Russia may scale up production to exceed 200 Su-35 Flankers

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The Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant has ramped up production of the Su-57 and Su-35 fighters. In 2023, they delivered 12 Su-57 airframes, doubling the previous year’s numbers. By 2024, they aim to produce 20 units, allowing the Air Force to form its first full regiment. As the Su-57 fleet grows, it’s anticipated that Su-35 production will wind down over the next five years. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

It’s worth noting that the Russian Air Force has just bolstered its fleet with a new batch of Su-35 ‘4++ generation’ fighter jets. These aircraft successfully completed both ground and flight trials at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant, located in the far eastern part of Russia, near the border with Korea.

Yury Slyusar, CEO of the state-run United Aircraft Corporation, commented on the ongoing production: “This year, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant has hit a steady production pace. This delivery marks the second batch of combat aircraft for the Aerospace Forces. Our plant is meeting its commitments to deliver new aircraft and is working on creating additional batches of serial Su-35 and Su-57 jets.” 

Photo credit: Telegram

The Su-35 is a significantly advanced evolution of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker. Originally manufactured in the early 1980s by the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant, this aircraft paved the way for its service entry in 1984.

In response to Chinese demands for a superior Su-27 variant, the plant transitioned in 1999 to produce the Su-30MKK. Over the next decade, two main variants of the Su-30 emerged. Due to Russia’s economic struggles in the 1990s and a sharp reduction in its fighter fleet, most of the jets produced during that period were exported to China. 

In the mid-2000s, production turned towards exporting the Su-30MK2, which had been funded by Chinese orders. This aircraft was sold to various clients, including Vietnam, Uganda, Venezuela, and Indonesia. By 2009, the focus shifted again, this time to the Su-35. The Russian Defense Ministry finally stepped in to finance these acquisitions. 

Originally developed solely for export, the Su-35 found its way into Russian service due to unforeseen setbacks. The collapse of Russia’s initial fifth-generation fighter project, the MiG 1.42, and significant delays to their second project, the Su-57, prompted the Defense Ministry to procure the Su-35. This ‘4++ generation’ aircraft became essential in combating the trend of fleet obsolescence. 

While it doesn’t rival top U.S. and Chinese aircraft like the F-35, J-20, and J-16, this fighter represents a noticeable leap from older Russian models. It also boasts significantly lower maintenance needs and operational costs compared to the original Su-27.

Since February 2022, Su-35s have been pivotal in air-to-air combat during the Russian-Ukrainian War, achieving several kills. One of its notable victories occurred in the early days of the conflict, specifically on March 5, 2022, when a Su-35 reportedly downed four Ukrainian Air Force Su-27s near Zhytomyr. 

Photo credit: Dzen

Various other aircraft have been downed, including more Su-27s, alongside MiG-29s, Su-24M strike fighters, Su-25 ground attack jets, Mi-8 helicopters, and an assortment of drones. These aircraft have undertaken roles such as air defense suppression and precision bombing.

Since production ramped up in 2022, it’s still unclear if the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant will hit its original target of producing 200 Su-35s. The uncertainty also includes how many additional fighters Iran might order after its initial purchase of reportedly two dozen.

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