Russia’s SU-35: Mystery Fighter No More
13-Jul-2008 16:03 EDT
As one of our readers noted, DID’s articles from 2005-2007 seem to describe two different SU-35s. One is a mid-life modernized SU-27 Flanker, but we have also covered a much more re-engineered “SU-35” variant with canards, thrust vectoring, et. al. that has been confused with (and possibly redesignated between) the SU-37. So… what do we mean by “SU-35”? By SU-27M, did DID mean the canard-equipped, ultra-modernized version?
This article explains the source of the widespread confusion regarding the SU-35’s layout and key characteristics, reviews what is now known about the platform, and tracks its development. The aircraft has a nominal customer in the Russian Air Force, but no large-scale orders as of yet. Nevertheless, the SU-30 family remains a strong export success for Russia, and the SU-35 is being positioned to succeed most SU-30MK variants as Russia’s fighter export of choice within the coming decade.
Until very recently, only KnAAPO has listed the SU-35 as a product on its site; Sukhoi now does so as well, but Irkut does not. If this seems confusing, it’s because Sukhoi subcontracts production to affiliate firms – IAIA (Irkut) and KnAAPO (Komsomolosk un Amur). Each has their own intellectual property, and their own interests. In addition, the designation “SU-35” has been used in several different contexts over the years. It has been referred to, and even photographed, in ways that referred to both mid-life Flanker upgrades and canard-equipped next-generation aircraft. KnAAPO’s site added the confusion by showing SU-35 pictures on its type page and gallery that display the aircraft both with and without canard foreplanes. The Rosoboronexport catalog picture was unclear.
The current “SU-35” as described by Sukhoi appears to be something of a compromise between the upgrade and full redesign visions. A reader writes DID to note that that various media sources including Jane’s and various Russian media have covered this “new” Su-35:
SU-35 flight, 2008
(known as Su-35BM by some sources- ie. T-10BM to the original Su-27s internal T-10S designation). Differences and features largely speak for themselves in the video, but a short summary follows as related in various other sources follows:
1 – N035 Irbis Radar (PESA, and a follow-on to the Bars-M)
2 – No canards
3 – Rear-looking self-defence radar in shorter tail sting
4 – AL-41F1A TVC turbofan engines rated at 142-147kN
5 – Extended high-lift devices with large flaperon occuping the full trailing edge of the wing
6 – L175M Khibiny-M electronic-warfare self-defence system
7 – Reduced-area empennage
8 – Larger Air Intakes
9 – New and lighter systems, including quadruple digital fly-by-wire flight-control system.
10- New man-machine interface with fully-glass cockpit with two large LCD screens and helmet mounted display.”
In addition to these changes, pictures appear to show full thrust vectoring capabilities for the engines.
Sukhoi says that the fighter’s structures have been reinforced because of the increased takeoff and landing weight of the aircraft, the front bearing has 2 wheels for the same reason.
The SU-30 family has never been an especially stealthy aircraft, and its overall airframe design limits what one can accomplish in this area. Nevertheless, Sukhoi cites an unspecified amount of “reduced reflectance” for the SU-35 in the X-band, which is a popular choice for modern radars, and in the angle range of plus or minus 60 degrees.
SU-35: Contracts and Key Events
A Sukhoi release says that it has presented the newest SU-35 multi-role to the “Flight Scientific Research Institute named after Gromov in Zhukovsky near Moscow,” where earlier test flights have taken place.
It adds that the SU-35 is one of the priority programs of the new United Aviation Corporation (UAC), resulting from the government’s consolidation of Russia’s aerospace industry, and notes that Russia’s 5th generation PAK-FA fighter project will not be fielded before 2015-2017. In contrast, batch production and deliveries of the SU-35 are promised between 2010-2011. Russian release (English version not yet on web).
Russia test flies SU-35. The first Su-35 prototype made its maiden flight on Feb 18/08, and 2 more aircraft are being prepared for similar tests at an aircraft manufacturing plant in Russia’s Far East. The company expects the jet to enter service with Russia’s military in 2-3 years. RIA Novosti.
A subsequent Flight International article may begin to offer clarity re: the platform. It states categorically that the SU-35-1 design, unveiled at Russia’s MAKS 2007 air show, is a single-seat aircraft without canard foreplanes, but with a lighter airframe than the SU-27, enlarged fan and engine inlets, 2 NPO Saturn/Ufa MPO Item 117S engines that reportedly offer thrust vectoring and supercruise performance in clean layout, 2t more fuel, modernized electronics at all levels, a Tikhomirov NIIP Irbis (updated N-011M Bars) passive electronically scanned array radar, 6,000 hour airframe life, and 4,000 hour engine life.
Russia’s SU-35: Mystery Fighter No More