The Ethiopian Air Force announced that it had received two Su-30K fighters.

The ceremony of introducing the first two aircraft into the country’s Air Force took place on January 16, 2024. Ethiopia did not disclose the seller of these fighters, but analysts believe that logically Ethiopia can only receive the Su-30K from the Russian Federation. Therefore, observers believe that this may be the batch of fighters that Moscow has been trying to sell for the past 15 years.

Russia is trying to maintain at least some position in the world arms market while suffering from harsh sanctions. Specifically, Russia supplied Ethiopia with used fighter jets that were initially sold to India, then returned and found new customers.

In the late 1990s, Russia delivered a batch of 18 Su-30K fighters to India. In 2007, India returned all 18 Su-30K aircraft to Russia in exchange for full-fledged Su-30MKI fighters. In 2011, all aircraft were transported from India to Belarus on the 558th aviation repair plant in Baranovichi, where they were stored for the purpose of further resale.

In 2013, 12 former Indian Su-30K fighters were purchased by Angola with delivery in 2017 after modifications and repairs that were carried out in Belarus. Angolan Su-30Ks were also upgraded to the “SM” standard. An attempt to sell the remaining six aircraft to the same Angola failed. But, judging by the information that has appeared, they were purchased by Ethiopia. So far there is no information on this contract, so it is not possible to say when the Air Force of this country will receive the remaining four aircraft.

The Su-30K is the so-called “transitional model” for the development program of the “Indian” version of the Su-30MKI, as the export version of the basic Su-30. The Su-30 was developed on the basis of the Su-27PU variant of the Russian Air Force. This is an anti-aircraft fighter version, equipped with the N001V Doppler pulse radar capable of tracking 10 targets at the same time, but can only guide the missile to attack a single target. The maximum reconnaissance range of the N001V radar is 240 km, tracking objects from a distance of 100 km. It can use bombs and guided missiles, but not the most advanced types available today.

The Su-30 is a multirole fighter. It has a two-seat cockpit with an airbrake behind the canopy. It can serve as an air superiority fighter and as a strike fighter. The integrated aerodynamic configuration, combined with the thrust vectoring control ability, results in high manoeuvrability and unique takeoff and landing characteristics. Equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system, the Su-30 is able to perform some very advanced manoeuvres, including the Pugachev’s Cobra and the tailslide. These manoeuvers quickly decelerate the aircraft, causing a pursuing fighter to overshoot, as well as breaking a Doppler radar-lock, as the relative speed of the aircraft drops below the threshold where the signal registers to the radar.

Some variants of the Su-30, notably the Su-30MKI and its derivatives including the Su-30MKM and Su-30SM, are fitted with canards to enhance maneuverability and also compensate for the heavier N011M Bars radar and mission systems in the nose.

As with the baseline Su-27, the Su-30’s powerplant incorporates two Saturn AL-31F afterburning low-bypass turbofan engines, fed through intake ramps. Two engines, each rated at 122.6 kN of full afterburning thrust for speeds up to Mach 2 in level flight and 1,350 km/h speed at low altitude for non-canard variants. Canted thrust vectoring is used in some variants to enhance maneuverability.

With a normal fuel reserve of 5,270 kg, the Su-30MK is capable of performing a 4.5-hour combat mission with a range of 3,000 km. An aerial refueling system increases the range to 5,200 km or flight duration up to 10 hours at cruise altitudes.

The aircraft features autopilot ability at all flight stages including low-altitude flight in terrain-following radar mode, and individual and group combat employment against air and ground/sea-surface targets. Automatic control system interconnected with the navigation system ensures route flight, target approach, recovery to airfield and landing approach in automatic mode.

The Su-30 is being used in the Russian Aerospace Forces, and is also the main strike force of a number of other countries. In India, the country has 263 Su-30 fighter jets of all versions, three times more than the Russian Aerospace Forces. Many countries have been interested in using different upgraded versions of the Su-30 series such as Vietnam, Venezuela, China, Malaysia, and Algeria. All have had individual adjustments for their own needs.

Today, the Su-30 (regardless of the upgraded version) is losing its position in the world market. Of course, it is not synonymous with position on the battlefield. In India, the fear of the Su-30 also lies in its ability to carry BrahMos supersonic missiles in both anti-ship and air-to-ground versions.

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