Russian Air Force Receives New Batch of Su-35 Air Superiority Fighters: Two Further Batches in Production

The Russian Air Force has received a new batch of Su-35S heavyweight fighter aircraft from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant located in the country’s far eastern regions, according to the press office of the state tech corporation Rostec. “The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant named after Yu. Gagarin has manufactured and delivered the second batch of Su-35S new multirole fighters to the Defence Ministry of Russia this year,” the press office stated. Head of the United Aircraft Corporation Yury Slyusar further elaborated: “The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant produces aircraft under the defence procurement plan within the timeframe stipulated by contracts, including deliveries ahead of schedule, ensuring the needs of the Russian Aerospace Forces for modern aircraft platforms.” This follows the announcement of the delivery of the preceding batch on June 23 – at which point it was revealed that Su-35s of the next batches were already in production. All batches are expected to be delivered to the Russian Air Force, with the Navy having shown no interested in the class and favouring the less costly Su-30SM2, while Su-35s to meet export orders from Iran are widely reported to have all been built. 

The Su-35 is a heavily enhanced derivative of the Su-27 Flanker fourth generation fighter which joined the Soviet Air Force and Air Defence Forces in 1984. When first commissioned the Su-27 was very widely considered the most capable fighter in air to air combat fielded by any air force in the world, with its endurance, manoeuvrability, high off boresight engagement ranges, and the kinds of materials used in its airframe all being revolutionary while its AL-31F engine led the world in terms of thrust. An enhanced ‘4+ generation’ Su-27, the Su-27M, was set to enter service in the early-mid 1990s before the USSR’s disintegration delayed the program. The Russian Air Force showed an interred in the Su-35 as a ‘4++ generation’ stopgap until the Su-57 fifth generation entered service in 2015, although delays to the Su-57 program led it to invest more heavily in the enhanced Flanker model. The Su-35 thus remains the most formidable fighter in the Russian fleet that is fielded at squadron level strength, with some of its most outstanding features including its massive 400km air to air engagement range, its use of triple phased array radars, its primary radar’s very wide detection angles, and its immense endurance and very high flight performance. 

The Su-35 was initially expected to enter service around 2009, although the was delayed to February 2014 belatedly providing the fleet with a successor to the original Flanker. The fighter heavily relied technologies from systems which had been developed with export funding for overseas clients, with notable examples including its data links from the Su-30MKK fighter developed to meet Chinese orders, and its Irbis-E radar system derived from the N011M Bars-R radar that was first produced for the Su-30MKI fighter for India. The fighter has seen extensive combat in both Syria and Ukraine, and in the latter theatre has gained multiple kills against a wide range of Ukrainian aircraft. These have included Mi-8 helicopters and Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters – all of which Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union in considerable quantities. While having overwhelming superiority over Ukrainian skies, the fighter was intended to be used in a supporting role in conjunction with massive networks of ground based air defences rather than for unsupported operations far beyond Russian territory as the Su-27 had been, and as foreign rivals such as the American F-22 and Chinese J-20 still are.