Russia’s Sukhoi For All Seasons

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This analysis originally appeared on August 3, 2016

One of the stars of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ air campaign in support of Syrian government forces has been the Su-30SM twin-seat multi-role heavy fighter which, although designed primarily for the air combat role, proved equally effective in the fighter-bomber role.

The Su-30 design dates back to the late 1980s, with the first flight being made in 1989. The original intent was to take advantage of the Su-27’s tremendous range and payload potential that was limited by the exhaustion a single crew member experienced during lengthy missions which, thanks to aerial refuellings, could last into several hours. Adding a second crewmember would reduce the pilot’s workload considerably and moreover enable the crew to handle a wider array of weapons and sensors. The addition of the N011 Bars active phased array radar capable of detecting and tracking aerial, ground, and naval targets, also meant that the twin-seat Su-30 could perform some of the missions usually handled by aerial early warning aircraft, namely the control of the airspace and directing friendly aircraft to their targets.

USSR’s collapse meant that the Su-30’s entry into service would be greatly delayed, as the technologies necessary to fully utilize its potential would not be available until the early ’00s. Moreover, the reduction in the number of combat aircraft meant that each plane would now have to carry out multiple functions. It meant that the days of specialized fighters, attack aircraft, and bombers, were coming to an end, as evidenced by the fact that all the late-model MiG and Su aircraft have multirole capabilities. The Su-30 was not an exception. The Su-30M2, which began entering Russian fighter regiments in 2010, and the Su-30SM, which followed two years later, can use a wide range of unguided and guided air-to-ground weapons, including medium-range air-to-surface missiles like the Kh-29 and Kh-59, and satellite-guided bombs, in addition to the full array of advanced air-to-air weapons, including the RVV-SD active radar homing missile which is often seen carried by Su-30SMs and Su-35s over Syria as insurance against NATO fighters’ interference.

The Su-30 also proved to be a remarkable export success. It turned out that many countries around the world, including India, China, Malaysia, Venezuela, Indonesia, Uganda, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, and Algeria, also had a need for a powerful long-range fighter aircraft capable of handling a wide range of missions and could not, or could not afford to, procure equivalent Western aircraft, such as the F-15. Since many of these countries participate in joint exercises with Western air forces, these exports made it possible to evaluate the Su-30 against its contemporaries. It is a testimony to the basic Sukhoi design that the addition of the second crewmember and the expansion of its capabilities did not affect its original air-to-air mission, for the Su-30 has excelled whenever pitted against Western aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

There are no indications the Su-30 has ever faced the “fifth generation” F-22 in such match-ups, but even though the US fighter is, on paper, more modern than the Sukhoi design, the outcome of such a match-up would be a far from foregone conclusion. It is entirely possible the Su-30 could defeat the F-22, whose flaws and limitations have been carefully kept out of the public view, thanks to a combination of passive infrared detection devices that are particularly effective against fast-flying high-altitude targets which tend to present a strong infrared signature against the background of cold sky, and a comprehensive electronic countermeasures suite comparable to that mounted on the Su-34 bomber.

With a total of 116 Su-30 aircraft currently in service or on order for the Russian Aerospace Forces and Naval Aviation, and several hundred more aircraft in use around the world, it is clear that the Su-30 will remain a major workhorse for decades to come, even though it may be overshadowed in Russian service by the Su-35 and the T-50. The basic design still retains considerable modernization potential. India,  which is the largest Su-30 user with over 200 aircraft, is in negotiations with Sukhoi concerning a multi-billion-dollar modernization project for its Su-30MKI fleet that would include making the aircraft stealthier and equipped with an internal weapons bay. Russian-service Su-30s are likely to receive upgrades incorporating Su-35 and even T-50 technologies and systems.

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  • Zainab Ali

    kudos to russia – such superiority in the air defence now/in the future – translates to world peace as opposed to the fakery/fakeness in security by zio satanists/oppresors/lapdogs worldwide

    • FlorianGeyer

      The tremendous advantage that Russian equipment has always had is that it does not need an army of ‘ technicians ‘ ( mechanics in old language) to keep it going. The durability of Russian machines in Syria on both sides of the conflict has shown how effective the equipment is, old and new.

      In a real war a fully fitted ‘dealer’ workshop is not often available :) Soldiers need weapons that can be fixed in the field by those with commonsense and a little engineering experience.

  • Jesus

    Russia needs to increase its inventory of Suk30,34 and 35, 150-200 aircraft of each model along with more modest numbers of Suk 57.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      russia mneeds to enhance industrial capacity and found russian silicon valley. without these russia is not able to produce anything advanced in high amount. and az zero step kill olgarchs and destroy corruption.

      • Alex

        totally agree with you on that one

        • Solomon Krupacek

          i only this thing reapeat on address of russia.

          • Don’t read butthurt replies

            Stupid dumb kike. Geez.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            i read your name. so i will block you.

      • Valery Grigoryev

        Bravo!

      • Jesus

        Russia has the industrial capacity to produce greater numbers and the counterpart of Silicon Valley. Actually silicone valley in the US does not enhance the US military capabilities, it makes them more complex and technology reliant where human input and abilities are reduced.
        Technology defines the design of weapons, (leading to expensive white elephants) instead of a well defined weapon employing technology to make it more effective

        The F-15, 16 were the byproduct of the technological overflow of the moon project, most US weapon systems developed in the early 70’s were beneficiaries of the Apollo project.
        On the contrary, the Russians have great airframes with superb aerodynamic performance, they can gradually improve on avionics and weaponry, making an older platform highly successful.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          Russia has the industrial capacity to produce greater numbers and the counterpart of Silicon Valley.

          you are the only one fool posting such bullshits here. also SF reported 1 year ago about few capacities of russianmilitary industry.

          boy, russia is on level italy, or less. should be at least on level germany, otherwise in 1 genereation the chinese will eat you.

          • Jesus

            You are the BS artist, full of lies and Russophobic agenda, tell me how many F35 did US produce last year on a defense budget of +600 billion, how about Germany ….or some other NATO lapdog? How many tanks? I will give you the Russian production of aircraft and other equipment that is very well documented, on a tenth of the NATO budget.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            usa plns 2 000 f-35. and be sure, they will have. how many 5th genertion planes will have russia? you are typical commie liar. you take 1 year from all, and which looks like good for your BSs.
            but! you were also wrong. usa produced more f-35 this year then russia all categories of warplanes.

          • Jesus

            US produced less than 60 F35 in the US for 2016, while Russia combined for over 100 including exports. So the production in US is ramped up to 16-17 a month in a couple of years, F35 is a white elephant, it is meaningless how many are produced, Russian Suk 35, Suk 57, Suk 30SM, are more than capable of taking care of the F35.
            Then you got the S400 and S350 that can take care of the F35, the reality of the matter is, US armed forces are betting on a white elephant, that is more hype than actual combat capability.

            If the electronics and data linkages are compromised, F35 will be no more capable than a generation 3 aircraft.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            your numbers are wrong. russia sold 100, not produced.

            and planes of 4th generation are weaker the 3rd generation within 5th generation.

            i wish little war for sachalin and you will see, how will fall your planes.

          • Jesus

            The air force received 142 new fixed-wing aircraft in 2014, reports the defense ministry. This figure includes 53 Sukhoi Su-30 and Su-35 multirole fighters, 16 Su-34 bombers, 28 transport and training aircraft and 18 upgraded MiG-31BM interceptors. The force also received 135 rotorcraft including 46 attack helicopters and 72 transports.

            5th generation airplanes without electronic and data linkages are inferior to aircraft built in the 50’s and 60’s. F35 has no aerodynamic value, it is a turkey in a WVC.

            In 2016 the Air Force aircraft procurements:

            The air forces received:

            139 aircraft, including Su-35S fighters and ten Yak-130 trainers. Eight Su-30SM fighters went to Crimea, two to Rostov-na-Donu, and others to the Northern and Baltic Fleet.
            Unspecified numbers of new Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-35M, Mi-26, Mi-8AMTSh-VA, and Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters.
            Four regimental sets of S-400 SAMs, 25 Pantsir-S gun-missile systems, and 74 radars.
            Two modernized Tu-160M and two modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

          • Jesus

            According to US DOF Documents:

            The FY 2016 funding provides for the procurement of 57 F-35 jets, 41 logistics support aircraft, 300 helicopters, and 53 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). In addition, the funding in this category provides for the development of aircraft related technology, the procurement of aerospace equipment and systems, various modifications to existing aircraft, and the procurement of initial spares.

            The Army continues to modernize and upgrade select Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) in FY 2016, including Stryker vehicles, Abrams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Paladin 155mm Howitzers. The Marine’s ground force focus in FY 2016 is on the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV). The ACV is a Pre-MDAP that will deliver shore and sea-based infantry to the battlefield in vehicles designed for future operational environments. And both services procure the second year of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

            The FY 2016 budget request continues to invest and build inventories of air and missile defense capabilities, such as the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles, Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors, and the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance-2 (AN/TPY-2) radar. Further, the Department continues to seek expanded international efforts for missile defense with allies and partners to provide pragmatic and cost-effective missile defense capabilities.

          • Jesus

            Russian acquisitions for 2016 with a defense budget of appox. 60 billion:

            Navy

            In 2016, the Russian Navy received 24 ships and support vessels, and the Proyekt 636.3 diesel-electric submarines Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino for the Black Sea Fleet. The surface vessels included a Proyekt 22870 rescue ship, a Proyekt 19920 hydrographic ship, Proyekt 11356 frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, and Proyekt 12700 mine countermeasures ship Aleksandr Obukhov.

            The Navy acquired 100 Kalibr (SS-N-27 / Sizzler) and Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles. These missiles are carried on new Proyekt 636.3 subs and Proyekt 11356 frigates.

            Aerospace Forces

            The air forces received:

            139 aircraft, including Su-35S fighters and ten Yak-130 trainers. Eight Su-30SM fighters went to Crimea, two to Rostov-na-Donu, and others to the Northern and Baltic Fleet.
            Unspecified numbers of new Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-35M, Mi-26, Mi-8AMTSh-VA, and Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters.
            Four regimental sets of S-400 SAMs, 25 Pantsir-S gun-missile systems, and 74 radars.
            Two modernized Tu-160M and two modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

            Ground Troops

            The Ground Troops reportedly received 2,930 new or modernized systems allowing for two missile brigades, two SAM brigades and two SAM regiments, one Spetsnaz brigade, 12 motorized rifle and tank battalions, and three artillery battalions to be reequipped.

            Besides two brigade sets of Iskander-M, they obtained 60 Tornado-G MRLs, 70 modernized Grad-M MRLs, and 20 Msta-SM SP howitzers. They acquired 22,000 communications systems bringing that equipment to 49 percent modern. More than 100 BTR-82AM joined Western MD forces. They also received ten new EW systems.

            The armed forces procured 105 systems with 260 UAVs. These included more than ten new Orlan-10 and Eleron-3 UAVs. They formed 36 units and subunits. The Russian military now operates 600 systems with 2,000 UAVs, compared with only 180 old systems in 2011.

            Airborne Troops

            The Russian airborne got 188 new or modernized vehicles, including 60 BMD-4M and BTR-MDM, 35 BTR-82A, 40 modernized BREM-D, 2S9-1M SP mortars, and more than 6,000 D-10 and Arbalet-2 parachutes.

            At his final MOD teleconference of the year, the defense minister said 764 armored vehicles and 88 artillery systems of all types were acquired in 2016.

            RVSN

            Russia’s strategic missile troops placed four RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2 or SS-29?) ICBM regiments on combat duty in 2016, according to Shoygu. RVSN Commander General-Colonel Karakayev earlier said 23 Yars mobile and silo-based missiles were put into service.

            The defense minister said the armed forces got a total of 41 new (intercontinental-range) ballistic missiles (presumably both land- and sea-launched), bringing Russia’s strategic nuclear triad to 60 percent modern.

            The balance — 18 missiles — could be Bulava SLBMs. They might be for Borey-class SSBN hull four Knyaz Vladimir, along with a couple spares for practice launches.

            P.S. TASS added that, in 2016, the Southern MD got 350 pieces of armor, other vehicles, missiles, artillery, communications, EW, engineering, and special equipment items. Crimea in particular was reinforced with the S-400, Pantsir-S, Su-30SM, and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) coastal missile launchers, which fire Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles.

          • Julius Meinel

            I notice few readers are making the argument for the Russia
            needing to increase its military production capacities. While I do not refute this
            argument entirely, I have a slightly different optic on the issue of Russia
            lagging behind NATO/USA in military hardware in terms of absolute numbers.

            While numbers make a difference ( Stalin himself said” there
            is quality in quantity”), the modern day war scenarios have significantly
            altered the traditional (pre 1970) war paradigm; in a hypothetical large, one-on-one
            conflict on the high seas or in the sky, the Russia capacities are clearly
            outnumbered by the collective capacities of NATO members; Russians know that
            they would find themselves relatively quickly (in a matter of maximum 2-3 days)
            in the undesirable situation where they would not have enough military equipment
            left to fight in the sky, on the high seas or under the water. At that point
            they would only be left with the nuclear option which is certainly not the
            desirable (not even for Russians) to ward off any strong military opponent (such
            as NATO/USA);

            Alas, the current day technological advances make it next to
            impossible to mount a surprise, large scale attack on Russian military capabilities
            without the Russian taking notice of it. The opposite scenario is also valid. I
            can hardly see Russia being able to mount a large scale, surprise attack on the
            Baltic states, without NATO not being aware of it well in advance.

            For the USA/NATO to prevail in hypothetical conventional war
            with Russia based on numeric superiority of their equipment, means that they
            would have to be able to deploy their assets in large numbers relatively close to
            the Russian territory (1,500km for the navy, 1,000km for air fighters and less
            than 300km for attack helicopters and armored units).

            That is next to impossible since the mid 70’s. Whether we talk about the geostationary
            military satellites orbiting above key strategic NATO bases, or we talk about
            very powerful over the horizont radars that detect anything hundreds if not
            thousands of kilometers away, or even old fashioned spies and informants, Russia
            has at its disposal an array of means to prevent the scenario where they would
            need to fight fighter jet for fighter jet and frigate for frigatte with NATO
            /USA. Any unusual concentration of aerial or navy/submarine assets in any one geographical
            area will be promptly noticed by the Russians;

            A somehow miraculously first wave NATO aerial/cruise missile
            assault on Russian assets, would likely result into the destruction of the all
            USA/ NATO assets on the ground (and some in the air or on the sea) within 1
            hour or less.

            Between the increasing number of submarine and small corvettes
            equipped with Kaliber cruise missiles (
            2,000km range), the long range bombers using Kh-101 cruise missile ( 5,000km
            range) and the Iskander missiles ( 500km range), Russia would find the means to
            destroy all operational basis in Europe and Middle east ( Diego Garcia base
            included) before NATO can reinforce
            their numbers to make use of their numerical superiority. US attempts to
            reinforce their assets numbers over the Atlantic Ocean would be seriously challenged
            by Russia’s 200 or so MIG- 31 equipped with 300km range R-33 missile.

            Russia is fully aware of their numerical inferiorities and
            of their inability to match NATO assets one-on- one; it is an economic-military
            reality that they have been living with and addressing for at least 15 years
            now. Precisely because they cannot survive a long term war of attrition (in the
            air and on the sea) with NATO, I would expect a very quick and surprising ( for
            NATO members) powerful response to any hints of large scale attack on its
            assets. While NATO can afford to lose as much as 1/3 of its fighters/AWACS, air
            refueling planes and navy assets and still be able to wage a conventional war,
            Russia air forces and navy do not have this luxury. Hence, the answer will have
            to be fast and decisive, with any hesitation on the Russian side spelling doom
            for their chances to defend the territorial integrity of their country.

            If there was a time when USA had some military advantage of
            over Russian forces, that was in the 2000- 2010. Since then the Russians have
            worked hard to address the gap, not so much in numbers but rather in their ability
            to strike asymmetrically. NATO generals are is fully aware of this state.

            Given the visceral
            hatred among the deep state members towards the traditional values Russia stands
            for, they would have likely unleashed the dogs of war on Russia long ago if
            they were sure of success. It was just the sobering warning of military men
            such as General Joseph Dunford that prevented them from doing so.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            thats true, what yiu wrote. I pointed on the lack of development of the whole russian industry. This is the reason, that russia is not able to produce enough armatas, fighters, etc. for army. but also other, modern civil products. in the future will be the situation much worse. russia lose the abilty of deveopment of new weapons. also the military budget is too small. it is on the level of saudi arabia. if germany would pay 2% as is nato agreement, would spend more for bundeswehr. dont forget, very large part of russian budget eat nuclear weapons and units. this is extremly expensive category. you can realize, how much is underfinanced the rest of army. i heard in socialism this bullshit of assymetric armies. and nicely lost the cold war. please, russia is on 2 continents, need large army, able to figt on 2 fronts and enough navy for activity in 4, geographically divided seas/oceans. you also know, it is impossible to make rotation between far east and murmansk.
            as i told: russia must modernize the whole industry, produce prodacts, which can sell on world market and parllely enhance the capacity of military industry. the military budget for effective assymetric warare shuld be 2.5-3x higher then is now.

          • Harry Smith

            Please google for Club-K

        • Eskandar Black

          Solomon is a Russia hating troll, you are wasting your time on this one.

      • 888mladen .

        Correct.

  • Garga

    Respect!
    Russian engineers and scientists did a marvelous job since they started to focus on their own designs. Russian planes now have a distinctive shape and identity with remarkable performance. The days of ripping off of western designs like B-29 into Tu-4, Harrier into Yak-38, Space Shuttle into Buran and various passenger/cargo planes into Soviet copycats are long gone (The Americans did this too, like F-15 “borrowing” heavily from Mig-25).

    Russian jets’ aerodynamics seems more like magic. Have you seen SU-35’s maneuvers? It can almost stand still in air, move backwards, rotate and doesn’t loose altitude while doing it.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      tjhis copy paste is continued. now drones, new warfare, equipment for soldiers, etc.

      • Manuel Flores Escobar

        US has copy F-35 design from Yak 141…DC9 from TU-134…Tomahawk from RH-55…Red Eye manpads from SA7…Chaparral short range missile from SA-9…Nike SAM system from SA2…and so on!

        • Solomon Krupacek

          US has copy F-35 design from Yak 141…

          therefore is soooo shitty? :DDD

          the rest is clear bullshit

        • John Mason

          “Viktor Ivanovich Belenko (Russian: Виктор Иванович Беленко, born 15 February 1947) is a former Soviet pilot who defected to the West while flying his MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’ jet fighter and landed in Hakodate, Japan. The opportunity to examine the plane up close was an intelligence bonanza for the West”.

        • kraaiiii

          also the smoothbore cannon which now all western country’s adopt in their tanks

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