Russia sold Ethiopia two Su-30Ks returned from India in 2007

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In a recent turn of events, the East African nation of Ethiopia has confirmed the addition of two Russian Su-30K first-generation fighter jets to its Air Force [ETAF]. This news was officially endorsed by the African country’s Ministry of Defense. Pictures of the fighter jets, each adorned in the vibrant colors of Ethiopia, were shared by the well-known blogger bmpd on his preferred platform, Telegram.  

Photo credit: Telegram

The Su-30K fighters come from Russia and were initially manufactured years before to meet the needs of the Indian Air Force. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the entire batch of 18 fighter jets was returned by India to Russia in 2007 as they initiated the production of their homegrown Su-30MKI. In a clever negotiation, Russia sold 12 of these returned fighters to Angola, another African nation, in 2017.  

This intriguing story raises questions about the fate of the remaining six Su-30K fighters. They might be collecting dust in the secluded corners of Sukhoi’s “warehouses”. Currently, it’s uncertain how many of these jets have been acquired by Ethiopia. However, there is a hint that this could be the first of many deliveries, fueling speculation that Russia might have also sold the remaining four Su-30K fighters. 

Photo credit: Telegram

For the Russian Federation, this sale represents one of the few international transactions in combat aviation over the past couple of years. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine in 2022, many countries chose to refrain from such acquisitions to avoid potential American economic sanctions.  

Of note, the Su-30K was essentially a “bridging model”. It was designed as the export version for India until they could produce their more advanced MKI version. Interestingly, this fighter jet was equipped with French SAGEM avionics. It remains a mystery whether the Su-30Ks that have been sold still feature their original French avionics, or if Russia managed to upgrade them with their indigenous avionics over the years.

The original Su-30K with SAGEM

The SAGEM avionics suite is an evolved system that significantly enhances the fighting capabilities of an aircraft. It comprises an exceptional set of tools: a navigation system, a radar system, a fire control system, and a flight control system, all of which contribute to improving the aircraft’s combat readiness. 

When it comes to the radar system included in the SAGEM avionics suite, it can detect, track, and manage multiple targets simultaneously. Its dual-function characteristics in air-to-air and surface-to-air modes provide a comprehensive understanding of the battleground to pilots. The fire control system, designed in synergy with the radar system and the aircraft’s weaponry, allows pilots to accurately engage enemy targets. 

In addition, the SAGEM avionics suite includes a data link system, enabling the Su-30K to seamlessly exchange information with other aircraft and ground stations. This significantly increases its situational awareness and combat effectiveness.

Photo credit: Reddit

Su-30M and Su-30K differ

Let’s dive into the universe of fighter aircraft, primarily focusing on the Su-30K. This fascinating model, with the ‘K’ representing ‘Kommercheskiy’ or the word ‘commercial’ in English, was manufactured expressly for export purposes. Its construction reflects a scaled-down design compared to the original Su-30, representing a simpler approach in terms of avionics and radar systems. 

Interestingly, the original Su-30, often referred to as the Su-30M, was tailored specifically for the Russian Air Force. It possesses advanced avionics and radar systems that are not integrated into the Su-30K, including the N011M Bars radar. This navigational device offers superior air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities compared to the N001 radar found in the Su-30K. 

Photo credit: Soldar

Concerning weaponry, the Su-30K has a limited range. The aircraft is primarily designed for air-to-air combat, offering only a handful of air-to-surface weapons. However, if you look at the original Su-30, it is indeed a versatile fighter. It’s capable of storing and deploying a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, presenting a broader range of combat possibilities. 

Performance is another area where the original Su-30 outshines its commercial counterpart, the Su-30K. It achieves a higher maximum speed, covers a longer flight distance, and exhibits enhanced maneuverability. These advantages are due to a more powerful engine and a superior aerodynamic design. 

Finally, it’s important to note the presence of features like thrust vectoring engines and canards in the original Su-30. These components are omitted in the Su-30K. They significantly enhance the flight and maneuverability of the original Su-30, allowing for the execution of advanced aerobatic maneuvers that aren’t achievable with the Su-30K model.

The Ethiopian Air Force

Ethiopia has traditionally utilized combat aircraft originating from the former USSR, now Russia. Its fleet contains a minimum of nine MiG-23 fighter-bombers. 

The Ethiopian Air Force also hosts 20 operational Su-27 fighters. Information gathered from several sources indicates that at the very least, six of these aircraft are used for training and acclimating new personnel. In an unprecedented move, Ethiopia has begun the process of acquiring Su-30K fighters. It’s projected that the Ethiopian Air Force will be augmented by the remaining six fighters from an initial batch of 18 returned by India shortly.

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