Sukhoi Su-30

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Sukhoi Su-30 inflight.jpg
Russian Air Force Su-30 over Russia
Role Multirole fighter[1]
Manufacturer KnAAPO, Irkut Corporation
Designer Sukhoi
First flight 31 December 1989
Introduction 1996
Status In service
Primary users People's Liberation Army Air Force
Russian Air Force
Vietnam People's Air Force
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Produced 1992–present
Number built 540+[2][3][4]
Unit cost
Su-30MK2: US$37.5 million in 2012[5]
Developed from Sukhoi Su-27
Variants Sukhoi Su-30MKI
Sukhoi Su-30MKK
Sukhoi Su-30MKM

The Sukhoi Su-30 (Cyrillic: Сухой Су-30; NATO reporting name: Flanker-C) is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.

The Su-30 started out as an internal development project in the Sukhoi Su-27 family by Sukhoi. The design plan was revamped and the name was made official by the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996. Of the Flanker family, only the Su-27, Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35 have been ordered into serial production by the Defense Ministry. All the others, such as Su-37, were prototypes. The Su-30 has two distinct version branches, manufactured by competing organisations: KnAAPO and the Irkut Corporation, both of which come under the Sukhoi group's umbrella.

KnAAPO manufactures the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which were designed for and sold to China, and later Indonesia, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Due to KnAAPO's involvement from the early stages of developing Su-35, these are basically a two-seat version of the mid-1990s Su-35. The Chinese chose an older but lighter radar so the canards could be omitted in return for increased payload. It is a fighter with both air supremacy and attack capabilities, generally similar to the U.S. F-15E.[6]

Irkut traditionally served the Soviet Air Defense and, in the early years of Flanker development, was given the responsibility of manufacturing the Su-27UB, the two-seat trainer version. When India showed interests in the Su-30, Irkut offered the multirole Su-30MKI, which originated as the Su-27UB modified with avionics appropriate for fighters. Along with its ground-attack capabilities, the series adds features for the air-superiority role, such as canards, thrust-vectoring, and a long-range phased-array radar. Its derivatives include the Su-30MKM, MKA, and SM for Malaysia, Algeria, and Russia, respectively. The Russian Air Force operates several Su-30s and has ordered the Su-30SM version.


While the original Su-27 had good range, it still did not have enough range for the Soviet Air Defense Forces (PVO, as opposed to VVS – the Soviet Air Force). The Air Defense Forces needed to cover the vast expanse of the Soviet Union. Hence, development began in 1986 on the Su-27PU, an improved-capability variant of the Su-27 capable of serving as a long-range interceptor or airborne command post.[7]

The two-seat Su-27UB combat trainer was selected as the basis for the Su-27PU, because it had the performance of a single-seat Su-27 and long-range missions require two crew members. A "proof-of-concept" demonstrator flew 6 June 1987, and this success led to the kick-off of development work on two Su-27PU prototypes. The first Su-27PU flew at Irkutsk on 31 December 1989, and the first of three pre-production models flew on 14 April 1992.[8]


Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30LL flying along the runway at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport less than 1 metre off the ground

The Su-30 is a multirole fighter. It has a two-seat cockpit with an airbrake behind the canopy.

Flight characteristics[edit]

The integrated aerodynamic configuration, combined with the thrust vectoring control ability, results in high manoeuvrability and unique takeoff and landing characteristics. Equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system, the Su-30 is able to perform some very advanced manoeuvres, including the Pugachev's Cobra and the tailslide. 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.[9]


The aircraft's powerplant incorporates two Saturn AL-31F afterburning low-bypass turbofan engines, fed through intake ramps. Two AL-31Fs, each rated at 123 kN (28,000 lbf) of full afterburning thrust ensures Mach 2 in level flight, 1,350 km/h speed at low altitude, and a 230 m/s climbing rate.

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 3,000 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.[10][11]


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.

Operational history[edit]


Several Su-30SMs were sent to Syria in the Russian military intervention in Syria to escort and provide target illumination for bombers that launch airstrikes against Islamist rebel groups.[12][13] Su-30SM fighters were reportedly delivered to the Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria in September 2015. At least 4 Su-30SM fighters were spotted in a satellite photo.[14] In late December 2015, there were 16 Su-30SMs at Khmeimim airbase.[15]

Potential operators[edit]

Thailand formally requested information for the possible acquisition of the Su-30MK/MK2. However, the Saab Gripen was procured instead.[16]

In February 2016, Russia and Belarus concluded a preliminary agreement that would see the export of an undisclosed number of Su-30s to Belarus.[17]

The Iran defense minister announced in February 2016 of its country intention to buy an undisclosed number of the Su-30SM fighters.[18]

In January 2016, Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan mentioned that Russia had discussed the possibility of supplying Su-30 fighters to Armenia during a four-day Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on bilateral military-technical cooperation.[19]


Indian Air Force Su-30MKI
Royal Malaysian Air Force Su-30MKM
Algerian Air Force Su-30MKA refuelled by Il-78 Midas
Commercial (export) version of the basic Su-30.
Sukhoi proposal for upgrading Russian AF single seat Su-27S. Also proposed export version for Indonesia, 24 were ordered but subsequently cancelled due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.[20]
Upgrade project for operational two-seat fighters, the Su-27UB, Su-30 and Su-30K. This was cancelled in Russia but later revived as Su-30M2. Belarus consider updating ex-Indian Su-30K to the Su-30KN standard.[21]
Commercial version of Su-30M first revealed in 1993. Export versions include navigation and communication equipment from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.[22]
A version from manufacturer KnAAPO based on the Su-30MK2. The Russian Air Force placed an initial order for the variant in 2009. Factory tests were completed in September 2010.[23][24][25] Twenty aircraft have been ordered; 4 in 2009 and 16 in 2012.[26] At least 12 have been produced as of August 2014, all four from the first contract in 2009, and eight from the second contract of 2012.[26] They are mostly to be used as combat training aircraft for upgraded Su-27SM fighters.
MKI stands for "Modernizirovannyi, Kommercheskiy, Indiski" meaning "Modernized, Commercial, Indian". Jointly-developed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force. Includes thrust vectoring control (TVC) and canards. Equipped with a multinational avionics complex sourced from Russia, India, France and Israel.[27]
Export version for China. MKK stands for Modernizirovannyi, Kommercheskiy, Kitayski or "Modernized, Commercial, China".[28] Its NATO codename is 'Flanker-G'.[citation needed]
A derivative of the India-Russian Su-30MKI,[29] the MKM is a highly specialised version for Royal Malaysian Air Force. It includes thrust vectoring control (TVC) and canards but with avionics from various countries. It will feature head-up displays (HUD), navigational forward-looking IR system (NAVFLIR) and Damocles Laser Designation pod (LDP) from Thales Group of France, MAW-300 missile approach warning sensor (MAWS), RWS-50 RWR and laser warning sensor (LWS) from SAAB AVITRONICS (South Africa)[30] as well as the Russian NIIP N011M Bars Passive electronically scanned array radar, electronic warfare (EW) system, optical-location system (OLS) and a glass cockpit.[31]
A version of the Su-30MKI, except with French and Russian avionics for Algeria.[32]
A specialised version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI and MKM variants for the Russian military, produced by the Irkut Corporation.[33][34] Russia's Defence Ministry was impressed with the MKI's performance envelope and ordered 30 Su-30SMs, a localised version of Su-30MKI, for the Russian Air Force.[35] The Su-30SM is considered as 4+ gen jet fighter.[36][37][38][39][40][41] The new version has been upgraded based on Russian military requirements for radar, radio communications systems, friend-or-foe identification system, ejection seats, weapons, and other aircraft systems.[42][43] The aircraft is equipped with the Bars-R radar and the wide-angle HUD.[34][43][44][45][46] A contract for 60 of the multirole fighter was signed in March 2012 with delivery by 2016.[47] On 21 September 2012 Su-30SM performed its maiden flight.[48] The export version, the SU-30SME was unveiled at the Singapore Airshow 2016.[49]
Export version for Venezuela.
Su-30MK2 variant for Vietnam with minor modifications.[50]


Map with Sukhoi Su-30 operators in blue
Indonesian Air Force Su-30
Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MK2
Uganda People's Defence Force Air Wing Su-30MK2
  • Angolan Air Force ordered 18 Su-30K fighters on 16 October 2013 as part of a $1 billion deal that also included other equipment and maintenance services for the country. The Su-30Ks were initially delivered to India in the 1990s, but were returned to Russia in 2007.[53]
 People's Republic of China
  • Indonesian Air Force (TNI - AU or Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara) has ordered a combined 11 Su-30MK/MK2 fighters.[55] As of September 2013 it has all Su-30MK/MK2s in inventory.[55]
 Russian Federation
  • Russian Air Force has 3 Sukhoi Su-30, 20 (all delivered) Su-30M2[62] and 66 Su-30SM fighters as of December 2016 with 8 delivered to "Russian Knights" aerobatic team. [63][64][65][66][67] An order for 28 Su-30SM fighters in April 2016 increased the total to 88 of the variant, with deliveries to be completed by 2018.[68]
  • Russian Naval Aviation - 28 Su-30SMs on order,[69] 50 planned. 15 aircraft were delivered as of late December 2016.[70][71][72]
  • Venezuelan Air Force and the government of Venezuela announced on 14 June 2006 the purchase of 24 units of the Su-30MK2. The first two Su-30MK2s arrived in early December 2006 while another 8 were commissioned during 2007; 14 more units arrived in 2008.[76][77] A second batch of 12 Su-30MKV was also being considered in 2009, it never proceed further.[20] It has 24 Su-30MK2s as of January 2012.[78] In October 2015, Venezuela announced the purchase of 12 more Su-30MK2 from Russia for $480 million.[79][80]
  • Vietnam People's Air Force operates 4 Su-30MKs and 20 Su-30MK2Vs in 2013.[32] On 21 August 2013, Russia announced it would deliver another batch of 12 Su-30MK2s under a $450 million contract, with deliveries in 2014-2015.[81]

Specifications (Su-27PU/Su-30)[edit]


Data from KNAAPO,[10] Sukhoi,[11] Gordon and Davison.[82]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 21.935 m (72.97 ft)
  • Wingspan: 14.7 m (48.2 ft)
  • Height: 6.36 m (20.85 ft)
  • Wing area: 62.0 m2 (667 ft2)
  • Empty weight: 17,700 kg (39,021 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 24,900 kg (54,900 lb) with 56% fuel
  • Max. takeoff weight: 34,500 kg (76,060 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 9,400 kg (20,724 lb) internally[83]
  • Powerplant: 2 × AL-31FL low-bypass turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 7,600 kgf (74.5 kN, 16,750 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 12,500 kgf (122.58 kN, 27,560 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.0 (2,120 km/h, 1,320 mph) at altitude
  • Range: 3,000 km (1,620 nmi) at altitude
  • Service ceiling: 17,300 m (56,800 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 230 m/s (45,275 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 401 kg/m2 with 56% fuel (468.3 kg/m2 with full internal fuel) (82.3 lb/ft2 with 56% fuel)
  • Thrust/weight:
    • With full fuel: 0.86
    • With 56% fuel: 1.00
  • Maximum g-load: +9 g


Su-30MK's combat load is mounted on 12 hardpoints: 2 wingtip AAM launch rails, 3 pylons under each wing, 1 pylon under each engine nacelle, and 2 pylons in tandem in the "arch" between the engines. All versions can carry up to 8 tonnes of external stores.

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • 12 June 1999: Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, France, a Russian Su-30MK crashed – both pilots ejected safely and no one was hurt on the ground.
  • 30 April 2009: an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI crashed near Jaisalmer. A pilot died.[84]
  • 30 November 2009: an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI crashed near Jaisalmer. The pilots survived.[85]
  • 13 December 2011: an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI crashed near Pune. Both the pilots ejected and survived the crash.[86]
  • 14 October 2014: an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI crashed in the village of Theoor (near Pune) at 5:30 PM. Both pilots survived.[87]
  • 19 May 2015 : an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI crashed 36 km away from Tezpur air base. Both pilots survived.[88]
  • 17 September 2015 : a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MK2 crashed in Southern Venezuela, near the town of Elorza while intercepting a small drug-smuggling aircraft.[89] Both pilots died.
  • 14 June 2016 : a Vietnam People's Air Force Su-30MK2 crashed near Hon Mat Island (Thanh Hoa Province) while on a training flight. One pilot, Sr Lt. Col Tran Quang Khai died. The C-212-400 from the search and rescue team also crashed near Bach Long Vi Island with nine crew members aboard while searching for the other pilot along with Vietnam Coast Guard ships, other Vietnam People's Navy ships, and military aircraft. This crash lead the Air Force to ground its Su-30 fleet until further investigation has been completed.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


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  • Gordon, Yefim and Peter Davison. Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. Specialty Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58007-091-1. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Eden, Paul (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London, UK: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9. 
  • Gordon, Yefim. Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker: Air Superiority Fighter. Airlife Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-84037-029-7. 
  • Williams, Mel (ed.). "Sukhoi 'Super Flankers'". Superfighters: The Next Generation of Combat Aircraft. Norwalk, Connecticut: AIRtime Publishing Inc., 2002. ISBN 1-880588-53-6. 

External links[edit]