Singapore Air Show

Malaysia’s ‘Flanker’ Flaunts Missile Capability

 - February 10, 2020, 2:18 AM
Malaysia’s Su-30MKM “Flankers” were delivered with a wide-ranging weapons package, including Kh-31 supersonic anti-ship/radiation missiles and R-77 active radar air-to-air weapons.

Having participated in the flying display at previous Singapore Airshows, the Sukhoi Su-30MKM from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is on static display at this year’s edition, affording showgoers the opportunity to study the mighty “Flanker” up close. Of particular interest is the aircraft’s weapons loadout, including four examples of the rarely seen Kh-31 produced by the Tactical Missiles Corporation (formerly Zvezda-Strela) and codenamed AS-17 “Krypton” by NATO.

The Kh-31 comes in two principal variants, both of which are in RMAF service. The Kh-31A has an active radar seeker and is an anti-ship weapon that employs a sea-skimming terminal approach at up to Mach 2.7 after a high-altitude Mach 3.5 fly-out. The visually similar Kh-31P has a passive seeker and is employed in the anti-radiation role against both land-based and maritime radars. It flies at high-altitude throughout a range of around 60 nautical miles. Malaysia acquired a sizeable number of Kh-31s (variously reported as 90 or 150) and successfully undertook its first live-firings of both variants from the Su-30MKM in 2014. Elsewhere in the region, the Kh-31 is also used by Indonesia and China, which bought a batch from Russia before further developing its own versions as the YJ-91, produced by Hongdu.

Malaysia signed for the Su-30MKM in August 2003 during a visit by President Putin to Malaysia. The aircraft, built by Irkut Corporation, are based on the Su-30MKI for India, with the same Saturn AL-31FP thrust-vectoring engines. However, the Malaysian Flankers are fitted with a high Western avionics and systems content, including Thales head-up display, and missile approach and laser warning systems from Saab Avitronics.

Deliveries began in May 2007 when two were handed over at the Irkut plant, the pair being air-transported to Malaysia in an An-124 in August. The order for 18 was completed in 2009, the aircraft being allocated to No. 11 “Golden Cobra” Squadron at RMAF Gong Kedak. In RMAF service, the Su-30MKM is used for both air defense and attack roles. The aircraft on show in Singapore is armed with the Vympel R-77 active-radar air-to-air missile, of which two can be carried in the “tunnel” between the engine trunks and others under the wing pylons. It also carries large KNIRTI SAP-518 electronic warfare pods on the wingtips that can be fitted as an alternative to short-range air-to-air missile launchers.