Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Russia Gets ‘Cutting Edge’ Su-30 SM2 Fighters With Powerful New Radars To Boost Its Military Ops In Ukraine

The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), on November 21, 2022, handed over a batch of new Su-30SM2 fighters and Yak-130 combat trainers to the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD). The number of aircraft in the batch was not specified.

“The Irkutsk Aviation Plant of the United Aircraft Corporation (PJSC UAC, part of the Rostec state corporation) has manufactured and handed over to the Russian Ministry of Defense new Su-30SM2 fighters and combat trainers Yak-130,” the government website said in a statement according to TASS.

According to the statement, “The new aircraft received an improved complex of on-board radio-electronic equipment. Thanks to the modernization carried out on the instructions of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the combat capabilities of aircraft have increased. In particular, the range of detection and identification of air targets has increased.”

The new radar, in combination with new high-precision weapons, would be capable of inflicting strikes against air, land, and sea targets at a distance of several hundred kilometers.

The United Aircraft Corporation will likely hand over an additional batch of aircraft to the RuMoD, going by the schedule laid down in the state defense order.

Su-30 SM2 Will Feature Su-35S Capabilities

The Sukhoi Experimental Design Bureau, in partnership with Irkut Corporation, is developing a new modernized version of the Sukhoi Su-30SM Flanker-H, which is currently in service with the Russian Air Force and Navy.

The modernized variant, which was earlier referred to as Su-30SMD and is now designated as the Su-30SM2, leverages the operational lessons that the Russian Air Force learned during its air campaign in Syria.

The new variant features a more powerful (AL-41F-S1) engine, IRBIS N035 radar, improved avionics, and modern weapons. The AL-41F-S1 engine and the IRBIS N035 radar were originally developed for the Su-35S fighter.

su-35
File Image: A pair of Russian Air Force Su-35 jets during a training mission

The Su-30SM2 is an attempt to converge to the maximum extent possible the Su-30 family with the Su-35 series to minimize logistics and maintenance overheads.

Initial Lot Does Not Feature AL-41F-1S Engines

The initial lot of Su-30SM2 aircraft being delivered to the RuMoD does not feature the AL-41F-1S engines. According to Interfax sources, deliveries of Su-30SM2s with AL-41F-1S engines could begin no earlier than 2023.

Flight tests of modified Su-30SM with the AL-41F-1S engine are expected to conclude by December 2023

Development History

Development of the Su-30SM2 was initiated under a project designated “Adaptation-Su” aimed at increasing the combat capabilities of the Su-30SM and substituting foreign components with those developed in Russia.

Initial efforts were focused on upgrading weapon load and avionics to a standard with the designation Su-30SM1. In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought the maximum possible convergence of the Su-30SM and Su-35S platforms.

Consequently, it was decided to power the upgrade with AL-41F-1S engines and replace the Bars radar with the much more powerful Irbis radar. The upgrade was named Su-30SM2.

The Su-30SM2 will be able to use the entire spectrum of modern and promising high-precision weapons of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, including KAB-250 glide bombs, as well as X-59MK2 air-to-surface missiles.

su-30SM
File Image: Su-30SM

Orders & Deployment

During a visit to the Irkutsk Aviation Plant in August 2020, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that by the end of the year, RuMoD plans to sign a contract for the construction of 21 Su-30SM2 fighters and 25 Yak-130 trainer aircraft.

The total cost of the order was projected at over RUB 100 billion.

In July 2021, sources in the military department told Izvestia that the first Su-30SM2 would enter service with the Baltic Fleet by the end of the year.

The newest fighters will be used to re-equip the 689th Fighter Regiment and the 4th Guards Naval Assault Aviation Regiment. The arrival of these machines will replace the outdated Su-27 and radically increase the combat capabilities of naval aviation in the region.

Su-30SM Participation In Russian SMO

Russia is using its Su-35S & Su-30SM fighters effectively in the ongoing Special Military Operations (SMO). The aircraft operate in synch as a two-aircraft package to strike Ukrainian ground targets and degrade Ukrainian air defense systems at the same time.

Typically, the Su-30SM operates as a ground attack fighter, and the Su-35S, as an air dominance fighter providing top cover to the Su-30SM. With the Su-35S providing top cover, the Su-30SM descends to lower heights to visually acquire and destroy its target using Kh-29 ASMs.

In its daily brief of November 20, 2022, the RuMoD stated that high-precision missiles of Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed 2 U.S.-manufactured HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) near Kramatorsk (Donetsk People’s Republic).

It is likely that the attack was carried out by Su-30SM or Su-35 fighters, both of which have radars capable of attacking ground targets at long ranges.

  • Vijainder K Thakur is a retired IAF Jaguar pilot. He is also an author, software architect, entrepreneur, and military analyst. VIEWS PERSONAL
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