Su-30 and Su-35 use technology from a crashed aircraft in 2002

Emerging as a trailblazer in aerospace technology, the modern Russian Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets owe their cutting-edge features to the experimental Su-37 aircraft. This progenitor, unique in its class, ceased to exist after 2002 due to a software failure that resulted in a dramatic crash of the Su-37 prototype. 

Su-30 and Su-35 use technology from a crashed aircraft in 2002
Photo credit: Pinterest

Born from the blueprint of the Su-27M, the Su-37 boasted distinct characteristics. It was equipped with AL-31FP engines that featured a controlled thrust vectoring system. This technological marvel significantly enhanced the maneuverability of the Su-37. The aircraft was capable of making turns with minimal radius, performing complex maneuvers at incredibly low speeds, and reaching ultra-high angles of attack. 

Not one to skip on firepower, the Su-37 could hold a staggering eight tons of combat materials on twelve weapon suspension points. This generous capacity extended beyond just bombs and air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles; the Su-37 could also house containers of reconnaissance equipment and radio-electronic warfare systems, showcasing its diverse and robust strength.

Su-30 has used Khibiny EW during an interception of the F-35
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

Late adopter technologies

The Su-37, a notable aircraft, was showcased at numerous exhibitions but was never sold abroad, as underscored by the US publication, The National Interest [NI]. As a result of a prototype crash, development of the Su-37 was sadly halted in 2002. 

Yet, you might find it interesting to know that Sukhoi didn’t stop there. It’s worth noting, as NI describes, that the company went on to release an array of enhancements to the Su-27. Standout modifications include the Su-30MKI and Su-35BM, all of which incorporate technology pioneered for the Su-37. These advancements consist of thrust vectoring engines, upgraded radar systems, and cutting-edge avionics, reveals NI.

Egyptian Su-35 Flanker-E fighters are going to Iran in March
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Engine, radar, and avionics

Thrust vectoring in fighter engines is a revolutionary technology that allows pilots to control the direction of the engine’s thrust. This ability to manipulate the thrust direction enhances the maneuverability of the aircraft, allowing it to perform complex aerial maneuvers that would be impossible with conventional control surfaces alone.

Thrust vectoring technology also allows for shorter take-offs and landings, as well as the ability to hover, climb, and descend vertically. Also, by optimizing the direction of the engine’s thrust, the aircraft can maintain its desired trajectory with less effort, thus reducing fuel consumption.

The Sukhoi Su-37 was equipped with the N011M Bars [Panther] phased array radar. This radar was a significant upgrade from its predecessors, with the ability to track up to 15 targets simultaneously and engage four of them at the same time.

The avionics of the Su-37 were also highly advanced. The aircraft was fitted with a digital fly-by-wire control system, which allowed for enhanced maneuverability and stability in flight. This system was critical as it allowed the Su-37 to perform complex maneuvers that were previously impossible for other aircraft.

Su-37 fighter jet
Video screenshot

Another critical aspect of the Su-37’s avionics was its integrated information system, which provided the pilot with real-time information about the aircraft’s status and the surrounding environment. This system was designed to reduce the pilot’s workload and enhance situational awareness, thereby improving the overall effectiveness of the aircraft.

Additionally, the Su-37 was equipped with a helmet-mounted target designation system. This allowed the pilot to aim the aircraft’s weapons simply by looking at the target. This system was critical in close combat situations, where quick target acquisition and engagement could mean the difference between success and failure.

In summary, the radar and avionics of the Su-37 were critical in enhancing the aircraft’s combat capabilities. The advanced radar system allowed for the detection and engagement of multiple targets, while the sophisticated avionics provided the pilot with enhanced control and situational awareness.

The Su-35 is not visible to the MiG-29

Iran buys 24 Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighters produced for Egypt
Photo credit: UAC

In a report from The Washington Post last December, it was revealed by a high-ranking former Ukrainian official that the Ukrainian Air Force’s MiG-29 fighter jets struggled to intercept Russia’s Aerospace Forces’ advanced Su-35S aircraft. 

“Picture the scene – MiGs and Su-35s in the wild blue yonder. They’re invisible to us, but we’re clearly visible to them. They leave us trailing in their wake while they effortlessly catch up with us,” the source poignantly put it. 

This, he explained, is precisely why Kyiv is desperate to obtain the more sophisticated American F-16 fighters from Western allies. The publication further explained that the MiG-29 has limitations in its detection range, spotting a target only up to a distance of roughly 64 kilometers and engaging it at approximately half that distance. 

Conversely, the Russian Su-35S comes with the powerful H035 Irbis radar, equipped to track as many as 30 air targets or four ground targets simultaneously. This radar system can detect a target with an effective scattering area [ESR] of just one square meter from a formidable distance of up to 270 kilometers away. Additionally, the EPR of a typical fighter jet falls between 3 and 12 square meters, highlighting the superior capabilities of the Su-35S.

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