The Su-27 (Nato designation Flanker) is the front-line fighter aircraft designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and manufactured by Irkut Corporation. The export version is the Su-27SK.
The aircraft is equipped to operate autonomously in combat over hostile territory, in escort of deep-penetration strike aircraft and in the suppression of enemy airfields. The aircraft provides general air defence in cooperation with ground and airborne control stations. A naval variant with folding wings, the Su-33, exists.
There are several related developments of the Su-27 design. The Su-30 is a two-seat, dual-role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. The Su-33 ‘Flanker-D’ is a naval fleet defense interceptor for use on aircraft carriers. Further versions include the side-by-side two-seat Su-34 ‘Fullback’ strike/fighter-bomber variant, and the Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ improved air superiority and multi-role fighter. The Shenyang J-11 is a Chinese licence-built version of the Su-27.
Su-27 Flanker development
Su-27 entered production in 1982 and is in service with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, and is built under license in China as the F-11. A variant, the Su-30MK, has been sold to India with licensed local production.
50 aircraft were ordered from Irkut and the first entered service with the Indian Air Force in September 2002. The last was delivered in December 2004.
The first of up to 140 aircraft indigenously built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was delivered in November 2004. China ordered 76 two-seat Su-30MKK and 24 Su-30MK2 naval fighters. Deliveries were completed in August 2004. Indonesia ordered two Su-27SK and two Su-30MK aircraft which were delivered in September 2003.
In May 2006, the Su-27 was selected by the Mexican Navy. Ten aircraft are required, eight single-seat and two Su-27UB two-seat trainers.
In August 2007, Indonesia ordered a further three Su-27SKM and three Su-30MK2 aircraft.
The latest version is the Su-27SM, an upgrade for the Russian Air Force which has strengthened fuselage for extra weapons payload, improved N001 radar, glass cockpit with three-colour multi-function displays and improved avionics. The first was delivered in December 2003.
The Su-27 is a highly integrated twin-finned aircraft. The airframe is constructed of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The engine nacelles are fitted with trouser fairings to provide a continuous streamlined profile between the nacelles and the tail beams. The fins and horizontal tail consoles are attached to tail beams.
The central beam section between the engine nacelles consists of the equipment compartment, fuel tank and the brake parachute container. The fuselage head is of semi-monocoque construction and includes the cockpit, radar compartments and the avionics bay.
The aircraft is equipped with a 30mm GSh-301 gun with 150 rounds of ammunition and a range of missiles, rockets and bombs mounted externally on ten hardpoints.
The aircraft’s infrared search and track system, laser rangefinder, radar and helmet-mounted target designator provide detection, tracking and attack capability.
The range of air-to-air missiles carried by the Su-27 aircraft includes: R-27R1 (Nato designation AA-10A Alamo-A), all-aspect medium-range missile with semi-active radar homing and R-27T1 (AA-10B Alamo-B) with infrared homing and a range from 500m to 60km; and R-73E (AA-11 Archer) all-aspect, close-combat air-to-air missile with infrared homing and a range from 300m to 20km.
Ordnance for air-to-ground missions include: 100kg, 250kg and 500kg freefall and retarded aerial bombs; 500kg incendiary devices; 25kg and 500kg RBK cluster bombs; and C-8, C-13 and C-25 unguided aerial missiles.
The Su-27 is equipped with a new electronic countermeasures suite for individual aircraft, and for mutual and group protection in the forward and rear hemispheres.
The countermeasures system includes a pilot illumination radar warning receiver, chaff and infrared decoy dispensers, and an active multi-mode jammer located in the wingtip pods.
The Su-27 is equipped with a Phazotron N001 Zhuk coherent pulse Doppler radar with track-while-scan and look-down / shoot-down capability.
The range of the radar against 3m² targets is over 100km in the forward hemisphere and 40km in the rear hemisphere. The radar has the capacity to search, detect and track up to ten targets with automatic threat assessment and proritisation.
The aircraft has an OEPS-27 electro-optic system, which includes an infrared search-and-track (IRST) sensor collimated with a laser rangefinder. The range of the electro-optical system is 40-100km, depending on the aspect angle presented by the target.
The radio communications suite provides: voice and data; VHF/UHF radio communications between aircraft and ground control stations within sight range; voice radio communication with ground control stations and between aircraft up to a range of 1,500km; an encrypted data link for combat information exchange between aircraft; and command guidance from ground control stations using automatic interception mode.
The Su-27 is equipped with an electro-optical fire-control system, supplied by the Urals Optical and Mechanical Plant (YOM3), and a Geofizika FLIR (forward-looking infrared) pod. Leninetz of St Petersburg supplies the radar systems and TsNIRTI the electronic countermeasures suite.
The Su-27SK is powered by two AL-31F turbofan engines, designed by the Lyulka Engine Design Bureau (NPO Saturn). Each engine has two air intakes: a primary wedge intake and a louvred auxiliary air intake.
The twin-shaft, turbo-fan engine has after-turbine flow mixing, a common afterburner, an all-mode variable area jet exhaust nozzle, an independent start and a main electronic control, and a reserve hydromechanical engine mode control system. The high-temperature sections of the engines are made of titanium alloy.
An Su-27 fitted with AL-41F1 engines being developed by NPO Saturn took its first flight in March 2004. The uprated engine provides a thrust of 145kN (33,000lb).
- T10 (“Flanker-A”): Initial prototype configuration.
- T10S: Improved prototype configuration, more similar to production spec.
- P-42: Special version built to beat climb time records. The aircraft had all armament, radar and paint removed, which reduced weight to 14,100 kg (31,100 lb). It also had improved engines. Similar to the US F-15 Streak Eagle project. Between 1986–1988, it established and took several climb records from the Streak Eagle. Several of these records (such as time to climb to 3000 m, 6000 m, 9000 m, and 12000 m) still stands current as of 2019.
- Su-27: Pre-production series built in small numbers with AL-31 engine.
- Su-27S (Su-27 / “Flanker-B”): Initial production single-seater with improved AL-31F engine. The “T10P”.
- Su-27P (Su-27 / “Flanker-B”): Standard version but without air-to-ground weapons control system and wiring and assigned to Soviet Air Defence Forces units. Often designated Su-27 without -P.
- Su-27UB (“Flanker-C”): Initial production two-seat operational conversion trainer.
- Su-27SK: Export Su-27S single-seater. Exported to China in 1992-1996 and developed into Shenyang J-11.
- Su-27UBK: Export Su-27UB two-seater.
- Su-27K (Su-33 / “Flanker-D”): Carrier-based single-seater with folding wings, high-lift devices, and arresting gear, built in small numbers. They followed the “T10K” prototypes and demonstrators.
- Su-27KUB (Su-33UB): Two-seat training-and-combat version based on the Su-27K and Su-27KU, with a side-by-side seating same as Su-34. One prototype built.
- Su-27M (Su-35/Su-37 / “Flanker-E/F”): Improved demonstrators for an advanced single-seat multi-role Su-27S derivative. These also included a two-seat “Su-35UB” demonstrator.
- Su-27PU (Su-30): Two-seat version of the Su-27P interceptor, designed to support with tactical data other single-seat Su-27P, MiG-31 and other interceptor aircraft in PVO service. The model was later renamed to Su-30, and modified into a multi-role fighter mainly for export market, moving away from the original purpose of the aircraft.
- Su-32 (Su-27IB): Two-seat dedicated long-range strike variant with side-by-side seating in “platypus” nose. Prototype of Su-32FN and Su-34.
- Su-27PD: Single-seat demonstrator with improvements such as inflight refuelling probe.
- Su-30M/MK: Next-generation multi-role two-seater. A few Su-30Ms were built for Russian evaluation in the mid-1990s, though little came of the effort. The Su-30MK export variant was embodied as a series of two demonstrators of different levels of capability. Versions include Su-30MKA for Algeria, Su-30MKI for India, Su-30MKK for the People’s Republic of China, and Su-30MKM for Malaysia.
- Shenyang J-11: Chinese version of Su-27SK.
- Su-27SM (Flanker-B Mod. 1): Mid-life upgraded Russian Su-27S, featuring technology evaluated in the Su-27M demonstrators.
- Su-27SKM: Single-seat multi-role fighter for export. It is a derivative of the Su-27SK but includes upgrades such as advanced cockpit, more sophisticated self-defense electronic countermeasures (ECM) and an in-flight refuelling system.
- Su-27UBM: Comparable upgraded Su-27UB two-seater.
- Su-27SM2: 4+ gen block upgrade for Russian Su-27, featuring some technology of the Su-35BM; it includes Irbis-E radar, and upgraded engines and avionics.
- Su-27SM3: Increased maximum takeoff weight (+3 tonnes), AL-31F-M1 engines, fully glass cockpit.
- Su-27KUB: Essentially an Su-27K carrier-based twin-seater with a side-by-side cockpit, for use as a naval carrier trainer or multi-role aircraft.
- Su-35BM/Su-35S: Also named the “Last Flanker” is latest development from Sukhoi Flanker family. It features improved thrust vectoring AL-41F1S engines, new avionics, N035 Irbis-E radar and reduced radar cross-section.
- Su-27UB1M: Ukrainian modernized version of the Su-27UB.
- Su-27UP1M: Ukrainian modernized version of the Su-27UP.
- Su-27S1M: Ukrainian modernized version of the Su-27S.
- Su-27P1M: Ukrainian modernized version of the Su-27P.
|Length||21.9 m (71 ft 10 in)|
|Wingspan||14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)|
|Height||5.92 m (19 ft 5 in)|
|Wing area||62 m2 (670 sq ft)|
|Empty weight||16,380 kg (36,112 lb)|
||23,430 kg (51,654 lb)|
|Max take off weight||30,450 kg (67,131 lb)|
|Power plant (Dry thrust)
||2 × Saturn AL-31F, 75.22 kN (16,910 lbf)|
|Power plant (Thrust with afterburner)
||2 × 122.6 kN (27,600 lbf)|
|Maximum speed (Sea level)
||Mach 1.13 (870 mph, 1,400 km/h)|
|Maximum speed (High altitude)||Mach 2.35 (1,600 mph, 2,500 km/h)|
||3,530 km (2,190 mi, 1,910 nmi)|
||19,000 m (62,000 ft)|
|Rate of climb||300 m/s (59,000 ft/min)|
|Wing loading||377.9 kg/m2 (77.4 lb/sq ft)|
|Design load factor||+9g|
- AngolaPeople’s Air and Air Defence Force of Angola – Seven Su-27s in service as of January 2013. Three were bought from Belarus in 1998. Received a total of eight. One was reportedly shot down on 19 November 2000 by a 9K34 Strela-3 MANPADS during the Angolan Civil War.
- People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) – 59 Su-27 fighters, consisting of 33 Su-27SKs and 26 Su-27UBKs as of January 2013. 78 Flankers were delivered under three separate contracts by the Russian KnAAPO and IAPO plants. Delivery of the aircraft began in February 1991 and finished by September 2009. The first contract was for 20 Su-27SK and 4 Su-27UBK aircraft. The deal, known as ‘906 Project’ within China, saw the Su-27 exported to a foreign country for the first time. In February 1991, an Su-27 performed a flight demonstration at Beijing’s Nanyuan Airport. The official induction to service with the PLAAF occurred shortly thereafter. China found some of the delivered Su-27UBKs are “second-handed”, consequently Russia delivered 2 more Su-27UBKs to China as a compensation. Chinese Su-27 pilots described its performance as “outstanding” in all aspects and flight envelopes. Differences over the payment method delayed the signing of the second, identical contract. For the first batch, 70% of the payment had been made in barter transactions with light industrial goods and food. Russian Federation argued that future transactions should be made in US dollars. In May 1995, Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman, Liu Huaqing visited Russia and agreed to the term, on a condition that the production line of Su-27 be imported. The contract was signed the same year. Delivery of the final aircraft from the second batch, which consists of 16 Su-27SKs and 8 Su-27UBKs occurred in July 1996. In preparation for the expanding Su-27 fleet, the PLAAF sought to augment its trainer fleet. On 3 December 1999, a third contract was signed, this time for 28 Su-27UBKs. All 76 of the aircraft featured strengthened airframe and landing gear – result of the PLAAF demands that the fighter has a “usable” air-ground capability. As a result, the aircraft are capable of employing most of the conventional Air-to-Ground ordnance produced by Russia. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) increased to 33,000 kg (73,000 lb). As is common for Russian export fighters, the active jamming device was downgraded; Su-27’s L005 ECM pod was replaced with the L203/L204 pod. Furthermore, there were slight avionics differences between the batches. The first batch had N001E radar, while the later aircraft had N001P radar, capable of engaging two targets at the same time. Additionally, ground radar and navigational systems were upgraded. The aircraft are not capable of deploying the R-77 “Adder” missile due to a downgraded fire control system, except for the last batch of 28 Su-27UBKs. At the 2009 Farnborough Airshow, Alexander Fomin- Deputy Director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Co-operation, confirmed the existence of an all-encompassing contract and an ongoing licensed production of the Su-27 variant by the Chinese. The aircraft are being produced as the Shenyang J-11.
- Indonesian Air Force – 5 Su-27SK/SKM fighters in service as of January 2013.
- Military of Kazakhstan – 20 Su-27/Su-27BM2, 3 Su-27UB/UBM2.
- Mongolian Air Force – 4 Su-27s as of June 2016. 8 more jets to be delivered to complete a squadron.
- Russian Air Force – 359 Su-27 aircraft, including 225 Su-27s, 70 Su-27SMs, 12 Su-27SM3s, and 52 Su-27UBs in service as of January 2014. A modernization program began in 2004. Half of the fleet has been modernized by 2012. The Russian Air Force is currently receiving aircraft modernized to the SM3 4++ standard.
- Russian Navy – 53 Su-27s in use as of January 2014.
- Ukrainian Air Force – 70 Su-27s in inventory. It has 34 Su-27s in service as of March 2019.
- Uzbekistan – 34 Su-27s in use as of January 2013.
- Vietnam People’s Air Force – 9 Su-27SKs and 3 Su-27UBKs in use as of January 2013.
- United States – Two Su-27s were delivered to the U.S. in 1995 from Belarus. Two more were bought from Ukraine in 2009 by a private company, Pride Aircraft to be used for aggressor training for U.S. pilots. They have been spotted operating over Area 51 for evaluation and training purposes.