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Russian Pilots Finally Gets The Good Stuff
by James Dunnigan
March 30, 2014

The Russian Air Force has been told by the manufacturer that 21 Su-30SM fighter-bombers will be delivered in 2014. In early 2012 Russia had ordered another 30 Su-30SM two-seat jet fighter-bombers and these began to arrive before the end of 2012. That was pretty impressive when you consider that the Su-30SM flew for the first time two months before the first one was delivered. So far 16 SU-30SMs have been delivered. All 60 SU-30SMs are to be delivered by 2016. Before this order Russia had only 11 Su-30s in service, far fewer than China and India. All Russia could afford until recently was the older Su-27.

The Su-30SM is a Russian Air Force version of the Su-30MKI that has long been exported (to India, Algeria, and Malaysia). For the last two decades Russian defense manufacturers have survived on exports. The Russian military halted most procurement spending after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. That collapse was largely due to financial and economic mismanagement by the communist government. The Soviet Union was, literally, bankrupt and it took most of the 1990s to sort it all out.

In the last decade the Russian military has gradually resumed buying. Initially, the Russian military could not afford the best stuff (like the Su-30MKI). But that has changed, and now the Russian military is catching up. This is the first Su-30 model for the Russian Air Force that uses thrust vectoring (the ability of the engine to direct its exhaust a bit and enhance maneuverability).

Both the Su-30SM and Su-30MKI are most similar to the two seat American F-15E fighter-bomber. The Su-30MKI, even though equipped with Western electronics, costs less than $40 million each, about half of what an equivalent F-15 costs. The Russian version will have Russian electronics and other Russian made gear but otherwise be nearly identical to the Su-30MKI. The Su-30MKI/SM each weight about 38 tons and each can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away. The Su-30SM is able to use a large range of missiles and smart bombs.

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