The Su-30MK is a two-seat multirole fighter and air superiority aircraft. It is derived from the Su-27 Flanker family, and is comparable with the American F-15. According to the Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-30 can perform all tasks of the Su-24 and Su-27, while having around twice the combat range and 2.5 times the combat effectiveness.
While the original Su-27 had good range, it still did not have enough range for certain air-defense tasks required by the PVO, and so prototypes were built of Su-27s featuring a retractable inflight refueling probe, similar to that fitted on the Su-27K / Su-33. The probe was offset to the left side of the nose, and to accommodate it the IRST was offset to the right. One single-seat prototype was built and designated “Su-27P”, and one twin-seat prototype was built and designated “Su-27PU”.
An Su-27UB dressed up as a demonstrator for the Su-30MK was displayed at the Paris Air Salon in 1993. It featured twelve stores attachments, including wingtip AAM launch rails, three pylons under each wing, a pylon under each engine nacelle, and two pylons in tandem in the “tunnel” between the engines. It was advertised as being able to carry 8 tonnes (8.8 tons) of external stores. Along with conventional dumb high-explosive and fuel-air explosive bombs, cluster munitions, and unguided rocket pods, it was to be able to carry:
- Electro-optic guided munitions, such as the Kh-29T long-range air-to-surface missile (ASM); the Kh-59T short-range ASM; and the KAB-500Kr or KAB-1500Kr glide bombs.
- The Kh-31P ramjet-powered antiradar missile, and potentially the Kh-31A antiship variant.
- Laser-guided munitions, such as the Kh-29L ASM and the KAB-1500L glide bomb, with the aircraft carrying a targeting pod to guide these weapons.
- Typical warloads would be four Kh-29, Kh-31, or KAB-500 class munitions; or a single KAB-1500 class munition.
A much more optimized Su-30MK demonstrator, rebuilt from the first production Su-27PU / Su-30, was displayed in 1994. Although Western observers shrugged it all off as an attempt to sell “old wine in new bottles”, the aircraft has proven to be a success.
The Indian Air Force ordered 40 Su-30’s in 1996, which they though was cheaper than the Mirage-2000-5. The Su-30 was designed and optimised for an air defence role, and had to be modified to meet India’s requirements. The Indian Su-30 “MKI” version had to have further updated avionics, including a much improved radar and a high proportion of non-Russian kit; canard fins; and thrust-vectored engines. The deal also included the Russian Akash air-to-air missile.
The full-specification Su-30MKI did not even exist at the time the deal was cut, and so the 40 aircraft were delivered in what amounted to “blocks” of increasing capability, with early aircraft to be upgraded to full specification later. The initial block was punctually delivered in 1997 and consisted of eight “Su-30K” machines, which were basically similar to the Russian Su-27PU / Su-30.
While these deliveries were in progress, the Sukhoi organization was putting together the first Su-30MKI prototype, a conversion of an Su-27PU / Su-30, with this aircraft performing its first flight on 1 July 1997. It was essentially an airframe demonstrator, featuring:
- Canards along with the appropriate leading-edge wingroot extension. The canards could move from +10 to -50 degrees and provided much improved control authority at high angles of attack.
- New “AL-31FP” engines with 142.2 kN (14,500 kgp / 32,000 lbf) afterburning thrust each, and two-dimensional thrust vectoring. The exhausts were able to move 15 degrees above and below the central thrust line.
- A new FBW system that made the best use of the canards and thrust vectoring.
The original Su-27 was agile for its size, but these improvements took the agility to a new level. Test pilot Vyacheslav Averyanov flew the prototype at an airshow in Bangalore in December 1998, but the demonstrator was lost in an accident in June 1999 in an appearance at the Paris Air Salon. A second Su-30MKI prototype, another conversion of an Su-27PU / Su-30, had performed its first flight on 23 March 1998, and the loss of the first prototype did not delay the program.
Instead of moving through successively improved blocks of machines, the IAF wanted to go straight from deliveries the Su-30K configuration to deliveries of the full Su-30MKI configuration. Since the full configuration wasn’t ready at that time, in the fall of 1998 India ordered another ten Su-30Ks, similar or identical to the original batch of eight, with the new batch delivered in 1999. This new batch was in addition to the original order for 40 machines, bringing the total to 50.
The first preproduction Su-30MKI performed its initial flight on 26 November 2000, with three more preproduction machines completed in 2001, with all four used in test, trials, and evaluation. A fifth preproduction machine was built but only used for ground tests. The first full production Su-30MKI performed its initial flight in late 2001, and the first batch of ten was delivered by An-124 in the summer of 2002. Deliveries were completed in December 2004.
Hindustani Aeronautics (HAL) is also contracted to build 140 aircraft in India between 2003 and 2017, under a licensed production agreement. The first indigenously assembled aircraft was delivered in November 2004.
Su-MKK/ Su-MK2 (J-11)
In December 2000, Russia announced it had supplied China with 10 two-seat Su-30MKK fighters. The MKK version is not similar to the Indian MKI version, it has, for example, no thrust-vectoring enginges and no canards.
The Su-30MKK has a modernized Russian-built avionics suite, including:
- A Tikhonravov NIIP “N001VE” radar, an updated export version of the original N001 radar with air-to-air, air-to-ground, and navigation modes.
- An OLS-30 optical sensor system and Sura-K helmet-mounted sight.
- An L-150 Pastel ELINT set to provide radar warning and emitter targeting capabilities. Incidentally, one of the few distinctive recognition features of the Su-30MKK is that the tailfins have been increased in height and have flat, not angled, tips, with antennas for the Pastel set mounted in near the top rear of the tailfins.
- An A-737 satellite navigation receiver, compatible with both the US GPS and Russian GLONASS satellite navigation systems, linked into a comprehensive navigation system. The Su-30MKK also carries modern radios, a datalink, and a video recorder system.
- A glass cockpit, with a wide-angle HUD and two 15.8 x 21.1 centimeter (6.2 x 8.3 inch) flat panel displays for the pilot, and two similar flat-panel displays for the back-seater.
The avionics is linked together with considerable processing power using a digital databus scheme, with the aircraft’s fire-control system integrating the radar, optical sensor system, helmet-mounted sight, and IFF interrogator. The Su-30MKK also has slightly increased internal fuel tankage, as well as stronger landing gear and airframe reinforcement to handle increased takeoff weight.
Following the flight in March 1999 of a modified Su-27PU / Su-30 prototype to evaluate the new avionics suite, the first production Su-30MKK performed its initial flight on 19 May 1999, with Averyanov at the controls. The first ten machines were delivered in a block on 20 December 2000.
The remaining 28 in the order were delivered through 2001. The Chinese were very impressed with the fact that the contract had been fulfilled so well and quickly, and a year later China ordered 38 more Su-30MKKs, which were delivered during 2002 and 2003.
These 76 Su-30MKKs were for the Chinese air force. In January 2003, the Chinese navy ordered 28 more, with a modified radar and fire-control system for launching the Kh-31A antiship missile. These machines were given the designation of “Su-30MK2”. Deliveries may have begun in 2003 and more may have been ordere. All the Chinese Su-30MK derivatives are candidates for upgrades, such as improved radar or engines.
In the spring of 2003, the Malaysian government signed an agreement to obtain 18 “Su-20MKM” fighters similar to the Indian Su-30MKI. They are expected to be much like the Su-30MKI, with canards and thrust-vectoring engines, but with a completely or largely Russian-built avionics suite. Deliveries of the MKM slipped from 2006 to early 2007, because Malaysia’s late selection of multifunction displays from Thales.
Sukhoi’s deputy general director Alexander Klementiev said Sukhoi plans to hand over Malaysia’s first batch of six Su-30MKMs next March and Klementiev says all 18 aircraft will be delivered “within one year”. Sukhoi will deliver ground support equipment, technical papers and training equipment by the end of this year.
Klementiev says Sukhoi is in discussion with several customers potentially interested in acquiring a similar configuration to the Su-30MKM, including Indonesia, which is negotiating the purchase of up to 14 aircraft.