A Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet during a demonstration flight at the 12th MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky.Marina Lystseva / TASS
The modernization of the Russian armed forces has taken another step forward with the delivery in 2016 of the first shipments of the modern multipurpose Su-30SM fighters.
In the spring a squadron of eight planes was deployed to the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea while in the fall two planes were added to the fighter air regiment in the Rostov Region.
Recently, a group of Su-30SMs was sent to a separate Russian Fleet attack air regiment in the country's north. In 2017 the fighters will also be delivered to Russia's naval aviation in the Baltics and by 2018 the Aerospace Forces will receive more than 30 planes.
The Su-30SMs are actively participating in the Syrian campaign, accompanying the Russian air force’s frontline and strategic bombers.
According to the Izvestiya newspaper, the planes supplied to the North Sea Fleet will carry not only "air-to-air" class missiles but also Kh-31 supersonic anti-ship missiles. The publication believes the fighters' objective will be to cover the Barents Sea from enemy planes, attack drones, winged missiles and military ships. The Su-30SMs will also be able to strike radar stations, antiaircraft systems and other objects on the ground.
In 2015 the army and fleet were supplied with more than 10 modernized and new types of cruise missiles. One of the most interesting novelties was a family of Kh-31AD anti-ship and anti-radar missiles (also known as Kh-31M or AS-17 Krypton in NATO's classification). They are built by the Tactical Missiles Corporation.
A Kh-35 anti-radiation missile (left) and a Kh-31AD anti-shipping missile on display at the 7th International Maritime Defence Show / Source: Ruslan Shamukov / TASS
The development of the missile began in 1975. Krypton was the first serial missile in the world to be equipped with a combined jet engine. The engine helps the missile fly at a low altitude (10-16 feet) and still maintain a speed of Mach 2 (more than 1,400 miles per hour).
Thanks to this quality and to its high maneuvering capabilities, the missile's survivability and its effectiveness in striking the selected target increase as it overcomes air defense systems, despite the counteraction of the opponent's electronic warfare systems.
"Everyone has tried to copy our Kh-31 missile, but they haven't been able to for decades now. There's no equivalent in China or the U.S., although the Americans tried buying our targets to construct a Kh-31," said Boris Obnosov, general director of the Tactical Missiles Corporation.
The Kh-31AD missiles are carried by the Su-30/35 and Mig-29K/35 fighter families.
The Su-30SM multipurpose fighter is a more advanced plane from the Su-30 family. The new modification is based on the Su-30MKI export fighter, but its on-board radar equipment has been adapted for domestic aviation.
A Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase / Source: Vadim Savitsky / TASS
The fighter is installed with the Bars multifunction radar station, an air refueling system and new navigational systems. Its control equipment for group operations has been expanded and its life support system has been improved.
By using the Kh-31 anti-radar and anti-ship missiles (up to six units) the plane is capable of participating in operations to suppress enemy air defense systems and destroy its ships.
The Su-30 has proven itself during the Russian air force’s operation in Syria. The first news about the plane's use in the aviation group came out on October 12, 2015 after the fighters had covered airspace for all Russian planes operating in the Arab republic.
In Syrian airspace the Su-30SM occasionally observed U.S. planes, as well as American attack drones. In November 2015 the multipurpose fighters accompanied the Tu-160 strategic missile-carrying bombers. The successful use of the fighter in Syria will allow Russia to increase the number of these planes in its armed forces in the future.
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