You Can Now Get Up Close to a Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker

Su-27 Flanker
April 4, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Su-27Soviet UnionU.S. Air ForceMilitary MuseumRussiaAviation

You Can Now Get Up Close to a Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker

Developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, the Sukhoi Su-27 was meant to be Moscow’s answer to the F-15 Eagle. It first entered service as an air superiority fighter but has demonstrated considerable growth potential, including a variant for use as a carrier-based fighter.

 

Visitors to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB), Dayton, Ohio, can see some truly noteworthy U.S. aircraft. At the same time, a few of the planes were donated by foreign governments or even captured during wartime.

Last year, the famed aviation museum received a Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO reporting name Flanker). It is only the second Su-27 now on public display, with the other being a Su-27PD that is a static display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.

 

It was reported last summer that the Air Force’s museum received the two-seat Su-27UB Flanker-C via the U.S. military’s Foreign Material Exploitation (FME), where it was likely tested, taken apart, and reassembled. The National Museum of the United States Air Forces first announced the acquisition of the Soviet-designed air superiority fighter via a post on social media.

“Here’s a first look at the museum’s recent acquisition of the Sukhoi Su-27. Plans call for this aircraft to join the Cold War Gallery this fall,” @AFmuseum said in a post to X—the social media platform formerly known as Twitter—while sharing several photos of the aircraft outside a Wright-Patterson AFB hanger.

The former Ukrainian Air Force Su-27UB Flanker C has been restored and is now on display in the Cold War Gallery, alongside some famed aircraft, including the Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II, Lockheed SR-71A, and General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon.

Su-27: The Journey to Ohio

The story of how the Su-27 arrived in Ohio is almost as fascinating as the aircraft’s history. According to TheAviationist.com, the Cold War-era fighter was built in 1989 and served first in the Soviet Navy and then the Ukrainian Air Force after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Terralliance Technologies, an oil exploration firm, bought one of two Su-27 aircraft from the Ukrainian Government. It reportedly paid $22 million for the two jets and hired Pride Aircraft to disassemble them, put them back together once in the United States, install Western avionics, and make them airworthy again. Meridican Capital LLC provided financing, and the company registered the aircraft.

Originally, the goal was to use the fighters in the gas and oil exploration business—but exactly how seems well beyond this reporter’s understanding. What is clear is that Terralliance ran out of money, but perhaps spending $22 million on two fighters and depositing $4 million for two more can’t be seen as a sound investment.

However, the restoration was completed, and Pride Aircraft received a certificate of airworthiness (COA). It has been speculated that private “red air” adversary support contractor Tactical Air Support (TacAir) may have had at least one of the aircraft for some time.

The COAs expired in 2013, and Flankers were removed from the U.S. register in 2018.

Su-27

Last summer, there was speculation that both made their way to the FME program and could have been sent to the Air Force’s secretive Groom Lake test facility. It has been confirmed that the air service bought the Su-27UB in 2011 and that it arrived at the museum last year.

Developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, the Sukhoi Su-27 was meant to be Moscow’s answer to the F-15 Eagle. It first entered service as an air superiority fighter but has demonstrated considerable growth potential, including a variant for use as a carrier-based fighter. The platform became a proven export aircraft—yet few have been retired from service, and only two are now in museums.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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