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Development: Sukhoi Design Bureau
The design phase: Production Production: Knaaz n.a. Y.Gagarin

The Su-30MK is a super-maneuverable two-seater designed to gain air-superiority and to destroy ground and naval surface targets using a variety of guided and unguided air delivered ordnance, with an option of supporting group actions.

Based on the Su-30 serial fighter, the Su-30MK is a new type of multirole combat aircraft which integrates and develops combat capabilities of the Su-27 aircraft family. Presence of the second pilot reduces pressure on the first pilot while performing combat missions with guided long-range weapons, performing night missions, and making long range flights with air refueling.

The operating experience from Su-27 single-seat airplanes that had been accumulated by the Sukhoi Design Bureau by 1985 showed that in modern air combat, the burden on the pilot, due to the need to control the airplane, maneuver, and operate the weapon system simultaneously, was too high. In addition, the present-day capabilities of airborne electronic systems were found to be so wide that it would be quite difficult for a single pilot to use them to the full extent. The presence of a second pilot would enable the crew to act more efficiently and effectively by distributing the workload between the two pilots. The need to design a special dual-cockpit version of the fighter equipped with an in-flight refueling system was quite urgent, and would enable an extension of its endurance to up to 10 hours.

In 1985, the Sukhoi Design Bureau made the decision to conduct in-flight refueling tests with Su-27 airplanes and examine crew capabilities in the case of prolonged flying in terms of working capacity and health. I. Emelyanov, who would later be appointed Chief Designer of Sukhoi DB, was named project coordinator. The baseline airplane for the development of the new project was a second flying prototype of the Su-27UB (T-10U-2), a dual cockpit operational training version of the Su-27 featuring high internal fuel capacity and ten weapon hardpoints. The airplane was equipped with a refueling system along with certain changes to the composition of equipment. A test prototype of the airplane took off on September 10, 1986. The flight tests conducted led the designers to believe that, in principle, it was possible to achieve a substantial improvement in the performance of the fighter’s baseline model.

To test the new fighter concept, two production operational trainers were modified in 1988. The DB assigned the codes T-10PU-5 and T-10PU-6 to those airplanes. The airplanes were equipped with an in-flight refueling system, a new air-navigation system, and an upgraded remote-control system (RCS) and weapons control systems (WCS). Flight testing started in 1988, and after completion of the tests, the government decided to begin the production of a fighter named Su-30.

The main customer for the new airplane was to be Air Defense air units where the concept of long-range interception and patrol airplanes could be completely implemented. The Su-30 retained the qualities and capabilities of its predecessors in full, and had a considerably higher effectiveness due to upgrades. At the same time, the new airplane provided new capabilities for operation on combat missions involving longer ranges and longer flight durations, as well as effective control of a fighter group. The integral fuel capacity ensured a range of 3,000 km, and in most cases, the in-flight refueling endurance of the Su-30 was limited only by the physical capabilities of the crew. After consultations with medical scientists, the total maximum duration of the flight was limited to 10 hours. To ensure comfortable conditions for the crew, the interceptor was equipped with additional service devices.

Production work was led by A. Fedorov. Emelyanov, who would later become the lead designer of the Su-30, represented Sukhoi DB in the project. The first production of the Su-30, piloted test pilots G. Bulanov and V. Maximenkov, lifted off on April 14, 1992.


Using the Su-30 as the baseline model, Sukhoi Design Bureau proposed its further development – the Su-30MK multi-purpose fighter – in 1993. A wide range of weapons, the ability to engage in air combat and attack ground and sea-surface targets at the same time, as well as capability for the installation of new, including imported, equipment, had unlocked wide opportunities for promoting the Su-30MK on the international aviation markets. The strike version of the plane was first demonstrated at the Air Show in Le Bourget (France) in 1993. That was the first production Su-30 specifically modified to accommodate an advanced weapons control system. In the spring of 1994, the decision was made to demonstrate the Su-30MK at a military exhibition in Chile in order to showcase the airplane’s capabilities; the airplane flew there across the ocean without refueling, which was a sensation in and of itself. The plane was also demonstrated at MAKS-95 and the Farnborough-94 Air Show in the UK. The Su-30MK was also welcomed at air shows in China, Malaysia, India, and other countries.

Su-30MK – Indian Air Force series

India was the first country to sign a contract for delivery of the new Russian fighters. The fighter for the Indian Air Force was first designed by Sukhoi Design Bureau based on the Su-30 under the supervision of A. Barkovsky in 1995.

The Indian version of the Su-30MK has some substantial differences from the Su-30, as some design concepts were being “embodied in metal” for the first time in global aviation history. For example, the Indian fighter has a horizontal canard incorporated into the overall control circuit within the longitudinal channel of the remote control system (RCS), as well as AL-31FP engines with a thrust-vectoring module developed by the Research and Development Center named after A.  Lyulka. In combination, all this enables the implementation of ultra-maneuverability and performance in the Indian fighter. Also, a radar station with rotating antenna array (the “Bars” radar system developed by the Research Institute of Instrument Design) was installed in a produced airplane for the first time ever, along with a new ejection seat and a number of other domestically-developed new systems. For the first time in the Design Bureau’s history, the wide integration of imported and domestically-produced avionics was implemented, resulting in a “multinational” plane incorporating systems and complexes delivered by international manufacturers from 6 countries. Thanks to its extended range of weaponry, the airplane’s combat effectiveness was improved.

Under the terms and conditions of the contract, the airplanes were to be delivered in several batches, with consistent enhancements in avionics, power generation, and weapons capabilities. Pursuant to the Governmental Decree, the Sukhoi Design Bureau (design development) and IAPO (production) were designated as general contractors for the project.

The new airplane, piloted by test pilot V. Averyanov, took off for its first flight on July 1, 1997. The Su-30MKI Program was the first demonstration of a new model of defense engineering policy in national aircraft-production history, which included all stages of the long-term cooperation in place today:

  • Delivery of the initial batch of original (Su-30K) version airplanes;
  • Joint R&D work on a modified version of the plane (Su-30MK for the Indian Air Force);
  • Granting the customer a license for production of the airplane with the gradual substitution of Russian equipment components with foreign components (a contract granting India a license to produce 140 final-delivery version fighters was executed in December 2000);
  • Upgrading the airplanes from initial batches to engineered concepts in the final delivery batches;
  • The establishment of an after-sale service center to maintain the delivered airplanes;
  • Using the contract as a springboard for regional market penetration.

Su-30MK for the Algerian Air Force

The Su-30MK fighter for the Algerian Air Force was designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau based on the "Indian" Su-30MK. The airplane has only minor differences from the baseline version which concern the composition of airborne equipment. Some imported equipment was replaced with Russian counterparts; in particular, the airplane has a domestically-produced oxygen station instead of the similar internationally-produced station used before. Deliveries of the airplanes to Algeria started in 2008.

Su-30MK for the Malaysian Air Force

The fighter was designed by Sukhoi Design Bureau on order from the Royal Malaysian Air Force based on the "Indian" version of the Su-30MK. A contract for delivery was signed in 2003. 

With highly-similar combat capabilities, this version differs from the “Indian” version in the composition of airborne equipment, as some equipment items were replaced with French counterparts. The airframes, engines with thrust vector control systems and digital flight management systems, as well as the composition of weapons, are similar to those in the baseline model. The fins can be seen closer to the nose from the canopy. It has a French-made built-in state-identification system. Under the nose, there are additional fairings which accommodate sensors for laser irradiation and an incoming missile warning system from Avitronics (South Africa). A Russian oxygen station is used.

Work to integrate the new avionics were conducted with extensive support from the Project Team of the Malaysian Air Force, which was permanently based in Moscow. The offset part of the Malaysian contract provides for the establishment of a service center for Russian-made airplanes in the country, as well as support in implementation of the national space program.

In June 2007, the first pair of produced fighters were delivered by direct flights on board an An-124-100 Ruslan heavy ramp freighter to Gong Kedak airbase (Terengganu) on the shores of the South China Sea.
Su-30MK for the Chinese Air Force (Su-30MKK)

Work to create a dual-cockpit strike fighter based on the Su-30 designated as Su-30MKK was performed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau under the leadership of A. Knyshev starting in 1997. The general contractor as listed under the contract was the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant (KnAAPO). Detailed engineering of the airplane was completed in 1998; the first test item took off at KNAAPO airfield on May 20, 1999. The plane was piloted by a mixed crew comprised of: I. Solovyev (Design Bureau) and A. Pulenko (KnAAPO). Joint tests, together with the Air Force General Flight Testing Center, were conducted in 1999-2001, and the first batch of produced planes was delivered to the customer in December 2000.

A new version of the two-seat airplane was designed with extensive use of the design potential of the Su-27SK and the single-seat Su-27M. In terms of design, the Su-30MKK differs from the “Indian” Su-30MK in its larger and higher vertical tail. The following components were borrowed with little or no modifications: the centerwing, wing consoles, air intakes, tail booms, tail unit, and landing gear from the Su-27M; and the fuselage tail accessories from the Su-27SK. It has an upgraded wing with eight hardpoints for external stores and reinforced landing gear enabled with an increase in payload to up to 8,000 kg. The airplane is provided with Al-31 power generation. The range of weapons is extended as compared to the baseline model.

Su-30MK for the Chinese Navy (Su-30MK2)

The Su-30MK2, an advanced version derived from the Su-30MKK, was developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau in 2002 for the Chinese Navy. The fighter differs from the baseline model with its enhanced ground (water-surface) target-hitting capabilities, as well as its equipment list of airplane systems and weapons. The range of guided weapons intended for hitting water-surface targets is extended. In particular, the weaponry of the Su-30MK2 can include a X-31A supersonic anti-ship missile. The head-up display has been upgraded. An additionally-mounted signal processor unit with a new linear receiver enables the use of new precision guidance ammunition and expands the capabilities for hitting sea-surface targets. The Su-30MK2 was manufactured at the aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Su-30MK2-type airplanes have also been delivered to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Venezuela.

In the course of implementation of the Su-27SK, Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 Programs, an integrated production system was developed that had previously been used in design and production of the Su-27SM airplanes for the Russian Air Force and the Su-27SKM. The development and production of various versions of Su-27 and Su-30 airplanes led to a considerable reduction in cost due to the continued enhancement of airplane capabilities. As a result, the cost of research-and-development work for the Su-30MK2 Program turned out to be less than half what the cost of work was for the Su-30MKK Program, and the Su-27SKM Program was more than three times “cheaper” than for the Su-30MKK, while the combat effectiveness of the fighters dramatically increased.


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