Pairing Su-35S and Su-30SM in sync obliterates many AD radars

The early days of the war in Ukraine featured aerial chaos. The Russian Air Force [VKS or RuAF] flew without clear tactics, relying heavily on jamming systems. Ukrainian pilots mirrored these actions. “Both sides were essentially blind. This chaos likely worked in favor of the Ukrainians,” revealed a Ukrainian Su-27 pilot known as Saber during an interview with United24

Russia will unveil the export Sukhoi Su-57E fighter in India - Su-35 fighter jet
Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

As the conflict progressed, Saber noted that both sides refined their strategies and adopted more tactical approaches. For instance, the Russians have managed to effectively pair the supermaneuverable Su-35S air superiority fighter with the versatile Su-30SM multirole fighter

This sentiment is echoed by many Western analysts. By combining the capabilities of the Su-35S and Su-30SM, RuAF pilots have been successful in destroying numerous Ukrainian air defense radars and fighter-bombers like the Su-24. 

10+ Russian Su-30s began tactical rehearsals over Kaliningrad - Su-30
Photo credit: Irkut Press Office

The idea

When flying together, the Su-30SM and Su-35S form a formidable pair. The Su-30SM focuses on ground attacks, while the Su-35S ensures air dominance and provides top cover. The Su-35S, staying at higher altitudes, leverages its powerful N135 Irbis-E radar to keep the airspace clear of enemy threats. 

In July 2022, TASS shared insights from a Rosoboronexport official, revealing that the Su-35 can coordinate other aircraft in the air, functioning like an airborne early warning and control system [AWACS]. The Irbis-E radar can scan 120 degrees to either side and detect targets of 3 m² at a range of 200 km under normal track-while-scan mode. 

Su-35 fired a BVR missile to shoot down the Mi-8 at the border
Photo credit: Twitter

With the Su-35S providing air cover, the Su-30SM descends to lower altitudes to visually lock onto its target and engage using Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles [ASMs]. The Kh-29 missile comes in two variants: the Kh-29TE, which uses a passive TV guidance system, and the Kh-29L, which relies on semi-active laser guidance from reflected laser illumination.

The tactic

The missiles have high-explosive warheads and use an impact sensor to hit their targets. They are powered by a solid-fuel rocket engine. With TV guidance and semi-active laser homing, these missiles can hit their targets accurately. Their rocket propulsion gives them the speed to be more destructive and penetrative. 

150 Su-30 fighter jets discard their outdated 80s BARS radar
Photo credit: AP

Interestingly, the Kh-29 missile’s optical seeker can lock onto a target before release. Once locked, it stays locked even if the aircraft changes speed or altitude by up to 1,000 meters or deviates by 30 degrees without losing accuracy. 

When providing protective cover, the sensors on the Su-35S detect radar signals and respond by targeting the radar with Kh-31P missiles. If an aerial threat is identified—like in the recent incidents reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense—the Su-35S can quickly identify and neutralize the threat with long-range air-to-air missiles. Aside from the medium-range RVV-SD, the Su-35S also carries the larger RVV-BD missile on its underbelly pylon between the air intakes. The RVV-BD has an impressive range of 300 km.

Ukrainian tactics

Ukrainian Su-27 flew over the front line and landed in Russia
Photo credit: Yandex

Ukraine has boosted its capabilities during the conflict. Ukrainian Air Force [UAF] pilots used bold and aggressive low-level flying tactics, according to a November 7, 2022 report by the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI]. 

Flying close to the ground for camouflage, these pilots then ascended and surprised Russian fighters, scoring some victories. These mistakes by the Russians saved many Ukrainian lives, Saber noted. 

In the past two years, the Ukrainian General Staff reported over 350 downed Russian aircraft, even with outdated equipment. Saber said, “The enemy can see us first and shoot a missile from much farther away. The Russians also have better modern air defense systems. They have many S-400s and S-300s that make their defenses very strong. We are slowly reducing their numbers, but they still have a lot.”

US showed an acquired Su-27UB but is said to have bought more
Photo credit: Twitter

Between the lines

Saber’s words resonate deeply, highlighting the bravery of Ukrainian pilots and the intense air battles with Soviet-Russian fighters. Yet, underneath these narratives lies a long-held truth that only recently gained acknowledgment from Ukraine’s Western allies and NATO. 

This insight aligns with a United24 news article, which highlights Moscow’s ability to replace lost air defense systems or aircraft thanks to its ongoing military production. In stark contrast, Ukraine remains heavily reliant on Western military aid, as its own industrial capacity has been decimated.

https://bulgarianmilitary.com/2023/01/11/f-35-af-7-flies-for-50-minutes-and-initiates-stealth-version-4/
Photo credit: MWM

Credibility

The full story of the Ukrainian pilot, Saber, hasn’t been fully verified. Be cautious with these claims; they were part of a video released by a Ukrainian government platform on May 5, 2022, to raise funds after the Russian invasion. 

The interview shows footage that isn’t related to the air war over Ukraine, and some claims might be exaggerated to support Kyiv’s cause. Some elements might have been embellished to highlight the pilot’s heroism and boost morale, a common tactic. 

Greece has Soviet S-300, but will not be sanctioned, the US said
Photo credit: AFP

While we can’t confirm most of Saber’s details, his story provides insights into the tactics of both Ukrainian and Russian forces, helping us understand the broader strategies in Moscow’s campaign.

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