Russian Air Force Receives Third Batch of Su-35 Fighters in Three Months

The Russian Air Force has received a new batch of Su-35 ‘4++ generation’ heavyweight fighters, which was the third delivered since late June as the Defence Ministry continues acquisitions on a significant scale. The aircraft were built at the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant in the Far Eastern Komsomolsk on Amur region, and were delivered alongside a batch of Su-57 next generation fighters. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov stated regarding the delivery: “Today, Russian aircraft manufacturing enterprises are gaining a good production pace, continuing to supply combat equipment to our troops. In particular, Rostec’s enterprises are distinguished by well-coordinated work: the Komsomolsk on Amur Aviation Plant has handed over another batch of Sukhoi-57 and Sukhoi-35S aircraft to the Russian Aerospace Force. The deliveries are in progress under the state defence order. By the end of 2023 the Russian troops will receive the next portion of aircraft.” The Su-35 is a heavily enhanced derivative of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker fourth generation air superiority fighter, which when it entered service in 1984 was widely considered the most capable fighter in the world for air to air missions, while the Su-57 is an entirely new design intended to serve as a successor to the Flanker series. 

The Russian Air Force was previously reported to have received batches of Su-35s in late June and again in mid July, with at least one further batch confirmed to be in production. The first two fighters were delivered to the Air Force for testing in 2012, although the class only became operational in 2014 with 24 aircraft delivered that year largely from a backlog of production over previous years. The Su-35 replaced the Su-30MKK/MK2 fighters in production at the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant, which and been built from the late 1990s to meet Chinese orders and subsequently been widely exported. The plant is the largest producing fighter aircraft outside China and the United States, and previously produced Su-27s in the Soviet era at a rate of close to 100 fighters per year. The Su-35 has seen extensive use in combat in Ukraine particularly in air to air engagements, and in the opening months of Russian operations from early 2022 gained significant victories against Ukrainian fighters at a particularly high rate. This included participation in major air battles such as that over Zhytomir in early March 2022.

The Su-35 in 2022 gained orders from the Iranian Air Force, which according to some reports may purchase up to 64 aircraft after receiving its initial batch of an estimated two dozen airframes. All fighters already ordered by Iran have already built, and were previously intended for export to Egypt before Cairo cancelled the order due to Western threats to implement economic warfare measures against it. The aircraft are well suited to complementing large networks of ground based air defences with elevated sensors including three phased array radars – one in the nose and two in the wing roots – which is valuable for Iran which relies heavily on modern surface to air missile systems but lacks modern fighters. It remains uncertain how many Su-35s the Russian Air Force itself is set to acquire, with acquisitions significantly exceeding initial plans due to delays operationalising the Su-57 and the collapse of the Soviet Union’s previous fifth generation fighter program the MiG 1.42 in the late 1990s. While in the early 2010s it was expected that only 100 Su-35s would join the Russian Air Force, with approximately 100 more predicted to be built for export, a fleet size of well over 150 is now expected.