Russian Air Force Takes Upgraded Su-27s Intended for China
Sukhoi has delivered 12 Su-27SM(3)s to the Russian air force. The aircraft were originally intended to be supplied as subassemblies to China under a contract signed in 2009, and the last delivery was made in late December. The airframes were assembled at Sukhoi’s KnAAPO plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur from parts originally manufactured for what was meant to be a second batch of 95 airframes in the Chinese order for 200 Su-27SKs. However, China took only the first 105 Su-27SKs, most of which were assembled in China from Russian kits.
The Su-27SM(3) is a single-seat multirole fighter capable of air superiority and ground strike missions. The Russian air force has already upgraded a considerable number of its Su-27 fighters to the SM standard. The SM(3) has a stronger airframe than previous SM variants, allowing the manufacturer to increase mtow by more than 2,000 pounds. It has additional hard points for weapons carriage. The heavier weight is offset by higher-thrust AL-31F-M1 engines manufactured by MMPP Salut. As an added bonus, these engines have extended service life.
The Su-27SM(3) also features a new electronic warfare suite and improved targeting systems. The weapons package includes new missiles (Sukhoi declined to specify the type) and the air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles in the Su-27SM(3) arsenal have longer firing ranges. Furthermore, the Su-27SM(3) can use modern precision guidance munitions guided by Glonass/GPS. Finally, the company has added the KIS “comprehensive information system,” which monitors the condition of onboard systems to make maintenance easier.
The cockpits of previous Su-27SM variants were based on dial instruments. But the SM(3) has a modern glass cockpit with four liquid-crystal MFDs in lieu of 13 “steam gauges” on the original Su-27S. The onboard communications complex is jam-proof and provides a secure datalink with ground command posts and airborne assets. According to Sukhoi the Su-27SM(3) is more than twice as effective against aerial targets and three times more effective against ground targets than the Su-27S.
The Russian air force exhibited a Su-27SM(3) at the Moscow Air Show last August, but at the time did not specify how it differed from earlier SM variants.