The F/A-18 was in one of the lead flights of the strike package on the opening night of Desert Storm. The Foxbat was tooling around Baghdad in burner, lighting up the whole sky. The F-15's were reportedly begging AWACs to release weapons so that they could kill the idiot, but the controllers were reluctant to give up the element of surprise before a single bomb had fallen.
Suddenly, without warning, the Foxbat turned toward the strike package and fired a missile which hit the Hornet. Seconds later, with the gloves now off, the F-15's killed the Foxbat. Sad story.
What I really worry about is the competence and quality of the Russian Air Force. We have a really bad habit of continuously under-estimating how smart those Ruskies are.
Our last air to air victory was enough to put a serious shiver down your spine. FA-18C vs. SU-22 Fitter. Our absolutely "awesome" all aspect seeking, just released the latest block verison, AIM-9X flew off the rack and was instantly spoofed by a $5.00 flare from a 40 year old aircraft. I read our NATO customers were NOT happy about that at all!
The FA-18C was close, and right behind the SU-22, and an AIM-9X couldn't pull it off! So instead of shooting down a 40 year old aircraft with a $600k missile from close range directly behind the target, the pilot had to switch to his $1.7 million dollar AIM-120D.
Back in the '80's the Afghans recovered a couple of flare dispensers from an SU-25 Frogfoot. We tested it against the AIM-9 and found something rather clever about the Russian flare dispenser. Every flare in the launcher was a different type, giving off a different heat signature for every flare. And sure enough, we found the AIM-9 was a sucker for 2 of the flares EVERY TIME.
Seems the Russians are still making some clever flares.
Aggressor squadron SU-27 pilots will tell you the Sukhoi is a better aircraft than either the F-15/16/28 will wax any US 4th generation US fighter in anything approaching a fair fight (which is incentive to NOT fight fair). And the 27 we operate is very much out-dated, the Russians are flying the 35. Fortunately for us, the 27/35 doesn't have snowball's chance against the F-22 (and hopefully someday the F-35).
Russian SAM technology comfortably out-strips US SAM systems. About 20 years ago the Russians smartly realized they can't win an aircraft quality war with the US on their budget, so they diverted much of the funds into SAM technology and now have the best SAM systems in the world. The F-22's and 35's CAN be tracked with these systems...but it's unknown if they can be shot down...I'm betting they most certainly can (under the right circumstances). The F-35 has a software system to help it's stealth technology by evaluating radar coverage, and suggesting the safest route through radar coverage. That type of system wouldn't exist unless the threat wasn't significant.
Back in 2006 we borrowed a Swedish diesel electric submarine to test against a US Carrier group. After it had "sunk" ever darned ship in the carrier group multiple times, the US Navy knew they had a big problem. They ended up "borrowing" that Swedish sub for two whole years developing counter-measures against these super quiet DE subs. Now here's the catch...Russian DE subs are TWO generations ahead of that Swedish sub!
Now I'm not even remotely saying I'd bet against the US in a shooting war against the Russians...that's just foolish. But what I am saying is, they are WAY more clever than we give them credit for. And that cleverness WILL cost US lives someday.
So when I see programs like this turn into such a cluster of fudge...I can't help but remember the age old military axiom. "The enemy gets a say"