At the end of 2015 the Russian Air Force ordered fifty Su-35S fighter bombers. It will take until 2020 to deliver all of them. This follows a 2013 for 24 Su-34Ss, an aircraft that first flew in 2011. The Russian Air Force has already received some of the original order for 40. Russia is pushing this as an export and expects to sell 160 to foreign customers. For that reason four Su-35Ss were sent to Syria to become “combat proven.” The “S” indicates the production model, which incorporates the latest features and modifications.
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 has some stealth capabilities (or at least be less detectable to most fighter aircraft radars). Russia claims the Su-35 has a useful life of 6,000 flight hours and engines good for 4,000 hours. Russia provides world-class avionics, plus a very pilot-friendly cockpit. The use of many thrusters and fly-by-wire produced an aircraft even more maneuverable than Su-30s (which were Su-27s tweaked to be extremely agile). The Su-35 was in development for two decades before it was declared ready for production in 2005. But even then there were problems with the new engines that gave it its superior performance. Russia says the engine problems are solved, but only time will tell if that is true. The Su-35 is not meant to be a direct rival for the F-22 because the Russian aircraft is not nearly as stealthy.
The Su-35 carries a 30mm autocannon (with 150 rounds) and up to eight tons of munitions, hanging from 12 hard points. This reduces stealthiness, which the F-22 and F-35 get around by using an internal bay for bombs and missiles. But if the maneuverability and advanced electronics of the 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. Since the Su-35 is to sell for well under $100 million each, there should be a lot of buyers.