By Bijan Razzaghi
Russia’s Su-30SM and Su-35S are among the most sought after multi role fighters on the market today. Countries that cannot buy western aircraft often turn towards Russia and China to build their Air Forces. These fighters can be priced anywhere between $35 million to $60 million. In addition these aircraft both feature 3D thrust vectoring a technology considered by Russia to be sensitive. For Air Forces that cannot afford the Su-35 or that Russia is not willing to sell Su-30SMs or Su-35s to the Su-27SM3 is a viable alternative.
The Su-27SM3 keeps the airframe of the Su-27 but adds the Su-35s Irbus-E radar and has upgraded AL-31FM-1 engines. This gives the SU-27SM3 almost identical performance to a SU-35BM in terms of avionics and air ti ground capability’s. What the Su-27SM3 lacks is thrust vectoring.
The Su-27SM3 is still a very maneuverable aircraft with a g limit of 9 and a thrust to weight ratio of 1.07 with about 50% fuel. This makes the Su-27 comparable to the F-15C,E and F-16 in terms of maneuverability. The Irbis-E radar is considered one of Russia’s most sophisticated radars being Multi Mode and Passively, Electronically Scanned Array. The Irbis-E can track up to 30 targets at ranges as far as 250 miles away. The radar can also track ground targets.
The Su-27SM3 also uses an Infra Red Search and Track IRST that cam detect the heat coming for aircraft exhaust. This can be potentially threatening to low observable aircraft that do not show up on radar.
The Su-27SM3 is currently only used by the Russian Aerospace Force yet there are potential export customers in the Middle East and Africa.