With its exceptionally long range and large payload, the Su-30SM is considered as a 4+ generation jet fighter to form the backbone of the Russian Air Force in the next few decades.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Irkut aircraft manufacturer have signed a contract to supply over 30 multipurpose Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets to the Russian Aerospace Forces by the end of 2018. The first Su-30SM fighter performed its maiden flight in September 2012. The new contract brings the total announced Su-30SM order book for the Air Space Forces to 90 aircraft.
The type has also been ordered for the Russian Naval Aviation, which has at least 20 on order out of a total requirement of 50. In total, more than 40 Su-30SMs have been delivered to the Russian military. The plane marked its first combat deployment in September 2015 with the arrival of four Su-30SMs to Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. Initially flying as an escort fighter with exclusively air-to-air loads, the Su-30SMs have since conducted bombing missions. A number of Su-30SMs are operating in Syria now.
The plane is capable of all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction, as well as electronic counter-countermeasures and early warning missions. The Su-30SM can also function as a command-and-control platform guiding a group of combat planes.
The airframe of Su-30SM is made of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The fuselage head houses cockpit, radar sections and avionics bay. High manoeuvrability and unique takeoff and landing characteristics were achieved through the integral aerodynamic form. A combination of passive electronically scanned array (PESA) BARS radar, fly-by-wire flight controls, modern ECM as well as thrust vectoring, makes the Su-30SM a very agile fighter. With the extra foreplanes, a pilot has even more control over the jet during tight turns and other maneuvers.
A digital fly-by-wire system enables the plane to perform some very advanced manoeuvres, including the tailslide and the Pugachev's Cobra – a move where the plane pitches up vertically more than 90 degrees before leveling out again.
These manoeuvers quickly decelerate the aircraft, causing a pursuing fighter to overshoot, as well as breaking a Doppler radar-lock, as the relative speed of the aircraft drops below the threshold where the signal registers to the radar. In a close-in fight, these features could give the SU-30SM an edge over comparable Western types including the American F-16C Viper, European Typhoon and Swedish Gripen, and certain upcoming designs like the US troublesome F-35 stealth fighter.
Experts believe that in a visual range dogfight, the Su-30 is even superior to the US fifth-generation F-22.
The R-73 high off-boresight missile enhances its chances against the antiquated AIM-9M version of the Sidewinder missile the F-22 is armed with.
The aircraft features autopilot ability at all flight stages including low-altitude flight in terrain-following radar mode, and individual and group combat employment against air and ground/sea-surface targets. Automatic control system interconnected with the navigation system ensures route flight, target approach, recovery to airfield and landing approach in automatic mode.
With a tandem twin-seat arrangement, the crew is provided with ejection seats. The cockpit incorporates an advanced avionics suit integrating a head up display and liquid crystal multifunction displays. The Su-30SM features identification friend-or-foe equipment, a global positioning system and an inertial navigation system. The open architecture design allows the integration of modern avionics, including a new radar system, radio and recognition system, and other support systems.
The Su-30SM is powered by two AL-31FP by-pass turbojet reheated engines, fed through intake ramps. The engines generate a total after-burning thrust of 25,000kgf. The power plant provides a horizontal flight speed of Mach 2 , 1,350 km/h speed at low altitude, and a 230 m/s climbing rate. The aircraft is also equipped with a flight refuelling probe and refuelling system. With a normal fuel reserve of 5,270 kg, the Su-30MK is capable of performing a 4.5-hour combat mission with a range of 3,500 km. An aerial refueling system increases the range to 5,200 km (3,200 mi) or flight duration up to 10 hours at cruise altitudes.
The aircraft can engage aerial threats, ground and naval surface targets by deploying onboard air-to-air and air-to-surface guided/unguided weapons. It can be fitted with anti-surface weaponry such as rockets and rocket pods for conducting land attack operations. The Su-30SM is capable of carrying an advanced weapons payload weighing up to 8t. The jet can be armed with a machine gun, bombs, air-to-air missiles, and Oniks (Yakhont) supersonic anti-ship and land attack missiles with an operational range of 120km to 300km depending on altitude.
In an air-to-air mode, it is capable of carrying 12 missiles, usually a combination of R-77, R-27 and R-73.
On September 7, the Russian military announced the plans to buy the BrahMos cruise missiles, developed by Russia jointly with India, for equipping its Sukhoi Su-30SM fighters.
BrahMos has a two-stage propulsion system, with a solid-propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid-fuelled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise. It is the world's fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0. It can attack surface targets by flying as low as 5 meters and as high as 14000 meters. This weapon is unique; it has no analogues in the world.
Russia showcased a new Su-30SME – the export variant fighter jet at the Singapore Airshow 2016.
The aircraft’s export version has good prospects in the post-Soviet space facing no competition there. The Su-30SMs are supplied to Kazakhstan. Belarus and Iran have announced their intention to buy an undisclosed number of the Su-30SM fighters. Several countries in Southeast Asia, Middle East and North Africa have shown interest in this aircraft.
The Su-30SM’s sophisticated avionics, range and a diverse payload offers the Russian Air Force immense capability, especially during complex air operations. It testifies to the fact that the Russian aviation industry has achieved strong performance. Over the past three years, in 2013-2015, Russia has received 250 new planes, 300 helicopters, 700 aircraft that have undergone serious modernization.
Russia is not only upgrading its military air fleet but is working on the «sixth- and, probably, seventh-generation fighter jets».
This trend puts into question the NATO air dominance. It makes remember British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and his famous rule of war, which says «Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow’. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule».