Although Russia’s fifth generation fighter may be little more than a token collection of jets, they have gone to great lengths to upgrade their existing fourth-generation platforms in a way that, they believe, will keep them from falling behind nations like the United States and China, who currently boast the most technologically advanced fighters on the planet. One of these upgraded platforms comes in the form of the Sukhoi Su-30SM.
The Su-30SM is a direct descendant of the Su-27, which is commonly referred to by the U.S. military as the “Flanker,” and thanks to a laundry list of upgrades funneled into the program in recent decades, it is now widely considered to be among the most maneuverable jet fighters on the planet, despite its larger relative size when compared to most fighters of its class.
Because the Su-30SM is an upgraded Su-27 design, it doesn’t come with the stealth capability employed by 5th generation fighters like the American F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning. Adding stealth capability would have required an extensive redesign that would allow for maintaining armaments within the aircraft’s body, for instance, in order to reduce the aircraft’s radar signature. Instead, the Russian government chose to expedite its Su-30SM line, while allocating other funds toward new development programs like the forthcoming MiG-35, which is expected to be an advanced 4th generation fighter, not unlike the Su-35.
In order to make the Su-30SM a capable opponent for advanced Western jets like the F-22, Russia has fitted these fighters with forward canards, thrust-vectoring engines, and a new radar and fire control system called Bars-R, which they hope will allow the non-stealth aircraft to locate and identify encroaching F-22s and F-35s, which boast the most advanced stealth technology fitted to a production aircraft anywhere on the planet.
Of course, if that new radar system fails to do so, all the maneuverability in the world won’t matter, as F-35s engage the Russian jets from beyond the horizon, well before they ever realize they’re there.
If the Su-30SM is actually able to identify American fighters on the approach, however, the impressive acrobatics this aircraft is capable of may indeed come into play in the potential dog fights of the future, as America and its NATO allies once again prepare for the possibility of war with Russia.
Watch the Su-30SM in action in the video below, released by the Russian Ministry of Defense to demonstrate the air capabilities of the Su-30SM.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons