By Bijan Razzaghi
Delivered to China in 2001 the Su-30MKK is the primary multirole fighter of the PLA operating in the South China Sea. The aircraft has been seen intercepting P-8 Poseidon’s during recent encounters. Unlike the J-11B and J-10 the Su-30MKK has a robust air to ground and anti ship capability, with its ability to deploy the KH-59ME Anti Ship missile.
The KH-59ME has an effective range of 62 nautical miles or 115 kilometers. This capability poses a significant threat to US Navy warships operating in international waters. The aircraft can effectively engage targets while flying in Chinese air space under the cover of HQ-9 SAMs and J-11B fighters.
The KH-59ME flys at high subsonic speeds and at low altitudes flying at just 22 feet 7 meters above the surface. Once the missile reaches visual range the weapons systems officer in the Su-30 can visually identify the target with a TV display. In addition to the missiles capabilities the Su-30 itself can engage intercepting aircraft with the AA-12 adder missile making it more deadly than other maritime strike aircraft such as the heavy H-6 or JH-7.
China operates close to 96 Su-30MKKs and has developed its own domestically manufactured derivative designated the J-16. The Su-30MKK is also operated by Venezuela which has 24.