According to Russian media, the Su-30SM fighter will be upgraded to the standard Su-30SM2 ‘Super-Sukhoi’.
The upgraded version will have more efficient engines, and a unique radar. The arsenal of the new version is also significantly expanded, including missiles, guided bombs, and smart weapons. According to the military, these modernization features will significantly increase the combat capabilities of the Russian fighter, turning the 30-year-old fighter into a war bird more suited to modern warfare.
It is expected that the upgrade plan will be completed before 2027. Not only the fighters of the Russian Aerospace Forces, but also the naval aviation forces are also included in this upgrade program. It is not clear yet the exact number of upgraded Su-30SM fighters.
The Su-30SM is a version based on the Su-30MKI developed for India, in which equipment of foreign origin was replaced by equipment of Russian origin. The effort to modernize the Naval Air and Air Defense Forces has focused on equipping the Su-30SM to replace obsolete aircraft, such as the Su-27 or Su-24. Su-30SM began to be delivered in 2013, and it is the only fighter model that Russia has been buying in fairly consistent numbers. Currently, there are around 130 units of this model in operation, hence the importance of its modernization.
In addition to the Russian Air Force, the Su-30SM is also the standard weapon of Russia’s closest allies, including Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. At MAKS 2021, Rostec confirmed that it will go ahead with the plans to acquire 6 Su-30SMs by Myanmar, despite the coup that disrupted political power in the Asian country.
As part of the modernization, developers are solving the problem of installing the AL-41F-1C engine in the Su-30SM2, which the super-maneuverable Su-35S fighters use. Compared to the current Su-30SM power plant, the thrust of the new engine will increase by 16. Equipped with a plasma ignition system, the AL-41F-1C is more economical than the current AL-31FP. In addition, the onboard electronics, radar and optical-location station will be improved.
Changes to onboard electronics and software will allow the use of new missiles and bombs designed to arm the Su-35 and the fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter. Other improvements include a new radar, the Irbis-E, a powerful PESA-type radar also inherited from the Su-35. It will allow the Su-30SM2 to detect ground and air targets from a greater distance, with certain anti-stealth capabilities. It will also allow the fighter to use the latest long-range missiles.
The Su-30SM2s will receive the latest integrated multi-channel communication, data exchange, navigation, and identification system, developed for the Su-57 and to be installed on all combat aircraft. Among its advantages, it allows aircraft and drones to communicate with each other, maintain high-speed contact with ground control points, and integrate into modern combat networks.