stated that he needs 120 to 130 of these warplanes to achieve “parity” with Moscow.

The F-16 has a track record of versatility and maneuverability and has been a staple of multiple air forces since the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to deploy its MiG-35, a modernized version of the MiG-29. Experts have raised concerns about the MiG-35, which was designed for intense conflict zones, but there are reports of issues with radar and engines. Currently, Russia is the only country that operates the MiG-35, even though it had hoped for export orders.

Composite image of MiG-35 with F-16
Newsweek illustration. A MiG-35, foreground, and F-16.

Newsweek illustration/AFP via Getty Images/MARINA LYSTSEVA/MANJUNATH KIRAN

Design and Development

MiG-35: The MiG-35, developed by Mikoyan, is an evolution of the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-29K/KUB fighters. It was first introduced in 2007 and has been marketed as a 4++ generation jet, boasting advanced avionics, weapons systems, and reduced radar cross-section. The MiG-35 is designed for both air superiority and multi-role missions.

F-16: The F-16 Fighting Falcon, produced by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin), first took to the skies in 1974. Since then, it has undergone numerous upgrades, with the latest versions incorporating advanced avionics, radar, and weapons systems. The F-16 is renowned for its versatility, having been used by more than 25 countries for a wide range of combat roles.


MiG-35: The MiG-35 features a top speed of approximately Mach 2.25 and a range of about 2,000 kilometers without external fuel tanks. It is equipped with two Klimov RD-33MK engines, providing thrust and maneuverability. The aircraft also boasts advanced fly-by-wire controls and a Zhuk-AE Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, enhancing its target detection and tracking capabilities.

F-16: The F-16 has a top speed of around Mach 2 and a combat radius of approximately 550 kilometers. Its single Pratt & Whitney F100 or General Electric F110 engine offers reliable performance and agility. The F-16’s AN/APG-83 SABR AESA radar provides superior situational awareness and target tracking.

Graphic showing MiG-35 with annotations


MiG-35: The MiG-35 can carry a diverse array of weaponry, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, guided bombs, and rockets. It is equipped with a 30mm GSh-30-1 cannon and can carry up to 7,000 kilograms of external ordnance. The MiG-35’s weapons systems are integrated with advanced targeting pods and electronic warfare suites.

F-16: The F-16’s arsenal includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), and a variety of precision-guided bombs. It also features an M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon and can carry up to 7,700 kilograms of ordnance. The F-16’s targeting capabilities are augmented by advanced targeting pods like the Sniper XR.

Avionics and Systems

MiG-35: The MiG-35 is equipped with a state-of-the-art avionics suite, including a Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS), a modern glass cockpit, and an advanced infrared search and track (IRST) system. The Zhuk-AE radar enhances its multi-role capabilities, allowing for simultaneous tracking of multiple targets.

F-16: The F-16 features a sophisticated avionics package, including a HMDS, a modernized glass cockpit, and advanced data link capabilities. Its AN/APG-83 SABR AESA radar significantly improves its detection and tracking range, making it a formidable opponent in both air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements.

Graphic showing F-16 with annotations

Operational History

MiG-35: The MiG-35 has not seen extensive combat use, but it has been actively marketed to potential international customers and showcased in various airshows. Its development aimed to provide an affordable yet advanced fighter option for countries seeking to upgrade their air forces.

F-16: The F-16 has an extensive combat history, having been used in numerous conflicts around the world, from the Gulf War to the ongoing operations in the Middle East. Its combat-proven reliability and adaptability have made it a staple in many air forces globally.