Warplanes: F-22ski Moves Right Along

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July 15, 2008: The long promised Russian answer to the F-22, the Su-35, recently had its first flight. Last Fall, the Russian Air Force showed off the first of two flyable prototypes of the Su-35. It was less than two years ago, that Russia announced its long promised Su-35 fighter, was back in development again.

The Su35 is an enhanced Su-30 (itself a development of the Cold War era Su-27), and has been in development for over a decade. At one point, it was called the Su-37, but the name was changed back to Su-35. A dozen or more Su-35 prototypes have been built, and apparently no two are identical. The Russians want to sell Su-35s to China, India and other foreign customers. Apparently Russia now has the billions of dollars it will take to carry out the Su-35 development program. India has become a partner, contributing cash, technology and manufacturing capability.

The Su-35 is a 34 ton fighter that is more maneuverable than the original, 33 ton, Su-27, and has much better electronics. It can cruise at above the speed of sound. It also costs at least fifty percent more than the Su-27. That would be some $60 million (for a barebones model), about what a top-of-the-line F-16 costs. The Su-27 was originally developed to match the F-15, which is larger than the single engine F-16. The larger size of the Su-27/35, allows designers to do a lot more with it in terms of modifications and enhancements.

The Su-35 is to have some stealth capabilities (or at least be less detectable to most fighter aircraft radars). Russia is promising a fighter with a life of 6,000 flight hours, and engines good for 4,000 hours. Russia promises world-class avionics, plus a very pilot-friendly cockpit. The use of many thrusters and fly-by-wire will produce an aircraft even more maneuverable than earlier Su-30s (which have been extremely agile).

The Su-35 is not meant to be a direct rival for the F-22, because the Russian aircraft is not as stealthy. But if the maneuverability and advanced electronics proposed Su-35 live up to the promises, the aircraft would be more than a match for every fighter out there except the F-22. If such an Su-35 was sold for well under $100 million each, there would be a lot of buyers. Russia says it will begin production, and sales, in three years.

 

 


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