The Su-30 started out as an internal development project in the Sukhoi Su-27 family by Sukhoi. The design plan was revamped and the name was made official by the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996. Of the Flanker family, the Su-27, Su-30, Su-33, Su-34 and Su-35 have been ordered into limited or serial production by the Russian Defense Ministry. The Su-30 has two distinct version branches, manufactured by competing organisations: KnAAPO and the Irkut Corporation, both of which come under the Sukhoi group's umbrella.
KnAAPO manufactures the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which were designed for and sold to China, and later Indonesia, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Due to KnAAPO's involvement from the early stages of developing the Su-35, these are basically a two-seat version of the mid-1990s Su-35. The Chinese chose an older but lighter radar so the canards could be omitted in return for increased payload. It is a fighter with both air supremacy and attack capabilities, generally similar to the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle.
Irkut traditionally served the Soviet Air Defense and, in the early years of Flanker development, was given the responsibility of manufacturing the Su-27UB, the two-seat trainer version. When India showed interests in the Su-30, Irkut offered the multirole Su-30MKI, which originated as the Su-27UB modified with avionics appropriate for fighters. Along with its ground-attack capabilities, the series adds features for the air-superiority role, such as canards, thrust-vectoring, and a long-range phased-array radar. Its derivatives include the Su-30MKM, MKA, and SM for Malaysia, Algeria, and Russia respectively. The Russian Air Force operates several Su-30s and has ordered the Su-30SM variant as well.
While the original Su-27 had good range, it still did not have enough range for the Soviet Air Defense Forces (PVO, as opposed to VVS - the Soviet Air Force). The Air Defense Forces needed to cover the vast expanse of the Soviet Union. Hence, development began in 1986 on the Su-27PU, an improved-capability variant of the Su-27 capable of serving as a long-range interceptor or airborne command post.
The two-seat Su-27UB combat trainer was selected as the basis for the Su-27PU, because it had the performance of a single-seat Su-27 with seating for two crew members. A "proof-of-concept" demonstrator flew 6 June 1987, and this success led to the kick-off of development work on two Su-27PU prototypes. The first Su-27PU flew at Irkutsk on 31 December 1989, and the first of three pre-production models flew on 14 April 1992.
The integrated aerodynamic configuration, combined with the thrust vectoring control ability, results in high manoeuvrability and unique takeoff and landing characteristics. Equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system, the Su-30 is able to perform some very advanced manoeuvres, including the Pugachev's Cobra and the tailslide. These manoeuvers quickly decelerate the aircraft, causing a pursuing fighter to overshoot, as well as breaking a Dopplerradar-lock, as the relative speed of the aircraft drops below the threshold where the signal registers to the radar.
The aircraft's powerplant incorporates two Saturn AL-31F afterburninglow-bypass turbofan engines, fed through intake ramps. Two AL-31Fs, each rated at 123 kN (28,000 lbf) of full afterburning thrust ensures Mach 2 in level flight, 1,350 km/h speed at low altitude, and a 230 m/s climbing rate.
With a normal fuel reserve of 5,270 kg, the Su-30MK is capable of performing a 4.5-hour combat mission with a range of 3,000 km. An aerial refueling system increases the range to 5,200 km (3,200 mi) or flight duration up to 10 hours at cruise altitudes.
The aircraft features autopilot ability at all flight stages including low-altitude flight in terrain-following radar mode, and individual and group combat employment against air and ground/sea-surface targets. Automatic control system interconnected with the navigation system ensures route flight, target approach, recovery to airfield and landing approach in automatic mode.
In 1994-1996, an initial batch of five original Su-30 (Su-27PU) fighters, contracted for the Russian Defence Ministry, were delivered to 54th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment based at Savasleyka air base. After the regiment was disbanded in 2002, the aircraft became part of 4th Centre for Combat Employment and Retraining of Personnel in Lipetsk where they were flown mostly by Russian Falcons aerobatic team. No further orders of the variant were made. However, the Russian Defence Ministry was impressed with the export Su-30MKI's performance envelope and ordered a total of 60 Su-30SM fighters, under two contracts signed in March and December 2012, respectively. On 21 September 2012, the Su-30SM performed its maiden flight. The Russian Air Force has received first two serial aircraft on 22 November 2012. By end of 2015, 31st Fighter Aviation Regiment, the last aviation regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces that operated Soviet-made MiG-29A/UBs (izdeliye 9.12/9.13) was fully rearmed with about twenty new Su-30SM fighters. All aircraft of the first two contracts were delivered by 2016.
Another 36 aircraft were ordered in April 2016, six of which intended for the Russian Naval Aviation. This was to increase the total number to 116 (88 in the Air Force and 28 in the Navy).
In October-November 2016, eight new aircraft were handed to Russian Knights aerobatic team, replacing the team's six Su-27 fighters. The aircraft are stationed at Kubinka air base, Moscow Oblast.
During the 2017 MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon, it was announced that the Russian Defence Ministry and Irkut Corporation are working on modernization of Russia's Su-30SM fighters to a new "Su-30SM1" standard. The modernization is aimed on improvements in aircraft's avionics and armament.
In August 2019, the Russian Defence Ministry first signed a contract for undisclosed number of modernized Su-30SM2 (then referred to it as Su-30SM1) fighters. First deliveries to the Russian Aerospace Forces are scheduled for late 2020 with serial deliveries to commence in 2021. The aircraft will receive the N035 Irbis radar and AL-41F1S engines of the Su-35S, what is to standardize and reduce operational costs of the two variants. The aircraft's armament will be also enhanced of the new KAB-250 aerial bombs and Kh-59MK2 stealth cruise missiles. It is planned to modernize all Russia's Su-30SMs to the SM2 standard.
On 25 August 2020, a contract for 21 modernized Su-30SM2 aircraft for the Russian Naval Aviaton was signed at the «ARMY-2020» military-technical forum.
2015 Russian military intervention in Syria
In September 2015, Russia has deployed for the first time Su-30SM fighters to the Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria. At least four Su-30SM fighters were spotted in a satellite photo. In late December 2015, there were 16 Su-30SMs at Khmeimim Air Base. As part of their combat deployment, they provided target illumination for bombers launching airstrikes against rebel groups.
Su-30SMs were initially tasked with aerial escort of Russian attack jets and strategic bombers but conducted also air to ground duties. On 21 March 2017, rebel forces launched a new offensive in the Hama province; a few days later a video emerged showing a Russian Air Force Su-30SM striking ground targets with unguided air-to-ground rockets in a dive attack against the rebels.
On 3 May 2018, a Russian Air Force Su-30 crashed shortly after take-off from the Khmeimim Air Base, killing both crew members.
According to Yury Borisov, the reliability indicators of the Su-30SM and Su-35S deployed to Syria exceeded the projected levels by several times, citing "The achieved reliability indicators... of the new Su-35 and Su-30SM aircraft in intensive combat operation were three-four times higher than the standard."
First talks about acquiring of new fighter for the Indian Air Force began in 1994. A year later, Sukhoi Design Bureau has started working on the new fighter based on the original Su-30 design, which later evolved into Su-30MK (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy - Modernised Commercial) and ultimately into Su-30MKI (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Indiski - Modernised Commercial Indian). On 30 November 1996, Russian state company Rosvooruzhenie (now Rosoboronexport) and Indian Defence Ministry has signed a contract for development and production of eight Su-30Ks and 32 Su-30MKIs for the Indian Air Force. In March-July 1997, all eight Su-30Ks of the order were delivered at Lohegaon Air Force Base in India. On 28 December 2000, as part of the Russian-Indian cooperation, a contract worth more than $US3 billion was signed for license production of 140 Su-30MKI fighters at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) production plant in Nashik. Between 2002-2004, in accordance with the 1996 contract, 32 Su-30MKIs were built by Irkutsk Aviation Plant for the Indian Air Force. From 2004 onwards, production is carried by HAL.
In 2007, India cleared to buy another 40 Su-30MKIs for a total of $US1.6 billion. In March 2010, it was reported India and Russia are negotiating a contract for additional 42 aircraft. The contract worth $US1.6 billion was signed in December 2011, increasing the total number of ordered aircraft up to 272. In March 2020, India has completed the production of all 272 Su-30MKIs ordered under previous contracts. The country is also considering acquisition of 12 more fighters to compensate losses over nearly 20 years of operation. In 2020, due to the 2020-2021 China-India skirmishes, India decided to purchase 12 additional Su-30MKIs.
A PLAAF Sukhoi Su-30MKK at Lipetsk
To better counter USAF's expanding capabilities in the region, in 1996, an agreement worth US$1.8 billion was reached with Russia to purchase some 38 multirole combat aircraft based on the original Su-30 design. Taking into account China's requirements for its new fighter, the aircraft became known as Su-30MKK (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Kitayski - Modernised Commercial Chinese).
A modified variant, known as Su-30MK2, was negotiated for the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) in 2002, with contract for 24 aircraft signed in 2003. All the aircraft were delivered to PLANAF in 2004.
By 2011, about 73 Su-30MKKs were in service with the PLAAF.
Royal Malaysian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKM
Malaysia has ordered 18 Su-30MKMs in May 2003. The first two Su-30MKMs were formally handed over in Irkutsk on 23 May 2007 and arrived in Malaysia at Gong Kedak Air Base in Terengganu on 21 June 2007. As part of the contract agreement, Russia sent the first Malaysian cosmonaut to the International Space Station in October 2007. In 2014, Malaysia had 18 Su-30MKMs in service.
Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MK2
The Government of Venezuela announced on 14 June 2006 it would purchase 24 Su-30MKV fighters from Russia. The first two Su-30MK2s arrived in early December 2006 while another eight were commissioned during 2007; 14 more aircraft arrived in 2008. In October 2015, Venezuela announced the purchase of 12 more Su-30MKVs from Russia for US$480 million.
As part of wider US$8 billion deal signed with Russia in 2006, that also included 34 MiG-29 fighters and number of Yak-130 trainers, Algeria has ordered 28 Su-30MKAs for its Air Force. It was to receive additional 16 Su-30MKAs in exchange for the 39 MiG-29s rejected due to quality disputes and old equipment used. By 2015, it had 44 Su-30MKAs in service with 14 more on order.
In September 2019, it has ordered 16 more aircraft that will augment Algeria's current fleet of total 58 Su-30MKA fighters.
Uganda People's Defence Force Air Wing Su-30MK2
Signed a contract for six Su-30MK2s in 2010. The last two aircraft from the order were delivered in June 2012.
In 2001, reports emerged Indonesia has showed an interest to acquire about 16 Su-30 fighters, as a replacement for its ageing fleet of 12 F-16A/B and F-5E/F fighters. From 2003 to 2011, and because of the U.S-imposed arms embargo against it, it has ordered a combined 11 Su-30MKK/MK2s (2 Su-30MKK and 9 Su-30MK2) for the Air Force. In September 2013, it had all Su-30MKK/MK2s in inventory. The aircraft were upgraded by Belarus in 2019.
As part of a US$1 billion deal that also includes other equipment and maintenance services for the country, Angola has ordered 12 out of 18 former Indian Su-30K fighters on 16 October 2013. The Su-30Ks were initially delivered to India in 1997-1998, but were returned to Russia in 2007 in exchange for 18 full-fledged Su-30MKI fighters. Angola received first two aircraft in September 2017, four in 2018 and the rest in April 2019. Angolan Su-30Ks were also upgraded to the "SM" standard.
Vietnam has received about 20 Su-30MK2s under two contracts signed in 2009 and 2010, respectively. On 21 August 2013, Russia announced it would deliver another batch of 12 Su-30MK2s under a $450 million contract, with deliveries in 2014-2015.
On 14 June 2016, a Su-30MK2 of the Vietnamese Air Force went missing during a training flight 30-40 km off the coast of Ngh? An Province. One out of the two pilots survived. At the time, there were some 32 Su-32MK2s in service.
Kazakh Sukhoi Su-30SM at Irkutsk-2
Kazakhstan has ordered in total 24 Su-30SM fighters under three contracts. It received first four Su-30SMs under the first contract worth of RUB5 billion in April 2015. A second contract for eight aircraft was signed in December 2015. First two aircraft of the second order were delivered in December 2016 and another two in December 2017. The third order for 12 more aircraft was approved in August 2017 and eight aircraft were ordered in May 2018. Last four aircraft of the second contract were delivered in December 2018. It had 12 Su-30SMs in service as of December 2018.
In January 2016, then Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan mentioned that Russia had discussed the possibility of supplying Su-30 fighters to Armenia during a four-day Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on bilateral military-technical cooperation. Armenia has ordered four Su-30SMs in February 2019, with deliveries expected to begin in 2020. The country plans to acquire additional Su-30SM aircraft, according to the Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan. On 27 December 2019, Armenia has received all four aircraft ahead of schedule. The aircraft landed at the Shirak Airport during a visit of Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan and Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Artak Davtyan. In August 2020, negotiations were under way to acquire a new batch of Su-30SM fighters, according to Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan. In March 2021, Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, confirmed that Armenia bought Su-30SM fighters without missiles package from Russia. These aircraft were left unused in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war as a result of the purchase of aircraft without missiles.
In February 2016, Russia and Belarus concluded a preliminary agreement regarding to the export of an undisclosed number of Su-30s to Belarus. On 20 June 2017, during the Le Bourget international air show, Belarus signed a contract to purchase 12 Su-30SMs under a deal worth US$600 million. Originally to be delivered in 2018, Western embargoes on components delayed delivery, with the first four aircraft arriving at Baranovichi Air Base in November 2019, with four more planned to arrive to 2020 with deliveries completed in 2021.
In February 2016, Iran's then Defence MinisterHossein Dehghan during his visit to Moscow announced, that the country intends to buy an undisclosed number of Su-30SM fighters.
PU for Punkt Upravlenija - "Control Point" or Perechvatcik Uchebnyj - "Interceptor Trainer". Modernized Su-27UB. 5 units operated by the Russian Air Defence Forces.
Commercial (export) version of the basic Su-30. The Indian Air Force briefly operated some Su-30Ks in the late 1990s.
Sukhoi proposal for upgrading Russian AF single seat Su-27S. Also proposed export version for Indonesia, 24 were ordered but subsequently cancelled due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
Upgrade project for operational two-seat fighters, the Su-27UB, Su-30 and Su-30K. This was cancelled in Russia but later revived as Su-30M2. Belarus consider updating ex-Indian Su-30K to the Su-30KN standard.
MKI for Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Indiski - "Modernized Commercial Indian". An export version for India, jointly developed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It is the first Su-30 family member to feature thrust vectoring control (TVC) and canards. Equipped with a multinational avionics complex sourced from Russia, India, France and Israel.
A version of the Su-30MKI, except with French and Russian avionics for Algeria.
SM for Serijnyi Modernizirovannyi - "Serial Modernized". A specialised version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI for the Russian Air Force, produced by the Irkut Corporation. NATO reporting name Flanker-H. The Su-30SM is considered a 4+ generation fighter jet. The aircraft has been upgraded according to Russian military requirements for radar, radio communications systems, friend-or-foe identification system, ejection seats, weapons, and other aircraft systems. It is equipped with the N011M Bars radar with a maximum detection range 400 km, search range 200 km using a phased array antenna, frontal horizontal fins and steerable thrusters for supermaneuverability as well as with wide-angle HUD. The aircraft can be used to gain air supremacy same as for targeting adversary on the ground using wide range of weapons including air-to-air, air-to-surface and guided and unguided bombs with total weapons weight up to 8,000 kg. It is also equipped with the one barrel, 30 mm GSh-30-1 autocannon. To ensure operations at major distances from airfield, the ability of in-flight refueling (IFR) is included. Besides that, for electronic warfare purposes two SAP-518 jamming pods can be fitted on the wing tips. The SAP-518 is designed to protect the aircraft from various air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles by creating false targets, jamming missile's guidance, enemy aircraft radars or ground and seaborne air defence.
Su-30SME is the downgraded export version of Su-30SM. It was unveiled at the Singapore Airshow 2016. This variant is to have reduced specifications such as a maximum speed of Mach 1.75, a maximum takeoff weight of 34,000 kg (75,000 lb), and a service ceiling of 16,100 m (52,800 ft).
Initially referred to it as SM1, is an upgrade project of Russian Su-30SM fighters, equipped with the N035 Irbis radar and more powerful AL-41F1S engines of the Su-35S, with the goal to reduce operational costs when unifying the two fighters. The modernized fighters will also obtain new types of weapons, namely the KAB-250 aerial bombs and Kh-59MK2 stealth cruise missile. First deliveries are scheduled for end-2020.
MKK for Modernizirovanniy Kommercheskiy Kitayskiy - "Modernized Commercial for China". An export version for China. NATO reporting name Flanker-G.
Modernized Su-30MKK for China, Indonesia and Uganda with advanced avionics and weapons.
Export version of Su-30MK2 for Venezuela.
A Su-30MK2 version developed by KnAAPO. The Russian Air Force placed an initial order for the variant in 2009. Factory tests were completed in September 2010. Twenty aircraft have been ordered; 4 in 2009 and 16 in 2012. At least 12 have been produced as of August 2014, all four from the first contract in 2009, and eight from the second contract of 2012. They are mostly to be used as combat training aircraft for Su-30SM/SM2 and Su-35 fighters.
A proposed version with Phazotron Zhuk-MSF radar.