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Sukhoi Su-30MKI

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Indian AF>IAF Today>Aircraft>Su-30MKI

Introduction to the Su-30MKI:

Russian Su-30MKI carrying a Air-to-Ground payload Russian Su-30MKI landing Russian Su-30MKI Revealing its deadly arsenal

Su-30MKI is the customized version of the Su-30K, and can be better explained as a hybrid between Su-30K and Su-37. Most are much well aware about the flying performance of the Su-37, which has gained popularity all over the world by performing in almost every major air show. The Su-30MKI has similar flight characteristics, and is supposedly the only aircraft that can out maneuver the Su-37. Though both of them are similar, the Su-30MKI has some inherited properties from the Su-30K like increased relative thickness of the wings to accommodate more fuel, which are the substantial cause of its better performance in the air.

Su-30MKI is a true multi-role fighter with a dedicated fighter controller in the back seat. It has a true Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capability and air-to-ground capability using the modern air-to-air missiles and a wide range of modern Air-Ground weapons with TV/Laser guidance.

To understand the Su-30MKI operation and function, let us first understand the Su-30K and MK.

Su-30K 'Flanker'

The Su-30 was designed to meet a PVO requirement for a long-range, high-enduranceA pair Indian Su-30K breaking a 'tight formation' interceptor that could secure Russia's enormous borders and provide air cover for naval forces. The requirement included a 10-hour endurance stipulation, necessitating provision for in-flight refueling, systems proved for 10 hour's continuous operation and identical twin cockpits housing two pilots, either of whom can assume command at any stage of the mission. Range of the aircraft is given as 3000 km (1,620 nm; 1,864 miles) with internal fuel, and 5200 km (2,808 nm; 3,231 miles) with in-flight refueling. Development funding was ensured by changing the designation to Su-30 (existing aircraft projects being starved of resources). The Su-30 has a new miniaturized navigation system, based on that fitted to Aeroflot's international airliners with a GPS and Loran, Omega and Mars navigation equipment. The prototype made its maiden flight on 30 December 1989 at Irkutsk, in the hands of Yevgeni Revunov. Since then, a small number of production Su-30s have been built, including a pair which was specially constructed to meet an order from the 'Test Pilots' aerobatic team. The latter aircraft were fitted with the IFR probe and navigation system, but lacked all combat equipment and military systems.
The aircraft is reportedly fully combat-capable and, with the addition of extra equipment in the rear cockpit, is also able to operate as a mini-AWACS and command post, operating in conjunction with up to four other aircraft (other Su-30s, Su-27 single-seat fighters, or Su-27Ps), directing or even automatically controlling them to the most suitable target, and transferring information within the formation by datalink to build up the best possible tactical situation display. This is the same concept that has been pioneered by the MiG-31 'Foxhound'. In this role, the Su-30 carries a dedicated fighter controller in the back seat.

The single-seat Su-27P is a less well known aircraft. It is believed to have the same navigation system and increased endurance systems as the Su-30, but its single cockpit would make such capability difficult to exploit operationally. A number of stripped aircraft are operated by the 'Test Pilots' team, but the aircraft's service status is uncertain, and any redesignation must remain a matter of speculation.


The Su-30MK is an export Su-30 derivative for multi-role use with added ground-attackIndian Su-30MK from 'Hunting Hawks' over Pune capability. The Sukhoi OKB is eager to export the Su-30MK, whose flight test programme was reportedly completed in the early summer of 1993. The Su-30MKI is a customized version of the Su-30MK. Other such customized version are Su-30MKK and Su-30MKM. Su-30MKK is just a slight modification of MK (for the PLAAF) and Su-30MKM (for RMAF) is almost equivalent to the Su-30MKI but lacks certain western components and EW equipment.

Now to understand the Su-30MKI in depth:

Air Frame and Aerodynamics:

(Above: Basic Flanker)

Based on the mid 80's Flanker design, this aircraft is today the world's most highly maneuverable aircraft (much widely known as Super-maneuverability). One of the basic factors leading to its success has been the Thrust Vector Controlled (TVC) AL-31FP engine. But this is not the only reason for its awesome performance since many western airframes, even after incorporating TVC engines haven't been able to demonstrate maneuvers equivalent to the Super Flanker. Flanker airframe in itself is the basic cause of such aerodynamic achievements.

The aircraft has been fitted with forward canards for more agility and better STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) performance. The aircraft is an unstable integrated triplane (wing, horizontal tail, canard). Stability and control are ensured by a Fly-By-Wire (FBW) control system. Canard has been an important feature helping the aircraft in gaining level flight and control at high Angle of Attack (AoA).

The wing will have high-lift devices featured as deflecting leading edges and flaperons acting the flaps and ailerons. At subsonic flights, the wing profile curvature is changed by a remote control system which deflects the leading edges and flaperons versus the AoA.


The aircraft has virtually no AoA limitations. It breaks almost all rules of aerodynamics- which were once set, since this aircraft fly flat face to the air stream, with horizontal tail forward and nose pitched up 90. It can even fly at 180 AoA (i.e. fly backwards!). The Su-30MKI is capable of near-zero speed airspeed at high angles of attack and super dynamic aerobatics in negative speeds up to 200 km/h. It can attack a target from almost any position. Though in the Modern Air Combat scenario, dog fights seem to have been extinct (though obviously not true) we forget that once an enemy aircraft fires a missile, there starts another dog fight, between the target aircraft and the missile. Since missiles have always been ahead of aircraft in maneuverability, there was no question of aircraft being able to out maneuver a missile (specially the short-range ones), so counter measures were developed. But now with the advent of super-maneuverability missiles are no more un-challenged, and when tactically employed in conjunction with counter measures and/or other Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, evading a missile, specially the modern ones currently underway which incorporate immunity to counter measures, will no more be an impossible task, hence making Su-30MKI a challenging platform for the future.

The new added features:

For a greater combat employment range, the aircraft has an in-flight refueling system which can greatly extend it's endurance and is only limited by the pilot's physical conditions. That is one of the reasons as to why the IAF chose the two-seater version. The cockpit will be provided with containers to store food and water reserves, a waste disposal system and increased amounts of oxygen. This was very evident when we described the Su-30K, which is particularly a long duration interceptor. Even the Su-30MKI will have data-linking capability within the formation and will be able to act as a mini-AWACS.

The Flight Control System (FCS)

The Su-30MKI has a FBW (or Remote Control System) with quadruple redundancy. Depending on the flight conditions, signals from the control stick position transmitter or the automatic FCS will be coupled to the remote control amplifiers. Upon updating, depending on the flight speed and altitude, these signals are combined with feedback signals fed by acceleration sensors and rate gyros. The resultant control signals are coupled to the high-speed electro-hydraulic actuators of the stabilizers, rudders and the canard. For greater reliability, all the computers work in parallel. The output signals are compared and, if the difference is significant, the faulty channel is disconnected.

An important part of the remote control system is based on a stall warning and barrier mechanism with an individual drive of its own. It prevents development of aircraft stalls through a dramatic increase in the control stick pressure. This allows a pilot to effectively control the aircraft without running the risk of reaching the limit values of AoA and acceleration. The stall control is accomplished by the computer of a signal limiting system,
depending on the configuration and loading of the aircraft. The same system sends voice and visual signals, as the aircraft nears a stall condition.

For refueling the Su-30MKI has telescopic probe. The refueling can be done by Il-78 Tankers, plus buddy to buddy refueling is also possible/supported.


The Su-30MKI has all-weather digital multi-mode N-011M phased array radar, with Search and Track range of 350 Km and 200 Km respectively, which will give it the edge over any tactical situation by datalinking with multiple other Su-30MKIs to form the best tactical situation display. This can be used to provide guidance to other smaller aircraft operating in the area or directly control them. The radar can track 20 targets and engage the 8 most threatening ones simultaneously. Owing to its radar it can also track and intercept ballistic and cruise missiles. The radar also accompanied with state-of-art weapons control system and has anti-jamming features and can operate in air and ground surveillance modes or in both at the same time.

Ground surveillance modes include mapping (with Doppler beam sharpening), search & track of moving targets, synthetic aperture radar and terrain avoidance. To penetrate enemy defenses, the aircraft can fly at low altitudes using the terrain following and obstacle avoidance feature.

The forward facing radar is combined with a helmet mounted target designation system, which allows the pilot to turn his head in a 90 field of view, lock on to a target and launch the TVC-capable R-73RDM2 missile. The aircraft has an opto-electronic surveillance & targeting system which consists of a IR direction finder, laser rangefinder and helmet mounted target designation system (HMTDS).

The aircraft also has an rearward detection and engagement capability owing to the rearward facing radar which has a search and track range of about 50-60 Km. It allows the Su-30MKI to engage an aircraft exactly behind it without even having it to turn around to get a positive lock-on. The R-73RDM2 when launched flips 180 and engages the enemy.

Complex REB includes station of active handicapes P005S (analogue to AN/ALQ-123) effectively overwhelming radio-electronic SUV the opponent and providing individual, mutual - group and group protection.

Sextant Avionique is set to provide five MFD-55s and one MFD-66 LCD displays for each aircraft. The Satellite navigation system, permits the aircraft to make flights in all weather day and night. It also comprises of a laser altitude and a heading reference system.

An automatic flight control system makes all phases of its flight automatic, including the combat employment of its weapons. Once the automatic flight control system receives information from the navigation system, it solves the route flight tasks - involving a flight over the programmed waypoints, the return to the landing airfield, making a pre-landing maneuver and the approach for landing down to an altitude of 60 meters, as well as uses the data supplied from the weapons control and radio guidance command systems to direct the aircraft to the target and accomplish the attack.

Thrust Vector Controlled Powerplant:

The Su-30MKI will be fitted with two AL-31FP turbofans, derivative of the AL-37FU turbofan, which can operate in a wide range of altitudes and flight speeds. The engine works steady in conditions of deep surge of the air intake with M=2 as well as in flat, straight and inverted spins.

The Al-31FP turbofans feature thrust vectoring in the vertical and even in horizontal planes. In order to increase aircraft maneuverability of the in the horizontal plane while retaining its high maneuverability in the vertical plane, the turbofans are equipped with modified swiveling nozzles. The modification was brought about following the testing results of the Su-37 and features two main distinctions.

First, the nozzle drive connection is effected now from the aircraft fuel system and not from the aircraft's hydraulic system. The change-over to the fuel system, to control swiveling nozzles, enhances the dependability of the aircraft and its survivability in air combat.

Second, the axis itself with respect to which nozzle can be deflected 15, in the pitch plane, is deflected from the aircraft's vertical axis by 32. Thus, with nozzle deflection, the decomposition of the thrust vector is ensured in to vertical & horizontal components. The availability of the lateral thrust vector eliminates the need to provide different thrust levels when performing maneuvers in the horizontal plane & considerably raises its controllability in the yaw mode. Simultaneously high maneuverability in the vertical plane is also maintained.

There is no a strain-gauge engine control stick to change the engine thrust in the cockpit, rather just a conventional engine throttle control lever. The pilot controls the aircraft with help of a standard control stick which is positioned between his legs. On the pilot's right there is a switch which is turned on for performing difficult maneuvers. After the switch-over, the on-board computer determines the level of use of aerodynamic surfaces and swiveling nozzles and their required deflection angles.

The TVC nozzles will be made of titanium to reduce the nozzle's weight and can deflect together or differentially to achieve the desired thrust vector for a particular maneuver. The engine designers are also working to reduce the infrared signature for thrust settings below afterburner.


The aircraft is fitted with a 30mm GSh-301 single-barrel gun which has a firing rate of 1500 - 1800 rds/min or 25 - 30 rds/sec. It has a maximum effective range of 1200 - 1800 meters (3937 - 5906 feet) against air targets and 200 - 800 meters (656 - 2625 feet) against ground targets. Has 170 rounds capacity with 150 rounds loaded.

Can carry a variety of ordnance on 12 hard points, which can be increased to 14 by using multi-payload racks. On air-superiority missions, the Su-30MKI can carry all the Russian air-to-air missiles, like the close-combat R-60MK and R-73RDM2, the medium range R-27RE1/TE1 and the long range R-77RVV-AE.

For surface-strike missions, the Su-30MKI can carry air-to-surface missiles like the Kh-25MP, Kh-29L, Kh-29T, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-59 and the Kh-59M, as well as KAB-500 and KAB-1500 high-precision bombs which can be fitted with either laser or television guidance systems. Over 70 versions of guided and unguided weapon stores may be employed, which allows the aircraft to fly the most diverse tactical missions. The Su-30 can also carry a tactical nuclear payload.
Maximum External Stores Load: 8000 kg; 17,600 lbs.

Flight tests of the Su-30MKI at Irkutsk:

A new round of tests of the Russian multifunctional Su-30MKI fighter, intended for the Indian Air Force, has begun at the Irkutsk Aircraft-Building Society /IABS/, where the aircraft was built. The plane's distinctive feature is that it is fitted out with equipment that was approved by the customer, Spokesman for the IABS told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

The Su-30MKI is being tested by pilots Vyacheslav Averyanov and Roman Kondratyev from the Sukhoi Aircraft Designing Bureau. The contract with India for forty Su-30MKI fighters was signed at Irkutsk on November 30, 1996.

The Su-30MKI plane, which is now being tested in Irkutsk, is provided with a complete set of board instruments, including the Russian, French, Israeli and Indian equipment stipulated in the contract. The flying tests will show whether the fighter's declared performance was achieved or not. If all the requirements are met, it will be launched into quantity production for the Indian Air Force.

The delivery of initial batch of Su-30MKI's has already begun in knocked condition which is to equip the No. 28 Squadron stationed at AFB Lohegaon. The IAF Top Brass have decided that AFB Lohegaon should be the Mother Base to Su-30MKI squadrons (for the initial 50) just like AFB Maharajpur is the Mother Base of 40 Mirage 2000H of the Indian Air Force.

Physical and Flight Characteristics:

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