Currently, the Su-30SME is the most modern fighter model of the Myanmar Air Force.
The country’s fleet is mostly of Chinese and Russian origin. The Myanmar Air Force ordered six Su-30SMEs in 2018, of which two were delivered in March 2022 and entered service in December. Su-30SME is the export version of the Su-30SM, with foreign avionics of other Su-30MKI derivatives replaced with Russian systems, and the possible downgrade of certain systems such as the radar modes and fire control. It was unveiled at the Singapore Airshow 2016, and has been offered to Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Myanmar.
The sale is part of a plan to tighten military cooperation between Myanmar and Russia. The Su-30SME is claimed by the manufacturer to have the ability to overcome enemy air defenses, high capacity thanks to its large combat payload and super maneuverability – giving it an outstanding advantage over the opponent in air battles.
Despite being a member of the Su-30MKI family which includes India’s Su-30MKI, Algeria’s Su-30MKA, Malaysia’s Su-30MKM, and Su-30SM – the difference is that the Su-30SME does not have French-made equipment in the avionics system. All equipment on the plane is manufactured by Russian enterprises.
This means that the Head-Up Display (HUD), the advanced infrared navigation system (NAVFLIR) and the laser designator (LDP) from France’s Thales Group have all been replaced by similar Russian equipment. Moscow is also said to have sent several trainers and technicians to assist the Myanmar Air Force during the warranty period.
Developed by Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-30SME is based on Su-30MKI operated by the Indian Air Force. Su-30SME inherits the super maneuverability of the Sukhoi family via digital fly-by-wire, canards, and two Saturn AL-31FP engines with thrust vectoring, producing 27,500 lb thrust each with afterburners. This gives them an edge in close-in dogfights.
The electronic warfare systems, phased array radars, optical-location systems with laser rangefinder were all produced by leading Russian manufacturers. It is equipped with N011M phased array radar for long range aerial combat which can track up to 15 targets and engage 4 targets simultaneously. Russia agreed to sell the six aircraft in January 2018, following a visit by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to Myanmar. In a statement at the time, Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Lieutenant General Alexander Fomin said that the Su-30s “will become the main fighter aircraft of Myanmar’s air force to protect the country’s territorial integrity and repel any terror threats”.