After receiving 15 more Su-30MK2s at the end of 2015, Vietnam officially surpassed Singapore to become the country with the most heavy fighters in Southeast Asia.
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Vietnam is the first country in Southeast Asia to operate heavy fighters. Specifically, in the period 1995 – 1998, Vietnam in turn received 12 Su-27SK, Su-27UBK and Su-27PU fighters, NATO designation Flanker B. Vietnam has received about 20 Su-30MK2s under two contracts signed in 2009 and 2010, respectively. After receiving 15 more Su-30MK2s at the end of 2015, Vietnam officially surpassed Singapore to become the country with the most heavy fighters in Southeast Asia. The total number of Su-30 heavy fighters is about 35 units.
Compared to the Su-27, the Su-30MK2 has superior surface and ground attack capabilities while its air combat power is not inferior. In addition to Singapore, other Southeast Asian countries operating heavy fighters include the Malaysian Air Force with 18 Su-30MKMs and the Indonesian Air Force with five Su-27SK/SKM and 11 Su-30MK/MK2.
The Su-30MK2 multi-role fighter aircraft is an improved version of the Su-30MKK, a member of the Su-30 aircraft family, was developed by Sukhoi in 2002. The Su-30MK2 offers superior manoeuvrability and can be deployed to engage manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, medium- and short-range guided missiles, high-precision munitions, and other airborne weapons. It can also be used in aerial reconnaissance and training missions.
The Su-30MK2 fighter has a length of 21.9m, a height of 6.4m and wing-span of 14.7m. The maximum and limit take-off weights are 34.5 tons and 38 tons respectively, and the payload carrying capacity is 8 tons. The Su-30MK2 is fitted with an in-flight refuelling system for extended flight range. The open architecture of the aircraft allows for installation of a variety of combat equipment and an improved avionics suite.
The digital glass cockpit accommodates two crew members in tandem configuration. It is equipped with new colour multi-functional, digital LCD screens for displaying flight and navigation information and graphical data. It also incorporates electromechanical indicators and advanced navigation and radio communications. The aircraft is also fitted with an infrared search-and-tracking system, a helmet-mounted target designation system, teplopelengator, laser range-finder and a target designator for detection and tracking of air and ground targets.
The optoelectronic sighting systems provide improved surveillance capabilities. The airborne radar aboard the Su-30MK2 is capable of searching and designating aerial targets, as well as short and medium-range guided missiles. It is also used to measure co-ordinates of ground-based radio-contrast targets.
The Su-30MK2 multi-role combat aircraft is powered by two Saturn AL-31F Afterburning turbofan engines, which generate a thrust of 74.5 kN each, and 122.58 kN with afterburner. The aircraft can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 2, with a horizontal speed of 1,400km/h. The unrefuelled range of the fighter is 3,000km. The in-flight refuelling system provides a flight range of up to 5,600km. The maximum altitude of the aircraft is 17,300m.
In terms of weapon configuration, Su-30MK2 is equipped with powerful guided missiles such as Kh-29L or Kh-29TE. With a range of 30 km, carrying a warhead weighing up to 320 kg, it is enough to sink a large warship with just a single shot. Besides air-to-surface attack missiles, the Su-30MK2 when performing these missions can still carry air-to-air missiles such as R-73E or R-27R to defend themselves against enemy fighters. It also integrates a built-in, 30mm GSh-301 automatic, single-barrelled gun with 150 rounds of ammunition.
The strongest attack configuration ever seen on Vietnamese Su-30MK2s was at the live-fire exercise of the 935th Air Force Regiment in 2007. It carried up to 2 Kh-31A short-range supersonic anti-ship missiles at the heavy weapons hard point just below the air intake. Currently, the Kh-31A is still the main anti-ship weapon of the Su-30MK2 fighter, which has a range of 50 km, armed with a 95 kg warhead.