Written by Andrei Akulov; Originally appeared at Strategic-culture.org
The Su-35S was a big success at the third held at Kubinka air base in the Moscow’s suburbs on August 22-27. The plans have been announced to upgrade the fleet of Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E warplanes this year based on experience gained in Syria.
The Su-35S is a 4++ generation advanced capability multirole air superiority fighter developed from the Su-27. Equipped with new avionics, modern radar and advanced engines, it is known for its incredible maneuverability outpacing all rivals in its class. The plane can accomplish incredible tricks without deceleration. It flies a gamut of missions ranging from the suppression of enemy air defenses to air superiority. It boasts high manoeuvrability (+9g) with a high angle of attack, and is equipped with high-capability weapon systems that contribute to the aircraft’s exceptional dogfighting capability.
The Su-35 weighs 18,400 kg and has a maximum takeoff weight of 34,500 kg. Its service ceiling is 20,000 meters. The service life is 6,000 hours or 30 years. The maximum speed is 2,390km/h or Mach 2.25. A maximum flying range of 3,600 km without external fuel tanks and 4,500 km with external fuel tanks. With its long legs and high speed, the Su-35S easily outruns every Western fighter.
The aircraft has 12 hardpoints for carrying external weapons and stores. Each wing has four hardpoints – one on the wingtip and three under-wing stations. There are two hardpoints on the underside of the fuselage on the centerline and one under each engine. The aircraft’s weapons suite includes a wide range of air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles, including long-range types. The aircraft can be armed with a range of guided bombs and rockets. The ordnance load is 8,000 tons. The 30mm GSh-30-1 gun is fitted in the starboard wing root with 150 rounds of ammunition.
The Irbis-E sophisticated phased-array radar control system allows the plane to detect targets at distances of up to 400 kilometers. It can simultaneously track up to four ground targets or up to 30 airborne targets, as well as engage up to eight airborne targets at the same time. The radar has a friend-or-foe identification capability for aerial and maritime objects, is capable of identifying the class and type of airborne targets and can take aerial photos of the ground. The Irbis-E is the most powerful radar control system on par with the best state-of-the-art international designs, and ahead of most US and European active and passive phased array radars.
The «Khibiny-M» electronic warfare system suite includes a radar warning system, radar jammer, co-operative radar jamming system, missile approach warner, laser warner and chaff and flare dispenser. A relatively small container in the shape of a torpedo is mounted on the wingtips of the aircraft to make it invulnerable to all modern means of defense and enemy fighters.
The OLS-35 IRST infrared search and track fire control system, includes an infrared sensor, laser rangefinder, target designator and television camera. The accuracy of the laser rangefinder is 5m circular error probability, to a maximum range of 20km against airborne targets and 30km against ground targets.
The cockpit has a central control column and is fitted with a Zvezda K-36D-3.5E zero-zero ejection seat which allows the pilot to eject at zero speed and at zero altitude. The aircraft has a quadruplex, digital fly-by-wire control. The cockpit is fitted with two 230mmx305mm high-resolution MFI-35 liquid crystal displays with a multifunction control panel and the IKSh-1M head up display with a wide 20°x30° field of view. The pilot has two VHF/UHF encrypted radio communications systems and a jam-resistant military data link system between squadron aircraft and between the aircraft and ground control. The navigation system is based on a digital map display with a strapdown inertial navigation system and global positioning system.
High-strength, low-weight, composite materials have been used for non-structural items such as the radomes, nose wheel, door and leading-edge flaps. Some of the fuselage structures are made of carbon fiber and aluminium lithium alloy.
The Su-35 is equipped with two AL-41F1S turbojet engines with an afterburner and a controlled thrust vector. The nozzles of its Saturn AL-41F1S turbofans can independently point in different directions in flight to assist the aircraft in rolling and yawing. As a result, the Su-35 can achieve very high angles-of-attack, moving in one direction while its nose is pointed in another. It allows the aircraft to more easily train its weapons on an evading target and execute tight maneuvers. A controlled vector thrust of the Su-35 is quite capable of «pivot turning» and deceiving enemy missiles. The plane is capable of amazing maneuvers that seem to defy the laws of physics at times, such as maneuvering at the post-stall end of the envelope.
For in-flight refueling, the aircraft is equipped with a refuelling probe on the port side of the nose. Two external fuel tanks, type PTB-2000, provide an additional 4,000 L of fuel.
The aircraft was deployed to Syria in early February to display its unique capabilities. The National Interest cited a senior US military official with extensive experience on fifth-generation fighters as saying «It’s a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them. I think even an AESA [active electronically scanned array-radar equipped F-15C] Eagle and [the Boeing F/A-18E/F] Super Hornet would both have their hands full». German magazine Stern stated that the Su-35S can be considered the world’s deadliest fighter jet other than the fifth-generation US F-22. According to Stern, the Su-35 is significantly superior to its competitors, combining the best features of the fourth generation fighter and the basic features and properties of a fifth generation warplane.
While in Syria, the planes used to suck in small pebbles and small debris from the runway during takeoff, and also had problems with the searchlight and computer screens, all of which have since been addressed and rectified. A set of screens will be installed in the Su-35’s inlets that are designed to prevent the ingestion of foreign object debris. The Su-35 might also receive some upgrade of its avionics hardware and software—particularly those systems pertaining to air-to-ground missions. In the future, it is planned to arm the Su-35S with Р-37М (AA-13 Arrow) long-range air-to-air missile. The range depends on the flight profile, from 150 km for a direct shot to 398 km for a cruise glide profile. The missile can attack targets ranging in altitude between 15–25,000 metres. Russia is developing the KS-172 air-to-air missile with a range of 460 km.
Unrivaled maneuverability and unique and versatile weapons capabilities make the top air-superiority fighter a deadly adversary.