Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Russian Su-30 SM Fighter Jet Scores A ‘Kill’ Against Ukrainian Aircraft During Swing Role Ops; MOD Shares Video

The RuMoD (Russian Ministry of Defense) has released a video of a Su-30SM that scored a kill during swing role operations over the Donetsk region on October 22, 2022.

The video shows two Su-30SM fighters taxiing out and then taking off in swing-role configuration carrying wingtip mounted electronic warfare (EW) pods, two RVV-MD close combat missiles, two RVV-SD medium-range missiles, and two Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles.

In swing role configuration, a fighter has the weapons and the software to execute air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks during the same mission. Typically, such a fighter must have a powerful engine to engage in air combat without jettisoning its ground attack payload.

The two EW pods comprise a system typically used to detect, analyze and spoof jam adversary radar emissions. Typically such pods feature powerful broadband active antenna arrays. Using digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) technology, the system receives external signals, converts and records them in digital form, and responds in less than ten nanoseconds.

The enemy radar receiver then reads these jamming signals as true and cannot accurately determine the distance to a target nor the parameters of its movement.

The EW system can delay radar detection for cross-eye jamming, spoofing enemy radar with false range angular position data using DRFM, and the transition from track-while-scan (TWS) radar mode to continuous painting.

su-30SM
File Image: Su-30SM

The system can generate dummy targets difficult for the adversary radar to distinguish from the real targets. The signals are radio portraits of various targets.

The Kh-29 air-to-surface missile is designed to engage visually observed hardened ground and surface targets, such as big railway and highway bridges, industrial installations, concrete runways, aircraft in reinforced concrete shelters, and surface vessels displacing up to 10,000 tons.

The Kh-29E variant features a passive TV guidance system, and the Kh-29L, a semi-active laser guidance system using reflected laser illumination.

The missile features a 320-kilogram warhead and is propelled by a single-mode solid-fuel rocket engine making its impact devastating. It’s hard to tell which missile variant was used for the mission.

Initial footage of the video shows the Su-30SM operating at low altitudes and performing tight maneuvers in keeping with the flight profile required to launch a short-range (10-30 kilometers) missile like the Kh-29 on a visually acquired target.

In the later part of the video, the Su-30SM is seen at high altitude launching a medium-range air-to-air missile which would have to be an RVV-SD. According to RuMoD, the missile brought down a Ukrainian aircraft of unspecified type.

The RVV-SD has a max range of 110 kilometers. It features active radar terminal homing, but during mid-course, it relies on inertial navigation with mid-course updates from the launching fighter. The video shows the pilot tracking the missile for some time following launch and then breaking away when the missile achieves an independent terminal lock.

According to Izvestia, during the mission, the pilots discovered an air target and destroyed the aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The report says the crews of the Su-30SM fighters set up a combat patrol to cover other attack aircraft and army aviation helicopters striking military facilities and equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The IAF has a large inventory of the export variant of the RVV-SD that goes by the nomenclature RVV-AE. The RVV-AE uses some non-Russian components and has a shorter range of around 80 kilometers.

The last big order placed by the IAF was in June 2019 for 400 missiles. Given India’s close defense relations with Russia, it is possible that the RVV-SD variant, too, has been supplied to India.

The Su-30SM is the Russian variant of the IAF’s Su-30MKI. Unlike the IAF fighter, which features Israeli & French avionics, the Russian fighter is equipped exclusively with Russian avionics.

  • Vijainder K Thakur is a retired IAF Jaguar pilot. He is also an author, software architect, entrepreneur, and military analyst. 
  • Reach out to the author at vkthakur (at) gmail.com
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