SU-35S Flanker-E, the 4++ generation Russian fighter


For many years the SU-27 fighter was the backbone of the Russian air fleet but as the time passed, it became obvious that it isn’t capable of keeping the pace with its NATO counterparts. So, the Russian Defense Ministry decided to conduct the deep modernization of the SU-27 concept and thus the new star was born.

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In the late 90’s the SU-27M was the first deep modernization of the SU-27 family, but as at the time the funding of the Russian military was on a pretty low level, only 17 of these aircraft were made. Later on in the 2003 the entire project was revived once again. Of course, the modernization went even further this time and many features that will be incorporated in the Russian 5th generation fighter PAK FA have been integrated into the new SU-35S. Virtually, this means that the new airplane has all the characteristics of the 5th generation except for the stealth features.

SU-35S had it maiden flight in February 2008 and nowadays it has passed the test phase and is being introduced into the Russian Air force units. The total of 22 units are in the service since the December 2013 and the additional 26 are planned within the first batch. It is also offered to the other countries but no deals are concluded up to date. It is uncertain how many of these aircraft will be built in total since the PAK FA 5th generation fighter is well under way into the test phase.

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The improvements integrated into the SU-35S are numerous. Only the airframe remained similar to the SU-27 family, but even in this segment, the application of composite materials and titanium alloys makes a huge difference compared to the original SU-27. The application of those materials has allowed a bigger internal tanks and the miniaturization in electronic components allowed the canards, previously predicted for this aircraft to be omitted.

The new fire control system built around the powerful Irbis-E radar is allowing the SU-35S to tackle even the most potent of the modern NATO aircraft. It has a further reach than any of its western counterparts and it also allows a unified fire control system that covers both aerial and ground targets.

The weaponry used on the SU-35S includes all of the rockets and bombs used on the SU-27 family but it also supports the new missiles designed for the PAK FA concept. Together with the GSh -301 30mm cannon, this weapons array makes it a formidable opponent for any other aircraft.

Two thrust-vectoring turbo fan engines Saturn 117S give this aircraft a super maneuverability capabilities and it gives it a clear advantage to any modern aircraft. After the demonstration flight on the Le Bourget Airshow in 2013 it was clear that this airplane has no competition when it comes to the aerobatic abilities.

It also possesses the ability to interlink and exchange data with all other aircraft of the Russian air fleet and that is an important difference to the western approach. Namely, its main potential adversary on the battlefield, the F-22 Raptor can’t exchange data with other combat aircraft.

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Considering the fact that at the same time with SU-35S the Russian army is being armed with SU-34, it is reasonable to presume that its main role will be in the air superiority segment. It possesses the capability to tackle any land or sea target as well, but its powerful radar and the A-A missiles arsenal give it a clear edge in aerial combat.

Technical data:

Length: 21.9m

Wingspan: 15.3m

Height: 5.90m

Armament: GSh-301 30mm cannon, variety of A-A missiles, rockets and bombs on 14 external hardpoints (up to 8 tons of payload)

Propulsion: 2x Saturn 117S VTC engines

Electronics: Ibris-E radar, KNIRTI 14 jamming pod, KNIRTI 518 jamming pod, OLS 35 IR search and track system, Khibini M El. Warfare kit

Max. Speed: Mach 2.25 at high altitude

Ceiling: 18.000m

Range: 1580km on sea level and 3600km on high altitude