The Sukhoi Su-30 (Cyrillic: Сухой Су-30) (NATO reporting name Flanker-C) is a twin-engine, two-seat supermanoeuverable fighter aircraftdeveloped by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. Only 362 were made.
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 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 dedicated strike fighter designed for long-range air-to-surface attack missions, similar to the American F-15E.
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 of the Su-27. 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 thrust-vectoring, forward canards and a long-range phase-array radar. Its derivatives include the Su-30MKM, MKA and MKV for Malaysia, Algeria and Venezuela, respectively. The Russian Air Force is in talks to buy 28 to 40 Su-30 C fighters from Sukhoi's Irkut production facility.
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. 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 in 14 April 1992.
To adapt the Su-27UB to its new role, the aircraft was fitted with a retractable in-flight refuelling probe to increase range; the probe is offset to the left side of the nose and, to accommodate it, the IRSTwas offset to the right. The aircraft's avionics were changed, fitting special communications and guidance equipment to command formation flights of single-seat Su-27 interceptors. The rear cockpit received a large CRT display which provides the formation leader with tactical information regarding targets and interceptors. The navigation and fly-by-wire systems were also upgraded. It was fitted with an updated NIIP N001 radar, providing some ability for ground attack and to track and engage multiple aerial targets simultaneously.
Sukhoi offered the Su-27PU to be used as a "fighter controller", a sort of mini-AWACS, with the back-seater using the radar and data links to control other fighters. However, the PVO was not interested in buying the Su-27PU. All five Su-27PUs, with the new designation of "Su-30", ended up in PVO service in the training role. Deliveries to the 54th Interceptor Air Regiment at the advanced training base at Savostleyka began in 1996.
A Su-30M two-seat multirole variant was proposed for Russian use and a few may have been built in the mid-1990s for evaluation. Sukhoi also proposed an export variant, Su-30MK, where "MK" stood for "Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy" (Modernized Commercial). Sukhoi displayed a Su-30MK demonstrator at the Paris Air Show in 1993. A much more optimised Su-30MK demonstrator, rebuilt from the first production Su-27PU, was displayed in 1994.
The Su-30 is a multirole fighter. It has a two seat cockpit with an airbrake behind the canopy.
The Su-30MK is capable of accomplishing a wide variety of combat missions at significant distances from the home base, in any weather conditions and during radar jamming, both by day and night. This multirole aircraft is adequately fitted for the entire spectrum of tactical and operational combat employment scenarios, varying from counter-air tasks (i.e. gaining air superiority, air defence, air patrol and escort) to ground attack, suppression of enemy air defences, air interdiction, close air support and maritime attack. Additionally, the Su-30MK can perform ECCM and early warning tasks, as well as exercise command-and-control over a group of aerial combat assets performing joint missions. It has a 9 g load manoeuvrability.
The Su-30MK's aerodynamic configuration is an unstable-in-longitude triplane. To increase lifting effectiveness and enhance manoeuvrability of the aircraft, foreplanes are installed. They are deflected automatically to ensure controlled flight at high angles-of-attack. Foreplanes, however, are installed only in some Su-30 variants like the Su-30MKI.
The integrated aerodynamic configuration, combined with the thrust vectoring control ability, results in unprecedented manoeuvrability and unique takeoff and landing characteristics. Equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system, the Su-30MK is able to perform some very advanced manoeuvres. They include the well-known Pugachev’s Cobra and the Bell. This allows the aircraft to rapidly strip airspeed, causing a pursuing fighter to overshoot. While performing a somersault manoeuvre the aircraft makes 360-degree turn in the pitch plane without any loss of altitude. In the Controlled Flat Spin manoeuvre the aircraft performs several full turns in the horizontal plane, with zero forward speed, virtually on the spot.
The aircraft's power plant incorporates two Saturn AL-31F afterburning low-bypass turbofan engines. Two AL-31F turbofans, each rated at 12,500 kgf (123 kN, 27,550 lb) of full afterburning thrust ensuresMach 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 in-flight refuelling system increases the range to 5,200 km (3,200 mi) or flight duration up to 10 hours at cruise altitudes. The long range significantly increases deployment options. The missions vary from prolonged patrols, and escorts to long-range intercepts and ground attacks.
The thrust vectoring engines on some Su-30 variants have nozzles with turn axes positioned at 32-deg angle to each other. The differential ±15-degree deflection of the engines' asymmetric nozzles enables pitch/yaw thrust vectoring control. Depending on the manoeuvre to be performed, nozzles deflections can be synchronised with or differ from the deflections of horizontal tail planes.
A two-member crew configuration contributes significantly to enhanced combat capabilities, due to rational distribution of workload between crew members. While the first pilot flies the aircraft, controls weapons and performs manoeuvring dogfight, the co-pilot employs BVR air-to-air and air-to-ground guided weapons in long-range engagements, monitors tactical environment to ensure situational awareness, and performs command-and-control tasks in group missions.
- Radar: Either a N001VE or Phazotron N010 Zhuk-27 or an N011M BARS pulse Doppler passive electronically scanned array radar. Capable of detecting and tracking up to 15 air targets, while concurrently attacking four of them. The N011M BARS radar (featuring a 20-m/65.6-ft resolution) ensures detection of large sea-surface targets at a distance of up to 400 km (250 mi), and small-size ones at a distance of up to 120 km (75 mi).
- Other avionics include an integrated optronic sighting-and-navigation system with a laser gyro navigation system; helmet-mounted displays, a head-up-display, multifunction color LCDs with image mixing ability; and a GPS system (GLONASS/NAVSTAR compatible).
- IR and laser sighting pods to detect and engage small-size ground targets are available for installation. The aircraft is provided with an ECCM facility intended to subvert hostile electronic and electro-optical countermeasures.
- The aircraft features autopilot ability at all flight stages including low-altitude flight in terrain-following 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.
- A standard Su-30K is estimated at US$34 million.
- A Su-30MKK variant is estimated at US$53 million.