Russian Flanker and SU-3X Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views


Jeff Head

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This thread is about Modern Russian Flanker air frame designs, to include the SU-30M2, the SU-30SM, the SU-35S, and the SU-34. We can start off what should be a lively, and long dsicussion with the article by Thomas Newdick at War is Boring:

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War is Boring said:
The Russian air force has just introduced three new jet fighters. Not the much-publicized Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter—which isn’t ready yet—but three slightly different versions of the classic Su-27, all originating from the same Sukhoi design bureau but built by two separate manufacturers.

Yes, that’s a bit odd—and potentially wasteful. The U.S. Air Force, for one, is buying just a single new fighter type, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The American air arm wants as many as 1,763 copies of the F-35A to replace most of its existing fighters and, in theory, maximize efficiency.

By contrast, Russia is acquiring just a few dozen each of the Su-30M2, Su-30SM and Su-35S—each a different upgrade of the 1970s-vintage Sukhoi Su-27, known to NATO as the “Flanker.” Moscow hasn’t officially explained its jet fighter strategy, but it appears the purchases are meant to keep two factories in business amid a slump in warplane exports.

In any event, Russia’s getting an interesting bunch of highly-capable new jet fighters to begin revamping the country’s geriatric air force, composed mostly of planes built in the 1980s. As development of the stealthy T-50 dominates headlines, the introduction of these three new fighters has passed relatively unnoticed.

The Su-30M2 was the first to join the front-line ranks of the Russian air force—the first in-service photos appearing in December 2011, indicating deployment with the 6972nd Air Base at Krymsk in the southern region of Krasnodar.

The first three examples of the Su-30SM arrived at the 6982nd Air Base at Domna in November 2013. The Siberian base had as many as 10 Su-30SM fighters by the end of that year. A further 10 aircraft should arrive this year, equipping a full aviation regiment.

Meanwhile, this February the first operational Su-35S fighters entered service with the 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment at the 6883rd Air Base at Dzemgi, in the Khabarovsk Territory in Russia’s Far East.




SU-30M2

First of the new trio to enter operational service, the Su-30M2 is also the least sophisticated. It’s a derivative of the two-seat, multi-role Su-30MKK developed for China by the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association, or KnAAPO, based in the Russian Far East.

The Su-30MKK is best understood as an upgrade of the existing two-seat Su-30 interceptor, albeit less sophisticated than the rival Su-30MK made by Irkut. It has provision for in-flight refueling and all-Russian avionics that bestow a multi-role capability, but it lacks the canard foreplanes and thrust-vectoring control engines of the Irkut Su-30MK.

After winning more Chinese orders—this time for the improved Su-30MK2 with anti-shipping capability—KnAAPO subsequently sold derivatives of the Su-30MK2 to Vietnam, Indonesia, Venezuela and Uganda. A key recognition feature of the export Su-30MKK/MK2 and the Su-30M2 for home use are the flat-topped twin tailfins.

The Kremlin placed its initial order for the Su-30M2 in the summer of 2009. These aircraft share much in common with the Su-27SM3, a KnAAPO-built single-seat fighter with improved avionics, but otherwise having more in common with the first-generation Su-27.

The Defense Ministry ordered four Su-30M2s along with 12 Su-27SM3s, and we may presume that the two-seaters are meant to support their single-seat brethren in the combat training and, perhaps, all-weather strike roles.

Orders for the Su-30M2 apparently stand at 20 aircraft, although as of December 2013, only the first four jets have appeared in public.




SU-30SM

Very similar to the Su-30M2 in appearance, the Su-30SM is the product of a different and rival production plant—the Irkut Corporation, based at Irkutsk in Siberia and part of the United Aircraft Corporation that consolidates all of Russia’s private and state-owned plane-makers.

The Su-30SM can best be seen as the Russian version of the Su-30MK, Irkut’s runaway success on the export market that kicked off with sales to India, followed by orders from Malaysia and Algeria.

Compared to the Su-30MKK from KnAAPO, the Su-30MK was always a more capable proposition, incorporating not only a more advanced aerodynamic layout, but also the option of Western avionics. Export customers could take their pick from Russian, Ukrainian, French, Indian and Israeli components.

Hallmarks of the Su-30MK that also appear in the Russian air force’s Su-30SM include two seats, canard foreplanes and thrust-vectoring engines, both allied with a sophisticated fly-by-wire flight control system. Unlike the KnAAPO jets, the Irkut-built Su-30MK and Su-30SM feature distinctive cropped tail fins.

Russia’s Defense Ministry placed a surprise order for the Su-30SM in March 2012. And in December that year the ministry doubled the initial request for 30 aircraft. Reports from the Russian media suggest that all 60 of these jets should be delivered by the end of 2015, although as of December 2013 only 16 aircraft had been handed over.

This February press reports indicted that the Defense Ministry plans to sign additional contracts worth $2 billion for the delivery of 50 more Su-30SMs. Interestingly, some, if not all, of these new fighters could end up in Russian navy service, with the first examples arriving before the end of 2015.

Compared to the export Su-30MKI, the “Russianized” Su-30SM replaces the Indian and Israeli avionics with Russian equivalents. Strangely however, most of the original French avionics—including the head-up display and navigation system—remain.

While the Su-30M2 uses the N001V radar—an evolution of the basic set in the original Su-27—the Su-30SM has the far superior N011M Bars-R with passive electronically scanned array. One unique change compared to the export-optimized Su-30MK relates to the Su-30SM’s ejection seats. These are stronger in order to cope with the heavier weight of Russian pilots.

Although we have yet to see the new-generation Sukhois carrying any truly advanced air-to-air weaponry in air force service, the Su-30SM should be able to launch the new RVV-SD beyond-visual-range missile and the short-range RVV-MD.




SU-35S

The Su-35S differs from the Su-30 family in being a single-seater. While its conceptual lineage traces back to Soviet efforts to improve the Su-27, today’s Su-35 began development in the early 2000s.

In a bid to improve performance and combat capability, the KnAAPO-built Su-35 added a new airframe, avionics outfit and powerplant. The Su-35 includes AL-41F1S engines with thrust vectoring, an advanced fly-by-wire system and new optronic suite. The canard foreplanes are gone, since other aerodynamic refinements are sufficient to achieve super-maneuverability.

While Russia still hasn’t introduced an active electronically scanned array radar—this will likely have to wait until the T-50 is ready—the Su-35S has the next best thing. The centerpiece of the avionics suite is the N135 Irbis, a follow-on to the Bars radar utilizing the same passive electronic technology.

Like the Russian air force’s Su-30M2 and Su-30SM, the Su-35S was also originally meant as an export fighter, under the Su-35BM designation. The media has linked the Su-35 with a prospective sale to China, although in reality there is next to no evidence of any actual Chinese interest in such a deal.

Instead, Moscow stepped in and ordered the Su-35S version for its own air force in 2009. The Kremlin has received 22 aircraft as of February, 12 of which 12 are now with the first front-line unit at Dzemgi. Delivery of the first batch of 48 Su-35S fighters is likely to end in 2015. Another 48-aircraft order is likely.

With its advanced equipment and capabilities, the Su-35S is perhaps the most realistic interim fighter pending the arrival of the stealthy T-50 in significant numbers. Reportedly capable of carrying the new 200-kilometer-range RVV-BD air-to-air missile, the Su-35S could also prove a viable successor to the Russian air force’s aging fleet of MiG-31 interceptors.




A RUSSIAN ENIGMA

Why does the Russian air force need three different variations on the advanced Flanker theme? It would be more efficient to focus on one version, but the fact that rival production centers are responsible for building the fighters complicates Moscow’s calculations.

As long as the Su-30 family was enjoying success on the export market, having two competing airframe-builders was not a problem. As the least capable of the three, the Su-30M2 demonstrates the least potential for future growth. Indeed, there have been suggestions that Russia acquired the Su-30M2 only after airframes became surplus following the collapse of a planned sale to China.

The Su-35 boasts more powerful engines, superior radar and an advanced self-defense suite. On the other hand, the Su-30SM is more readily available, cheaper and has the advantage of two crew members, rendering it suitable for more complex combat missions as well as advanced training.

And now, foreign sales are threatening to dry up entirely. The most significant export operators of the Su-30 series, India and China, are building up their fleets through licensed—in the case of China, unlicensed—production.

Malaysia has elected not to acquire more Su-30MKMs to meet its multi-role combat aircraft requirement and is now mulling a fighter lease option. Additional Indonesian orders are possible to replace veteran F-5s, but will not involve significant numbers.

Moscow has pushed domestic orders for the three different Sukhoi jets more than likely in order to prop up the business of Irkut and KnAAPO. At the same time, bringing these aircraft into Russian service could make them more attractive to foreign buyers. In particular, export sales of the Su-35 have long proved elusive.

Meanwhile, the Russian air force is badly in need of new fighters. The T-50 remains some years from service—and despite the highly positive media reports, there is little objective information on exactly how testing is going with the five flying prototypes.

Unlike with the American F-35, testing of the T-50 taking place outside of public view. But a recent leaked document discovered by long-term Russian aviation observer Piotr Butowski suggests that significant design revisions might be in the works.

The T-50’s schedule has stretched farther and farther to the right. Originally planned for handover to the air force’s Akhtubinsk flight test center for evaluation in 2014, recent announcements suggest this might now slip until the second half of 2016. This would derail plans to declare initial operational capability, and the start of full-scale production, at the end of 2016.

The best-case scenario would have seen 60 production T-50s delivered between 2016 and 2020, but this now seems a distant hope. As a result, the air force is badly in need of supplementary equipment.

Of the many hundreds of front-line fighters in Russian air force service, most are now seriously showing their age. The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent economic crisis reduced production of combat aircraft to a trickle. Only in recent years has Moscow had the resources to buy meaningful numbers of new jets.

But while the three new Flankers represent a considerable advance in capabilities compared to their predecessors, the recent orders are still inadequate to wholly revamp the Russian air force. Even with dozens of new Su-30M2s, Su-30SMs and Su-35Ss, the Kremlin’s fighter fleet is simply too old.




The MiG-29, a lightweight complement to the Su-27, is in service in dwindling numbers, the most advanced examples being a single regiment of hand-me-down MiG-29SMTs rejected by Algeria. Heavyweight MiG-31s still occupy six front-line bases, but only a limited number have been upgraded to MiG-31BM standard—and there is no evidence that these have received their promised advanced new weapons.

With a planned upgrade for the MiG-29s having evaporated, and with a dedicated successor to the MiG-31 looking increasingly unlikely, it seems that the various products of the Sukhoi design bureau will have to defend Russian skies over the long term.

Whether Moscow will keep buying the Su-30M2, Su-30SM and Su-35 at the same time remains to be seen. Russia’s jet fighter future rests heavily on the fortunes of the T-50 project.
It should be noted that the Russians are also in serial production with the Mig-29K aircraft. They will replace the SU-33 aircraft of the Russians current carrier, the Kuznetsov, and on any future carriers at this point. They will also be used in some numbers by other Russian forces, but are off topic for the purposes of this thread.

Finally, to this article about new Flamkers, let's add the SU-34 Fullback.




SU-34 FULLBACK

This is another variation/modernization of the Flanker Air Frame design. Originally, the plans and test for this aircraft began in the 1990s. But it never proceeded through to production., Then, in 2006, the Russian government purchased the first two aircraft. The aircraft is a full on Strike Fighter aircraft, with increased payload, increased range, and a side-by-side crew cabin that includes toilet and galley facilities. This aircraft is comparable to what the US did with the F-111 design. These aircraft are expected to replace the SU-24 fleet of strike aircraft the Russians continue to maintain, many of them in mothballs.

The SU-34 shares its wing structure, tail, and engine arrangement with the SU-30 aircraft. it adds canards like the SU-30SM and SU-33 to increase maneuverability and reduce trim drag. .But it has has an entirely new nose and forward fuselage with a cockpit providing the side-by-side seating mentioned above. The Fullback is powered by two AL-31FM1 engines with a max speed of Mach 1.4 with a full war load. It has an unrefueled, full-load combat radius of over 700 miles, but can be refueled in flight to extend the range indefinitely.
This aircraft has 12 hardpoints which can carry 26,500 lbs of ordinance, including the latest Russian precision-guided weapons. It is also armed with the GSh-30-1 30mm cannon.
The Su-34's most distinctive feature its cockpit and flight deck. it is a full pressurized cabin for operations up to 33,000 feet. The pilot-commander sits to the left, while the navigator/weapons officer sits to the right. The aircraft uses NPP Zvezda K-36dm ejection seats. The two crew can stand and move around in the cabin during long missions. There is enough space in the corridor behand the two seats for one of the cew to lie down inif necessary, and, as mentioned a toilet and a galley are located behind the crew seats.

Those first two aircraft were delivered by the end of 2007. Based on these aircraft, the order was increased to 32 aircraft in 2008. These have been delivered as follows:

2009 - Three aircraft
2010 - Four aircraft
2011 - Six Aircraft
2012 - Five Aircraft
2013 - Twelve aircraft.

In 2012 a second order for 92 more aircraft was awarded. Deliveries against this order commenced in 2014. To date, 32 aircraft have been dleivered.
 
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Equation

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

Good info and pics there Jeff my friend.
 

Jeff Head

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

Good info and pics there Jeff my friend.
Thank you...but most of it (I did add different pictures) is from the excellent article by the author at "War is Boring." He and Deino apparently correspond with one another. I did add the part about the SU-34, which I think is a neat aircraft.

I just think it is really interesting to contrast and compare what the Russians, who are the original designers of the SU-27 Flanker are doing with the air frame now two decades later, and what the Chinese are doing with the same basic air frame.

They are taking some different paths...but also some paths that coincide and compare in many ways.

Cool stuff.
 
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delft

Brigadier
Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

This thread reminds me of the people who laid the basis for all these Flankers more than thirty years ago. I well remember being impressed by the huge ferry range of the early Flankers, much more than was usual at the time. ( And that reminded me that in the USAF LWF program the winner which became the F-16 was about as good as the other candidates except that its range exceeded the requirement by a large extend. ) The Flanker family could become as large as it is, and is likely to grow even larger, because the original concept was brilliant.
 

Blackstone

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

This thread is about Modern Russian Flanker air frame designs, to include the SU-30M2, the SU-30SM, the SU-35S, and the SU-34. We can start off what should be a lively, and long dsicussion with the article by Thomas Newdick at War is Boring:

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Outstanding, Jeff. Thanks for the topic.
 

Jeff Head

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

This thread reminds me of the people who laid the basis for all these Flankers more than thirty years ago... and is likely to grow even larger, because the original concept was brilliant.
Yes...exactly.

The basis has been so fundamentally good, that it has allowed the Russians and anyone else who has bought into this design to continue to update it with new sensors, new weapons, new avionics, and all sorts fo tweeks to allow the basic air frame to continue to be utilized and keep them competitive all of these years.

Bacially with the "Silent Eagle," and "Advanced Super Hornet," you are seeing similar things being done to older western designs that were basically and fundamentally good, to extend their useful life as well. But, IMHO, not to the extent that the Flanker is.
 
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Jeff Head

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

Outstanding, Jeff. Thanks for the topic.
You are welcome.

I think that the SU-30SM tandem seater, and the SU-35S are going to be very worthwhile strike fighters and fighters for quite some time to come...and very capable and dangerous.

The SU-34 is just, IMHO, an extrodinarily good use of the airframe for a long range, heaveier attack aircraft which the Russians are going to be using for decades to come too.
 
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Blackstone

Brigadier
Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

How do the Russian Flankers compare with their Chinese counterparts, J-11B and J-16? Too bad Russia dropped the Su-33, and we can't compare it with the J-15.
 

Air Force Brat

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

You are welcome.

I think that the SU-30SM tandem seater, and the SU-35S are going to be very worthwhile strike fighters and fighters for quite some time to come...and very capable and dangerous.

The SU-34 is just, IMHO, an extrodinarily good use of the airframe for a long range, heaveier attack aircraft which the Russians are going to be using for decades to come too.
Yes, it is very aerodynamically healthy, and is extremely robust. The crazy Russian airshow jockeys do some "nutso" things with this bird even without OVT, but the OVT places it in another realm, but it is a big airframe, with lots of room for fuel and whatever, that's hard to beat in my opinion, just a great airplane, and lots of life left in it for new projects and capabilities, shoot the T-50 is still a Flanker if you look at it, just an awesome airframe that is "gorgeous" to look at and loves the medium, in which it excels. brat
 
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Jeff Head

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Re: Russian SU-3X Flanker Thread: Videos, Pictures, News, Views

Yes, it is very aerodynamically healthy, and is extremely robust. The crazy Russian airshow jockeys do some "nutso" things with this bird even without OVT, but the OVT places it in another realm, but it is a big airframe, with lots of room for fuel and whatever, that's hard to beat in my opinion, just a great airplane, and lots of life left in it for new projects and capabilities, shoot the T-50 is still a Flanker if you look at it, just an awesome airframe that is "gorgeous" to look at and loves the medium, in which it excels. brat
Yes...the SU-30SM will be a very effective strike fighter probably for the rest of mu life. Lots of power, Thrust vectoring, great avionics, great sensors, and a very strong weapons suite.

The SU-35S is going to be one heck of an Air-supriority fighter. 4.5++ type thing. Certainly does not have the stealth and some of the other characteristics of the F-22...but it will be an aircraft that is very dangoreous just the same. ANy polito, including F-22 pilots are going to have to be at the top of their game when facing off against them.

I am going to put together a comparison chart for these aircraft...these new flankers, and compare them against the CHinese birds in terms of their pure physical characteriostics. Someone else can come along and do a similar comparison as regards their sensors and electronics.
 

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