The Russian defense ministry has ordered seven more Su-30SM two-seat fighters worth 13 billion roubles ($331 million), boosting the total to be acquired to 72. Of these, the Russian air force is getting 60 and naval aviation 12. An initial contract for 30 was placed in 2012. Some have reportedly been deployed to the disputed region of Crimea.
Signing the latest order at the Girdoaviasalon 2014 show, deputy defense minister Yuri Borisov said, “The Su-30SM is a modern multirole aircraft that can be used against aerial, ground and sea-going targets. It can considerably boost the potential of naval aviation.”
The latest contract comes with an option for 10 more aircraft and is timed to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the founding of IAZ, the Russian acronym for Irkutsk Aviation Plant. To date, the enterprise has shipped 29 Su-30SMs to the Russian defense ministry. This year Irkut is to deliver 15 Su-30SMs, according to IAZ plant general manager Alexander Veprev.
Russian naval aviation accepted its first batch of three Su-30SMs between June and August this year. The navy has plans for a total of 60 such aircraft. Navy and air force Su-30SMs have been operating out of Akhtubinsk, Lipetsk, Donma and Eyisk air force bases.
A number of Su-30 jets have reportedly been deployed to Crimea. They are stationed at Belbek air base near Sebastopol, the facility that played a key role in the process during which the peninsula changed hands in February and March this year. When it was controlled by Ukraine, Belbek operated MiG-29 fighters and antiaircraft defense units. It was placed under siege by pro-Russian troops until Russia took full control of the peninsula.
Sebastopol city governor Sergei Menyailo confirmed that “the Su-30 jets are already here.” Local sources give the number of Sukhoi jets in Crimea at 20. Along with Irkut-made Su-30SMs, the Russian air force operates a lesser number of KnAAPO-built Su-30s and Su-30M2s, for a total of fewer than 50. The Russian government has announced plans for Belbek to be a joint-use facility for both military and civilian aircraft, a role for which the aerodrome will undergo reconstruction and expansion.