by Tim Wing
The Sukhoi Su-27 (UEDF reporting name: Flanker) was a twin-engine supermaneuverable fighter aircraft designed by Sukhoi. It was intended as a direct competitor for the large United States fourth-generation fighters such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle, with 3,530-kilometre range, heavy aircraft ordnance, sophisticated avionics and high maneuverability. The Su-27 complemented the smaller MiG-29. With constant upgrades throughout its lifespan, the Su-27 stayed in front line service well into the middle twenties. With hundreds having been exported to various countries both within and outside of the Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States, the Su-27 was still flying after the Invid Occupation.
- Role: Multirole Air superiority fighter
- National origin: Soviet Union
- Design group: Sukhoi
- Built by: Sukhoi and Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO)
- First flight: 20 May 1977 (Su-27), 28 June 1988 (Su-27M), 19 February 2008 (Su-27ST)
- Introduction: 22 June 1985
- Status: Retired
- Primary users: EBSIS
- Produced: 1982–2019
- Number built: 1800
- Unit cost: $30 million (Su-27, in adjusted 2070 International Credits), $65 million (Su-27M, in adjusted 2070 International Credits), $148 million (Su-27ST, in adjusted 2070 International Credits)
Various versions were produced throughout the Flanker’s lifespan (see below). They can be best broken up into three main groups. The first (Flankers B, C and D) were fourth generation fighters, equipped with 1980s era Soviet technology. The middle (Flankers E and F) were considered fourth generation plus. They had advanced avionics, full glass cockpits and conventional engines that were capable of super-cruise. The Flanker F was notable, as it was a VTOL fighter which used a Soviet development of the GERWALK system found on the VF-1 Valkyrie fighter. The final Flankers, or “Fusion Flankers” as they were commonly called, made use of the most advanced technology to come out of the Robotech era. The Flankers G, H and I were equipped with fusion turbine engines and protoculture cell energizer power plant. Other improvements include a heavy laser in place of the traditional 30mm cannon and further improved avionics.
In its final form, the Flanker was fully modern combat aircraft. Aerodynamically, very little on the Flanker changed throughout the years. But with fusion turbines and laser armament, it was quite comparable to the F-206 Falcon II and F-209 Sylphid fighter aircraft of the United Earth Defense Force. This is a testament to the soundness of the original design.
- Su-27 Pre-production series built in small numbers with AL-31 engine
- Su-27S: Initial production single-seater with improved AL-31F engine.
- Su-27SM: Mid-life upgraded Russian Su-27S, featuring technology evaluated in the Su-27M demonstrators.
- Su-27SM2: 4+ gen block upgrade for Russian Su-27, featuring some technology of the Su-27BM; it includes Irbis-E radar, and upgraded engines and avionics.
- Su-27SM3: The same as the Su-27SM2 but is built new rather than a mid-life upgrade.
- Su-27P: Standard version but without air-to-ground weapons control system and wiring and assigned to Soviet Air Defense Forces units.
- Su-27SK: Export Su-27S single-seater.
- Shenyang J-11: Chinese version of Su-27SK.
- Su-27SKM: Single-seat multi-role fighter for export. It is a derivative of the Su-27SK but includes upgrades such as advanced cockpit, more sophisticated self-defense electronic countermeasures (ECM) and an in-flight refueling system.
- Su-27UB: Initial production two-seat operational conversion trainer.
- Su-27UB2: Twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
- Su-27UBM: Upgraded Su-27UB two-seater, includes upgrades such as advanced cockpit, more sophisticated self-defense electronic countermeasures (ECM) and an in-flight refueling system.
- Su-27UBM2: 4+ gen multi-role two-seater, featuring some technology of the Su-27BM; it includes Irbis-E radar, and upgraded engines and avionics.
- Su-27P: Two-seat version of the Su-27P interceptor, designed to support with tactical data other single-seat Su-27P, MiG-25 “Foxhound” and other interceptor aircraft in PVO service. Later modified into a multi-role fighter mainly for export market, moving away from the original purpose of the aircraft.
- Su-27UBK: Export Su-27UB two-seater.
- Su-27UBKM2: Export variant 4+ gen multi-role two-seater, featuring some technology of the Su-27BM; it includes Irbis-E radar, and upgraded engines and avionics. Versions include Su-27MKA for Algeria, Su-27MKI for India, Su-27MKK for the People’s Republic of China, and Su-27MKM for Malaysia.
- Su-27K: Carrier-based single-seater with folding wings, high-lift devices, and arresting gear, built in small numbers.
- Su-27K2: Upgraded Su-27K.
- Su-27KUB: Essentially an Su-27K carrier-based twin-seater with a side-by-side cockpit, for use as a naval carrier trainer or multi-role aircraft.
- Su-27M: 4+ gen improved single-seat multi-role Su-27S derivative. Improvements include Saturn 117S (AL-41F1S) afterburning turbofans with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles, full glass cockpit, and advance avionics. First Flanker to field the Irbis-E passive phased array radar.
- Su-27MP: VTOL Su-27M with GERWALK style engine/leg configuration. Primarily used by the Soviet Navy on their short deck VTOL carriers. The P in the designation was for Pervyy Effektivnoye Usileniye Krylatyy vooruzheniya s Lokomotiva kolennogo sustava, a direct translation of Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-Joint (GERWALK).
- Su-27MPK: Export version of the Su-27MP.
- Su-27ST: The “Fusion Flanker”. Single seat Su-27 upgraded with fusion turbine engines and protoculture cell energizer power plant. Other improvements include a heavy laser in place of the traditional 30mm cannon and further improved avionics.
- Su-27ST2: New build version of the Su-27ST.
- Su-27UBST: Two seat Su-27 upgraded with fusion turbine engines and protoculture cell energizer power plant. Other improvements include a heavy laser in place of the traditional 30mm cannon and further improved avionics.
- Su-27UBST2: New build version of the Su-27UBST.
- Su-27MPST: Fusion turbine powered VTOL Flanker with GERWALK style engine/leg configuration. Primarily used by the Soviet Navy on their short deck VTOL carriers.
- Su-34: Two-seat dedicated long-range strike variant with side-by-side seating in “platypus” nose.
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Content by Tim Wing
Copyright © 2015 Tim Wing