In case of Afghanistan there was a choice to use Su-25, Su-24 or Yaks. In case of a marine operation there was no choice, as only carrier-based strike aircraft was Yak-38 unitl the fall of the Soviet Union.
I don't agree. The Su-24 was used and was the only mature strike medium bomber used.
The Yaks and the Su-25 were both very new and very experimental at that time... the Yak being the only naval sea based aircraft and the Su-25 developed because they had found through experience that the slower aircraft used for ground support like the MiG-15 were more effective.
Both the Yaks and the Frogfeet were tested with the Frogfoot being found to be an excellent close air support aircraft... manouverable, resistant to enemy fire, effective payload, good visibility, relatively cheap and simple to operate and maintain.
The Yak on the other hand was complicated, expensive, fragile, and with poor payload and range.
the choices were... to spend lots of money on the Yak to make it a better CAS aircraft... which didn't really make sense as the replacement aircraft was already being developed in the form of the Yak-141... or use it for experience... make simple cheap upgrades like more engine power to see if it helped (it didn't... the extra thrust increased acceleration and improved takeoff weight but shortened range and endurance).
Suggesting naval forces in Afghanistan had to use the Yak doesn't hold water. When the BMD was found to be too light in structure in Afghanistan the VDV happily traded their BMDs for BMP-2Ms. Naval forces would happily operate under Su-25 support too.
The Soviets developed the Yak-38 while looking closely at the Harrier and what it was being used for at the time. The British use of the Harrier influenced the Soviets expectations of the Yak. This is not to say the Yak was a copy... it clearly was not, but in terms of operational roles it remained most of its life an experimental aircraft looking for a role or roles.
Intercepting MPAs was about the only role it would have actually been any use for.
As I said, USSR just didn't have their own Falklands or any other kind of a large scale marine operation, so there were just not enough funding of conventional marine forces (outside of strategic submarines and anti-submarine aviation like Tu-95).
Hense the interest in the VSTOL design... the British designed the Harrier and the US bought the AV-8II... without the British developing the Harrier the US would likely not have bothered with VSTOL aircraft because they are fragile and expensive and have limited performance... the main benefit however is that with a more expensive lower performing aircraft you get a smaller cheaper carrier. The US Navy are not interested in cheaper lighter carriers... they wanted and want big expensive carriers with big capable fighters and strike aircraft so they would never develop what the British developed.
The British had fixed wing carriers... Phantoms and Buccaneers were very capable air components and would have made a victory in the Falklands rather more certain, but the British governments like to cut funding and spending money on developing the Harrier meant money could be saved with smaller lighter cheaper carriers.
For the Soviets the Kiev class carriers were a less expensive stepping stone to fixed wing carrier experience. the fixed wing aircraft they carried were next to useless for most roles, but they learned a lot and could put that experience into something like the Kuznetsov that is actually useful with fixed wing conventional takeoff but arrested landing fighters.
Ironically the solution to VSTOL aircraft is really powerful engines and the projected Yak-43... a sort of stealthy Yak-141 but with a whopping 25 ton thrust engine might have actually been a useful VSTOL aircraft... but we will never know now...
There were no MiG-29Ks or Su-33s until 1989. Not to mention Su-33 has no ground targetting system iirc, so a Su-33 pilot has problems with the bomb load.
But even the basic model MiG-29 and Su-27 have better air to ground capability than the Yak-38 or Yak-38M which doesn't even have a radar and can pretty much only operate dumb bombs and rockets too. The Su-33 can operate dumb bombs and rockets. The MiG-29K was very multirole and well equipped to engage ground targets.
Note when I say the Su-33 has comparable air to ground capability to the Yak-38 I mean in terms of weapon types... the Su-33 has vastly superior range and payload capacity to the Yak... which doesn't even have a built in gun.
F-35 based on F-16 is a F-22, isn't it? Not the best aircraft either, but USAF wanted a miracle, not a fifth generation plane. Too many compromises. Just like with F-35 now.
Actually I see the F-22 as being a standoff long range killer... a bit like a 5th gen F-15C... a stealthy F-16 would be a numbers plane that carries a lighter payload but carries bombs and air to air weapons and makes up in numbers what it might lack in individual payload.
Ie in the first phase of an attack where stealth is important the F-35 would carry less than an F-22 but for every F-22 there would be 10-15 F-35s so the enemy wont be able to come up and shoot down the high flying F-22s because there will be 10-15 highly manouverable F-35s with helmet mounted sights and high off boresight AAMs in their way, plus light guided bombs to take out air defence components like SAMs and HQs and radars etc.
Likely however they might dump the F-35 for armed drones perhaps?
Actually I see the point about VTOLs on a large carriers. You can only launch a pair of Su-33 from Kuznetsov's deck at once iirc, so it takes time to launch a good amount of planes, but with Yak-141/F-35 you can get a whole squadron up in the air in a minute
With proper procedures you can have two aircraft on the short takeoff strips and one on the long run launching every few minutes... launch the two short planes first and then the third, then position three more aircraft.
If something goes wrong with a VSTOL takeoff and the aircraft pitches too far one side and the pilot is punched out you probably don't want a lot of other aircraft taking off in close proximity... generally there is only one SAR helo on station and in cold water seconds count...
If the choice is three MiG-29Ks getting airborne every three minutes on average or being able to lift off 8 Yak-38s at a time I would take the MiGs... pure vertical takeoffs seriously limit fuel and payload for all VSTOL aircraft so most of the time they have rolling takeoffs anyway... even on big carriers.
Of course with the new Ka-52K helo with AESA radar... most new Russian ships have helo pads so a potential new option could be Ka-52Ks with R-77s rapidly taking off and being able to launch AAMs at incoming anti ship missiles and other aerial threats...