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NATO reporting name: Flanker
TYPE: Air-superiority fighter.
PROGRAMME: Development of long-range heavy fighter to meet PFI (perspektivnyi frontovoy istrebitel: advanced frontal fighter) requirement began 1969 under leadership of Pavel Sukhoi; augmented in high-low mix by Mikoyan LPFI (later MiG-29). T10 based on 'integral' layout of unbuilt T4MS. Construction of prototype began in 1974 under Mikhail Simonov's supervision, and it was flown 20 May 1977 by Vladimir Ilyushin. Development undertaken by nine flying Su-27 'Flanker-As': four prototypes (T10-1 and T10-2) produced in OKB workshops; T10-3 and T-10-4 built by Komsomolsk plant and assembled by OKB); five development (T10-5, -6, -9, -10 and -11) and one static test airframe at Komsomolsk. Individual prototype designations duplicated some competing unbuilt T10 configurations. Prototypes had curved wingtips, rearward-retracting nosewheel and tailfins mounted centrally above engine housings.
Some variation between prototypes; T10-1 originally flew with 'clean' wing; four fences then added, followed by anti-flutter weights on wingtips and fins; inboard fences subsequently removed. T10-3 (first flight 23 August 1979) and T10-4 (first flight 31 October 1979) used AL-31F engines, other had AL-21F-3s. Canted tailfins from T10-3. T10-5, -6, -9, -10, and -11 had eight pylons (two below each wing) and -9 and -11 had long-chord ogival radomes; these five aircraft collectively known as T10-5 subvariant. Original configuration revealed poor controllability with inadequate stability in roll and yaw, and with poor high AoA capability; two pilots lost their lives before major airframe redesign resulted in T-10S production configuration (known internally as T10 junior).
Construction of new model began 1979, with first flight of prototype (T10-7) 20 April 1981, followed by second prototype (T10-12); T10-8 was T10S-0 static test airframe; series production by KnAAPO at Komsomolsk began with T10-15, first flown 2 June 1982; entry into service 22 June 1985 with air defence regiment co-located with Komsomolsk factory airfield; official type acceptance 23 August 1990 (Council of Ministers decree); ground attack role observed in 1991. Following purchase of complete aircraft, China signed licensed production agreement on 6 December 1996, covering further 200. Production continues for export. In late 1999. Sukhoi quoted 567 of Su-27 family in service in eight countries; foresees total of 760 sales by 2005.
CURRENT VERSIONS: Su-27 ('Flanker-B'): Single-seat land-based production version for air defence force (PVO); full-span leading-edge flaps, trailing-edge flaperons, 5 per cent increase in wing area, straight leading-edges, new aerofoil, square wingtips, carrying anti-flutter weights which doubled as AAM launchers; wider-spaced, uncanted tailfins outboard of engine housings; flatter canopy of reduced cross-section; extended tailcone instead of flat 'beaver-tail'; forward-retracting nosewheel; first flown (T10-7) 20 April 1981. Standard radar tracks 10 targets simultaneously, engages only one. There was early, but probably erroneous, speculation that PVO aircraft were designated Su-27P, with Su-27S designation applied to Frontal Aviation aircraft. All aircraft can carry Sorbtsya-S active ECM jammer pods on wingtips in place of wingtip launch rails. Su-27S designation little used, but differentiates production (Series) from prototype and preproduction. By 2003, Su-27S designation being used to identify those aircraft which were awaiting Su-27SM modifications. Four initial production aircraft (T10-15, -17, -18 and -22) used for State Acceptance Tests were part of small initial batch featuring horizontally cropped fin caps.
Detailed description applies to the above version, except where indicated.
Su-27RV ('Flanker-B'): Six replacement aircraft for Russian Knights aerobatic team feature GPS and Western-compatible communications equipment.
Su-27SK ('Flanker-B'): Export version of basic Su-27, using air-to-ground capabilities not exploited by Soviet/Russian Su-27s and using same weapons options and downgraded avionics. Armament, totalling up to 4,000 kg (8,818 lb), includes 250 kg and 500 kg bombs, B-8M1 packs of 20 x 80 mm rockets, B-13L packs of five 122 mm rockets, S-250FM 250 mm rockets, KMGU-2 cluster bombs, or podded SPPU-22 30 mm gun with optional downward-deflecting barrel for air-to-ground and air-to-air use. Dimensions, weights and performance generally similar to Su-27 but with reinforced landing gear giving increased (33,000 kg; 72,752 lb) MTOW. Chinese aircraft locally designated J-11, though this strictly applies only to locally manufactured examples. First Chinese-assembled aircraft flight tested in December 1998. Some later export aircraft may have upgraded radar and 6,200 kg (13,670 lb) weapon load, or even 8,000 kg (17,637 lb) according to some manufacturers' brochures.
Su-27SM: Mid-life update configuration in parallel to Su-27UBM and Su-30KN. First conversion of Su-27s for Russian Air Forces flew at Komsomolsk on 27 December 2002; second to follow; both for military trials at Akhtubinsk. Upgrade adda two MFI-9 178 x 127 mm (7 x 5 in) LCDs, A737 satellite navigation and new radar computer and software for compatibility with AA-12 'Adder' AAMs and several ASMs/LGBs. Second stage upgrade planned for 2005, adding L175 Khibiny EW system, 'quiet' radar and electro-optic targeting pod. Initial 20 first-stage upgrades to have been completed by end of 2003, when IOC was scheduled, although year-end target had fallen to "10 to 12" according to mid-2003 announcement.
Su-27SMK: Single-seat multirole fighter based on the basic Su-27SK, and not the Zhuk-equipped Su-27SM; revealed 1995. Compared with Su-27SK, has 12 instead of 10 hardpoints; 8,000 kg (17,637 lb) weapon load; state-of-the-art nav system, including long-range radio nav, GPS, multichannel comms and latest ECM; larger internal wing fuel tanks and provision for two 2,000 litre (528 US gallon; 440 Imp gallon) underwing tanks; flight refuelling and buddy refuellling capability; retains N001 radar. Most improvements already introduced on other Su-27 series aircraft, enabling virtually full-standard Phase One Su-27SMKs to be offered for immediate delivery. These would be configured for air-to-air roles, with the new wings containing increased internal fuel, provision for underwing tanks, flight refuelling, 12 hardpoints and RVV-AE (R-77; AA-12 'Adder') AAM capability. Su-30KI demonstrator is regarded as Phase One standard. Phase Two aircraft, with improved avionics and weapon systems for air-to-surface missions, theoretically available later; weapons options to include Kh-29 and Kh-31 ASMs, plus KB-500 LGBs although this seems unlikely without much more extensive upgrade. Dimensions as Su-27, except wing span over wingtip R-73E missiles 14.95 m (49 ft 01/2 in). Weights and performance: see tabulated data.
Su-27PD: Long-endurance test aircraft with retractable AAR probe, offset IRST and recontoured tail 'sting'; sometimes described as single-seat Su-30, originally Su-27P. Probably stripped of weapons system for research at Gromov Flight Research Institute and demonstration flying. Added satellite navigation; no radar or weapon controlsystem; PC 486 with LCD for flight assessment of indication formats. At least one aircraft (3720 '598', last known Russian military Su-27); by early 1998, this was marked 'Su-27 Upgrade' and undertaking development flying for Su-30KI, later Su-30KM programme. Duties included two flights to North Pole in July and September 1999, testing SRNK satnav system. Another Su-27P (3711 '595') lacked AAR probe. On 25 January 2002, 2711 made first flight with AL-31F-M1 turbofan as initial stage in development of upgraded engine for PAKFA fifth-generation fighter. Fitted with thrust-vector-ing nozzles by 2003.
Su-30KI. The Su-30KI prototype (4002, wearing the basic Chinese dark grey colour scheme, but with a disruptive camouflage superimposed on the wings, tailplanes and outer surfaces of the tailfins) first flew on 28 June 1998, and was then sent to Chkalov Flight Test at Akhtubinsk, where it was evaluated and used for launch trials of the RVV-AE (AA-12 'Adder') AAM, and for avionics and refuelling probe verification. The Su-30KI was described as a 'single-seat Su-30', and was tailored to meet an Indonesian requirement, before the Asian economic crisis halted that programme. Extent to which the aircraft incorporated the 'extended endurance' features of the Su-30 (apart from refuelling probe, GPS and Western VOR/DME navigation equipment) remains uncertain, however. Su-30KI also used as basis of Sukhoi's latest proposal to upgrade Russia's in-service Su-27s, replacing Su-27SM. Upgrade programme still confusingly reffered to by Sukhoi as the Su-30KI, although Russian Air Forces understood to use neither the Su-30 designation nor the KI suffix.
Su-27UB ('Flanker-C'): Tandem two-seat trainer version of 'Flanker-B' with full combat capability (Sukhoi designation T10U); four prototypes (first of which for static testing) built at Komsomolsk; first flown 7 March 1985 (T10U-1). Series manufacture by Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association began 1986; first production UB (T10U-4) flew on 10 September 1986. Instructor in raised rear seat with 6o view forward over the nose; taller fin; length same as 'Flanker-B'; overall height 6.36 m (20 ft 101/4 in), maximum combat load 8,000 kg (17,637 lb). 1,500 kg increase in empty weight, no reduction in internal fuel capacity. Export version is Su-27UBK.
Su-27UBM: Russian Air Forces upgrade. First modified Su-27UB (1201 '20') delivered from Irkutsk plant to LII at Zhukovsky 6 March 2001; further seven conversions planned before end of same year; two completed by September 2001; parallel programme to Su-30KN upgrade. Equipment includes new computer, GPS, three 152 x 203 mm (6 x 8 in) MFDs, RVV-AE (AA-12) missiles and ground mapping mode for N001 radar. Later improvements may include radar-absorbent paint and refuelling probe.
'Aircraft 02-01' ('Flanker-C'): Second Su-27UB flying prototype (Komsomolsk 0201) converted as in-flight refuelling systems testbed with retractable probe and provision for centreline 'buddy' pod; first flown 6 June 1987. Later became Su-27PU.
Su-27M: Advanced development of Su-27. Still the official designation for the aircraft known to the OKB as the Su-35.
Su-27/Su-30 (Su-30KI Minor Modernisation): Proposed upgrade for export Su-27SK, bestowing same multirole standard as Su-30MKK, with inflight refuelling probe, glass cockpit, N-011M radar, GPS, VOR, DME, new mission computer, new navigation system with GPS, expanded EW and provision for new targeting pods. Development undertaken by Su-27PD 3720 '598' and, latter, by Su-30KI 4002, first flown 28 June 1998. Phase I of upgrade is known in Russia as Su-30KI, despite the two-seat and Indonesian connotations of that designation. In February 1998, Su-27PD 3720 '598' was displayed at the Singapore Air Show marked 'Su-27 Upgrade' and - not-withstanding the fact that it is a single-seat aircraft - stated to be undertaking development work for a variant to be designated Su-30KI. Latter is phase one of Su-27SMK programme, duties of trials aircraft 4002 including satellite-based navigation; upgraded computers; RVV-AE AAMs; Kh-29T; Kh-31P and Kh-59M ASMs; KAB-500 and KAB-1500 TV-guided bombs; and multifunction cockpit displays.
Su-27/Su-30 Major Modernisation: Proposed advanced upgrade configuration bringing any 'first-generation' 'Flanker' to virtual Su-27M/Su-30MKI standards, with a new MIL-STD-1553B-based avionics system, N011M radar with a phased-array antenna, and with the option of adding thrust vectoring and/or canard foreplanes. To be undertaken on Russian Su-27s from 2005 onwards; designation Su-27BM (bolshaya modernizatsya: big modification).
Su-27LL-KS: Su-27 (T10-26; 0702) with axisymmetric afterburner nozzle. Also known as Su-27LLUV (KS) (upravlyayemy vektor tyagi; krugloye soplo; thrust vector control; axisymmetric nozzle) or Su-27-KSI. Evaluated against two-dimensional nozzle testbed, described below. First flew 21 March 1989.
Su-27UB-PS: Su-27UB (Irkutsk 0202; '08') modified in 1990 for thrust-vectoring development, with large two-dimensional box nozzle on part tailpipe. Also known as Su-27LL-PS or Su-27LL-UV (PS) (upravlyayemy vektor tyagi; ploskoye soplo: thrust vector control; flat nozzle).
Su-27LMK: CCV (lyotno-modeliruyushchy kompleks: flight simulation complex) conversion of production aircraft 2405 with FADEC and side-stick, and fitted with spin-recovery rockets, tested subsequently with axisymmetric nozzle on starboard tailpipe. Trials at Zhukovsky test centre, under direction of TsIAM and Saturn/Lyulka OKB, began 1990. Advanced control testbed, 2001.
Su-27LL-OS: Missile testbed; 1989 conversion of first production Su-27UB 0101 (T10U-4).
Su-27K: Described separately.
Su-27IB: Described separately.
Su-27PU: Two prototypes only. In production as Su-30.
P-42: Specially prepared Su-27 (T10-15; first production Su-27; originallyflown 2 June 1982); set 31 official world records between 1986 and 1988, including climb to 12,000 m (39,370 ft) in 55.542 seconds, and to 22,250 m (73,000 ft) with 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) payload; some records are in FAI category for STOL aircraft.