The cover story for our May issue involves the Russian Navy’s Su-30SM. Irkutsk-made Su-30 family started with the Su-30MKI for India and now in service as the Su-30SM in Russia, notably featuring an electronically-scanned array radar and vectored-thrust engines.
Under a series of contracts, started in March 2012, the Russian Ministry of Defence has ordered 116 Su-30SM (NATO codename ‘Flanker-H’) fighters — 88 for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) and 28 for the Naval Aviation.
When all current aircraft on order are delivered, the Su-30SM will become the most numerous modern fighter aircraft in Russian service. In September 2015, four Su-30SMs from Domna were deployed to Syria to provide fighter cover for the Air Force Group deployed here. The Su-30SMs were noted flying with a typical air-to-air fit of four medium-range R-27R missiles and two close-range R-73 missiles.
However, the greatest contribution from the Su-30SM lies in its avionics, especially the Bars-R radar, which is based around an N011M-R passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar. The main shortcoming of the PESA is a small scan angle, only 45-degrees to each side of the nose, which is unacceptable for a highly-manoeuvrable fighter aircraft. Hence the Bars electronically scanned array is installed on a hydraulic plate, increasing the search angles 70-degrees to left and right.
By 2019, Russia intends to improve the Su-30SM’s capabilities. The type is to be fitted with a new computing system. In addition, the introduction of new weapons, probably R-77-1 and R-74M air-to-air missiles, and Kh-31M, Kh-35U, Kh-38M air-to-surface missiles and others are planned.
‘Flankers’ from the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet’s 43rd Naval Attack Aviation Regiment at Saki, Crimea, deployed to Yeysk in mid-February to conduct air-to-air refueling training. It marked the first time that Russian Navy Su-30SM ‘Flankers’ have conducted in-flight refueling in squadron service, on this occasion doing so alongside their Baltic Fleet Su-24MR ‘Fencer’ colleagues from Chernyakhovsk.