The first two Su-30SM multi-role fighters for Belarus have arrived at the 61st AFB in Baranovici, the country’s ministry of defense announced on November 13. The aircraft, with side numbers Red 01 and 02 (serial numbers 10MK5 1607 and 10MK5 1608) were built at the Irkutsk aviation enterprise. Ten more Su-30SMs will be delivered, with the second pair due before year-end.*
Russian defense ministry sources have suggested that the aircraft, which were ordered in 2017, were delivered later than expected due to an unresolved financing problem. A Belarus ministry communiqué from Minsk said that the contract to deliver the aircraft was based on “flexible conditions,” without elaborating further. However, Stanislav Zas, state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, told the Belarussian STV channel on November 13 that, “at the beginning, we tried to agree with the Russian Federation on giving us support in solving this extremely expensive and difficult issue. We received an offer to establish a Russian AFB on our territory.” Zas indicated that Minsk rejected the offer. He highlighted that the Belarussian president personally intervened and the financing issue, based on Belarus’s own sources, has been solved.
Commenting on the arrival of the first batch, the Belarussian defense ministry noted, “The Su-30SM aircraft will significantly raise the combat effectiveness of the Belarussian Air Force and enhance the defense capability of the country. The new multi-purpose aircraft is to be tasked with protecting ground forces from the adversary’s airstrikes, conducting airspace patrolling, and the detection and destruction of targets in the air and on the ground.”
According to the schedule, deliveries will be completed by 2021, with four aircraft to arrive per year. They replace the current MiG-29s: "The old MiG-29s, currently deployed, have arrived at the end of their service life. There are no chances—both technically and financially—to prolong the service life of these MiGs,” Zas commented.
A broad agreement to acquire Su-30SMs was announced in early 2016, and the contract to deliver 12 was signed in 2017, as part of a long-term plan to build up a more modern air force. Belarus earlier ordered 12 Yak-130 advanced/fighter trainers, built in the same Irkutsk facility. The country has also taken delivery of S-300 air defense systems, as well as Tor M2s anti-aircraft batteries.
Su-30SMs appear to be at the forefront of Russia’s export drive. President Vladimir Putin announced in August, during the visit of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that Moscow is ready to provide Turkish pilots with the opportunity to fly the aircraft. Russia also presented the Su-35 and the Su-57 to the Turkish president’s entourage of experts and executives of the country’s defense industry.
*Update: the second pair of Su-30SMs, Red 03 and 04, was delivered to Baranovici on November 20.