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Sukhoi Su-35 fighter: winging its way into a new era

11:42 | 21/ 09/ 2007

MOSCOW. (Yury Zaitsev for RIA Novosti) - The Sukhoi Su-35 fighter aircraft (NATO reporting name, Flanker), which was unveiled at the MAKS-2007 aerospace show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow this August, is to perform its maiden flight in the near future.

The test-flight program is to involve two more Su-35 prototypes, now being assembled at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Manufacturing Association in the Russian Far East, in late 2007.

Mikhail Pogosyan, Sukhoi CEO, said the new warplane was in great demand abroad, and that Moscow was currently negotiating possible sales with several countries.

Known as the Su-35, the Su-27M Flanker fighter has been displayed at different air shows for the last 15 years and has retained this name during an extensive modernization program.

Unlike the original Su-27, the Su-35 features two AL-31FP vectored-thrust engines, namely, advanced versions of the production AL-31F power plant.

Each AL-31FP engine has fifth-generation technologies, a revolving nozzle and a variable thrust control system ensuring 100% controllability in any conceivable position and at minimal speeds.

This is a very important innovation because conventional aerodynamic controls are absolutely useless in similar situations. If necessary, the thrust-vector control system can be switched off and the nozzles fixed in a neutral position.

A phased-array radar forming the mainstay of the Su-35's weapons-control system simultaneously tracks up to 30 aerial targets at a range of 350 to 400 km and enables the pilot to attack eight of them.

The unique radar detects tiny targets with an effective echo area of several hundredths of a meter up to 90 km away.

Moreover, the warplane has a new-generation optronic system comprising a thermal direction finding set, a laser range-finder/marker and a television channel.

The Su-35 is fitted with 34 missiles, including medium-range air-to-air missiles with active and semi-active radar-seeking and heat-seeking warheads, short-range missiles and five brand-new long-range missiles.

It has 25 medium-range and long-range anti-ship and anti-radar missiles, including the Club missile system and one long-range Yakhont cruise missile.

Just like the Su-30MK warplane ordered by China, the Su-35 carries remote-controlled, laser-guided and satellite-guided glider bombs, as well as a laser/TV sighting station inside an external optronic container.

The station detects, tracks and marks ground targets and calculates their range.

The Su-35 carries an 8,000kg ordnance load on 12 external pods. Due to its vectored-thrust engine and advanced avionics, the plane can outperform the Su-27M, weighs less than the popular Su-30MK and, therefore, has an advantage in maneuverable dogfights.

Pogosyan said there were plans to start exporting the first Su-35s in 2010. The new fighter fits into the generation four plus-plus category between different Su-30MK versions and fifth-generation warplanes. Corporate experts said it featured numerous fifth-generation technologies that would give it an undisputed advantage over other multi-role fourth-generation fighters on the global aviation market between 2009 and 2015.

Yury Zaitsev is a member of the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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