Why Russia’s Su-35 Fighter Is Truly Special
Not stealth, but a killer and among the best fighter jets on the planet.
Since it entered service in 2014, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E has been the top Russian air-superiority fighter. The Su-35S Flanker-E+ is also the most advanced type of the Flanker family. It began development in 2033 and the first prototypes rolled out in 2007, while production began in 2009.
This month, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it has received the final three of the Flanker-E+ fighter jets, which were part of a five-year contract for fifty of the advanced aircraft, TASS reported.
“Specialists of the 485th military office of the Russian Defense Ministry accepted three Su-35S multirole fighter jets of the 4++ generation. The planes have been redeployed from the plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur [in Russia's Far East] to permanent bases of the Russian Aerospace Forces,” the ministry said.
The delivery completes that contract, under which the Russian Aerospace Forces has received the full batch of fifty of the Su-35S fighter jets in total. Two of the jets will be sent to the Defense Ministry's training and trials center in the Central Russian city of Lipetsk, while a third one will continue its service at an air force regiment in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
Beyond the Fourth Generation
The Su-35S fighter jet is a heavily upgraded “generation four plus plus” (4++) derivative of the Su-27 aircraft. It is a super-maneuverable multipurpose fighter jet that was developed on the basis of fifth-generation technologies. The Su-35S is distinguished by its improved avionics suite, and includes an advanced information control system, new radar and plasma ignition engines capable of increased capacity and thrust vectoring. Those engines meet the requirements for the powerplant of fifth-generation fighters and allow the aircraft to reach supersonic speed without using an afterburner.
As a multirole fighter, the Su-35S can be used in a variety of missions and is capable of attacking ground and naval targets, including infrastructural facilities shielded by air defense systems as well as those located at a considerable distance from home airfields. The fighter jet can deploy air-to-air missiles of up to 300-kilometers (190 miles) range, and it can also be armed with the heavy Oniks anti-ship cruise missile, as well as the multitude of air-to-ground weaponry. It can carry up to eight tons of the weapon payload (missiles and bombs of various types) on twelve underwing hardpoints, while the fighter jet's other armament includes a 30mm aircraft gun.
The Su-35S weighs 19 tons, has a service ceiling of 20,000 meters, can develop a maximum speed of 2,500 km/h and has a crew of one pilot.
What is also notable is this aircraft is that the Su-35S was originally designed for export, but the Russian Air Force became the launch customer in 2009. Both the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Indonesian Air Force have placed orders—with the former receiving its initial delivery of four aircraft in 2016 followed by another ten in 2017 as part of a contract for twenty-four aircraft that Jane's reported to be worth $2.5 billion. The Russian-Sino agreement also included support equipment and spare engines, with the contract to be fully implemented by the end of this year.
However, after China became the first international customer of the Su-35, the United States imposed sanctions on the Asian nation for breaching the congressionally-mandated Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Despite this, the Su-34 officially entered service with the PLAAF in April 2018.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.