Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2019-05-01

Russian Armed Forces to Fly Su-35S Fighter

A source from Russia’s aerospace industry recently told Nation Shield that the Russian Armed Forces will officially adopt Sukhoi Su-35S (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E+) multirole combat aircraft this year.
 
“The Su-35S has been operated by Russia since 2009. The aircraft is set to be officially adopted by the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily, VKS) in 2019,” said the source.
 
A representative of the air platform’s manufacturer, Sukhoi company (a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation), detailed the recent configuration of the Su-35 (an export-oriented variant of the Su-35S).
 
The Su-35 is 21.90 m long, 14.70 m wide, and 5.90 m high. The aircraft has a normal take-off weight (TOW) of 34,500 kg and a maximum TOW of 25,300 kg. The platform carries 8,000 kg of payload on 12 hardpoints.

The Su-35 is powered by two Unit 117S afterburning turbofan engines with a thrust of up to 14,500 kilogram-force (kgf) each, producing a top speed of Mach 2.5, a maximum range of 3,600 km, and a service ceiling of 18,000 m. The Unit 117 has a specified service life of approximately 4,000 flight hours and is coupled with the KSU-35 digital remote-control system that increases the manoeuvrability of the aircraft. 
 
The platform can fire a wide range of air-launched weapons (ALWs) that includes air-to-air (AA) and air-to-surface (AS) missiles, guided bomb units, unguided rockets, and free-fall bombs. In the baseline configuration, the Su-35 is armed with a GSh-301 30 mm single-barrel automatic cannon with an ammunition load of 150 rounds.

The aircraft launches the new-generation RVV family of AA missiles, namely, the short-range RVV-MD (AA-11 Archer Mod. 2) and the medium-range RVV-AE (AA-12 Adder) and RVV-SD (AA-12 Adder Mod. 2), as well as legacy R-27-family (AA-10 Alamo) and R-73E (AA-11 Archer) ALWs.
 
The Su-35 is also capable of engaging ground and surface targets, including radar stations and naval ships. The platform has been fitted with the Kh-31P (AS-17 Krypton) anti-ship missiles and the Kh-31A (AS-17 Krypton) anti-radiation missiles.

To engage land-based stationary targets, the aircraft launches the KAB-500- and KAB-1500-family guided bomb units, including bombs fitted with TV and laser guidance systems, and the Kh-59MK (AS-18 Kazoo) air-to-surface (AS) guided missiles.

Despite development of smart ALWs, unguided and freefall munitions are still used to engage non-sensitive targets and manpower/vehicle concentration areas. The Su-35 can carry S-8 (80 mm), S-13 (122 mm) and S-25 unguided rockets and high-explosive fragmentation bombs that have a combat weight of up to 500 kg.
 
Therefore, the aircraft is capable of engaging an aerial target at a distance up to 110 km, using the RVV-SD AA missiles, and a ground one at a distance of up to 285 km, using the Kh-59MK-family AS missiles.
 
Russia also shores up the anti-radiation capabilities of the Su-35S. To this end, the Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV) has developed the Kh-58UShKE anti-radiation missile that has been recently integrated into the armament suite of the Sukhoi air platform. The manufacturer claims that the weapon, the maximum speed of which reaches M=3.8, can engage a working radar station at a distance of up to 245 km with a hit probability of no less than 80 per cent.
 
Key Features
Unlike previously developed Russian combat aircraft, Su-35S has been reinforced with fifth-generation subsystems. The platform’s sensor suite is based on the Irbis-E (E for Export-oriented, Eksportnaya) radar system that detects aerial targets at distances of 200 km and 350-400 km at wide and narrow scanning angles, respectively. The radar allows simultaneous detecting of up to 30 aerial targets and engaging of up to eight of them.
 
The Irbis-E has been complemented by a high-sensitive jamming-resistant multichannel optical location station (OLS), which detects heat-emitting aerial vehicles at a distance of 90 km and finds ranges to both aerial and ground targets. The OLS also works in target designation mode (however, an external target designation pod is required for effective engagement of ground targets).
 
The sensor suite of the aircraft also comprises the S-108 communications subsystem that comprises two very high-frequency/high-frequency radios integrated with a Link 16-standard encrypted data terminal. The Su-35 has also been fitted with a combined guidance subsystem that incorporates an inertial measurement unit and a satellite receiver, search-and-targeting optical-electronic pod, onboard graphics station, and fibre/multiplex communications lines. 
 
The cockpit of the Su-35 has been fitted with multifunctional displays, digital map system, and wide-angle colour head-up display. The lighting facilities of the cabin are compatible with night vision goggles.
 
Compared to previously developed Sukhoi combat aircraft, namely, Su-27 (Flanker) and its upgraded variants, the Su-35 features a substantially updated fuelling system: the platform carries 11.3 t of fuel internally (almost 2 t more that the basic Su-27), features an aerial refuelling system, and can carry external fuel tanks with a capacity of 2,000 l of fuel each.
 
The Su-35 features advanced combat survivability, owing to two separately mounted jet engines, multichannel duplication of critically important subsystems, and protected fuel tanks. The electronic warfare suite of the aircraft incorporates an individual/group active jammer, anti-radiation missile guidance unit, radar/laser warning devices, and automated chaff dispenser.
 
In order to increase the fighter’s rapid deployment capabilities, Sukhoi has complemented the Su-35 with ground-based autonomous power supply system and auxiliary power unit. The air platform has been fitted with an onboard oxygen generator.
 
Domestic and International Interest
The domestic variant of the Su-35, Su-35S (S for Serially-Produced, Seriyniy), is being delivered in large quantities to the Russian Aerospace Forces. In 2009, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and JSC Sukhoi Company (a subsidiary of the UAC) signed the first contract for 48 aircraft to be delivered through 2015. The MoD signed for the second batch of 50 Su-35S fighter jets in December 2015. In 2016-2017, the Russian military received two Su-35S batches, with each totalling 10 aircraft; 10 more platforms are reported to have been delivered in 2018.
 
It should be mentioned that the Su-35 fighters of the VKS had been being operated during the counter-terrorism operation in Syria since early 2016. In late December 2018, Russia’s Vice Premier Yury Borisov summarised the Syrian experience of the aircraft saying: “The reliability performance of the Su-35 aircraft during combat use have exceeded the originally stated specifications by three to four times”. According to the official, the Su-35S fighters were also operated as ground attack aircraft.
 
The People’s Republic China (PRC) has become the launch foreign customer for the Su-35. In 2015, Beijing signed for 24 aircraft and these platforms had been delivered to the customer by November 2018.
 
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is now operating two Su-35S squadrons that have been issued to the 6th Aviation Brigade stationed at Suizi airbase near Zhanjiang (Guangdong Province). The Su-35S intensively fly patrol missions (including that over the South China Sea) and escort heavy aircraft, such as Xian H-6 long-range bombers. Moreover, the Chinese military has already started to practice air refuelling of Su-35S by night.

By the end of 2018, the PLAAF had mastered its Su-35S fighters, improving its combat capacity. According to CCTV TV-channel, it took less than two years for the PRC to integrate the Su-35S with its Air Force. Last December, several Su-35S fighters were involved in an exercise of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Command. It should be mentioned that the exercise envisaged both day and night flights. 
 
“The Su-35 multirole combat aircraft features an outstanding manoeuvrability thanks to its thrust-vectoring engines. The powerplants are installed at a bevel angle of 33 degrees, enabling the aircraft to veer during both horizontal and vertical manoeuvres,” PLAAF Deputy Brigade Commander Wang Xiaodong told CCTV. 
 
During the abovementioned exercise, the Chinese Su-35 fighters successfully detected land and surface targets. According to PLAAF, the aircraft were refuelled in flight.

According to a Chinese pilot, “the Su-35S fighters were operated as reconnaissance platforms: they gathered some information about ground targets and coordinated an air attack against them. 
 
“Thus, a Su-35 squadron can detect targets, designate them, and then launch a strike without any external support,” he added in an interview with the CCTV.
 
Indonesia has also shown interest in the acquisition of the Su-35. In August 2017, Russia’s state corporation Rostec and Indonesia’s PT.PPI (PT Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia) signed a memorandum for understanding (MoU) that complemented Jakarta’s intention to acquire the Su-35S aircraft.

Under the MoU, Russia will import some Indonesian commodities as a payment for the fighter jets. The deal has yet to be finalised and closed; however, Jakarta is reportedly planning to receive 11 Su-35S air platforms.
 
Reference Text/Photo:
United Aircraft Corporation
Dmitry Fediushko, senior editor, TASS News Agency

 

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