The Su-30SM fighter is the most advanced variant of the Su-30, has been put into operation in many air forces
Currently, Su-30SM2 is still being produced by Russia, this is a version with very strong tactical features. The Su-27, the predecessor to the Su-30, inherited by Belarus upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, these aircraft are in service with two squadrons of modernized MiG-29 fighters.
As Russia’s only close defense partner in Europe, and amid rising tensions between Minsk and the West, air power is important to the balance of power in the region and to the security of both Belarus and Russia. As NATO member states are moving to buy a new generation of fighter; Notably, Poland’s order of F-35A stealth fighters from the US will be a direct threat to the security of the western flank of Belarus.
In such a situation, Belarus must consider buying aircraft to replace their MiG-29 which is about to be retired; The light and medium fighters that Belarus can choose from are China’s J-10C, MiG-35, or even the upcoming Su-75 Checkmate stealth fighter.
Currently Russia’s Su-75 program is still in its early stages, so the procurement of heavy fighters to replace the MiG-29 remains a significant possibility; especially in terms of similarities with the Su-30s that Belarus already has. The Su-30SM is a heavy fighter, the least expensive and most widely used in the Russian Air Force. This is the best option that Belarus can choose.
Belarus has operated 22 Su-27 heavy fighters; but because these fighters have higher maintenance requirements and operating costs than the Su-30SM, they are put into storage to reduce the operational costs of the Air Force. In 2019, Belarus received 12 Su-30s and formed the country’s air combat power. The advantages of the Su-30SM over the Su-27 are significantly higher durability, a stronger sensor and electronic warfare system.
The Su-30SM is capable of using a range of new weapons including active radar-guided air-to-air missiles, a higher range of ground attack and anti-ship missiles, providing much greater versatility than the Su-27. MiG-29 and Su-30 have different weight, but buying Su-30 to replace MiG-29 is unprecedented, even in the Russian Air Force; when they have not retired all of their MiG-29 fighters, to completely replace them with Su-30SM or SM2.
But given that Russia is likely ready to supply the Su-30 on very favorable terms, or even on a loan basis, to enhance security with Belarus, the Su-30SM can be much more affordable than selling to other countries. And it is very likely that the Su-30SM will be the main fighter of Belarus in the near future.