Categories  Air Systems

Russian 5th-gen Su-30SM super-maneuverable jet fighters

The Russian air force took delivery this month of the first two of a planned 30 Sukhoi Su-30SM jet fighters. This aircraft, an advanced version of the Su-30MKI fighter that Russia developed together with India, takes Russian military aviation a big step forward.

At first glance, the new Su-30SM twin-engine fighter has a profile that looks similar to the U.S. Air Force Boeing F-15E jet fighter-bomber. It has straight up-and-down twin tails and big square engine intakes. Suffice it to say, this aircraft isn’t stealthy like the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 combat aircraft.

The Su-30SM presents a big fat radar cross section, which could make it detectable at long ranges. Still, I don’t think surprise and stealth is a big part of this new aircraft. The Su-30SM is big, powerful, and looks like it’s designed for close-up dogfighting.

Although the Su-30SM is weak in stealth capabilities, its major ace-in-the-hole is its maneuverability. The aircraft has one of the most modern thrust vectoring systems in the world, and most likely would be a match even for the world’s most advanced jet fighters in close-quarters combat.
Thrust vectoring means the Su-30SM has the ability to manipulate the direction of its engine thrust to control speed and turning. Few other of the world’s aircraft have this capability. In the U.S. only the F-22 and F-35 have any thrust vectoring capability at all, and perhaps not as advanced as the Su-30SM.

When we think of jet fighters, we usually think speed; the faster the aircraft can get to the fight, the more effective it will be. Still, the main advantage of the Su-30SM might be its ability to fly slowly.

The jet’s thrust vectoring gives it the ability to hang in the air virtually motionless without stalling. When it does that, everyone else just flies right past it. Few other combat aircraft in the world may be as maneuverable as the Su-30SM.

In addition to thrust vectoring, the new Russian fighter — like its Su-30MKI predecessor — has avionics appropriate for fighters, ground-attack capabilities, and canards and a long-range phased-array radar system for the air-superiority role.

For proponents of advanced fighters like the F-35, F-22, and the Eurofighter, looks like there’s a new game in town.

Source: Global Security J. Keller

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