The Su-37 was a fourth generation fighter, with a front canard horizontal stabilizer, which has been said to have an extremely bright future. It was also the first Russian fighter to be fitted with the engine thrust vector control. It caught the attention of the United States and NATO at the time.
Remember, in June 1997, at the famous International Air Show in Le Bourge, France, Russian pilots surprised the public with an unprecedented performance of a supersonic jet fighter, known as the Su-37.
The MiG-29 and Su-37 demonstration flight, at that time known as the Su-27M, overshadowed a joint German and American experimental product, the new generation X-31A fighter.
Only a single Su-37 prototype was ever born. Unfortunately, the life of this aircraft only lasted for 7 years. It had a tragic fate in a catastrophic accident, resulting in the entire Su-37 project being suspended.
The Su-37 fighter jet was based on the legendary Soviet version of the Su-27, in the hopes of creating a fighter jet to counter stealth F-22 fighter.
The aircraft was originally designated Su-27M, later renamed Su-37. Like the original version, the Su-37 was designed to be a multi-role fighter, operating in all weather conditions regardless of the day and night. The aircraft made its maiden flight in April 1996.
The distinguishing feature of the Su-37 compared to other models developed from the Su-27 is its super maneuverability with the use of fully independent 2D vector engines.
The pilot can perform incredible aerobatic moves with this aircraft, intentionally put it into a state of non-motivation to let the aircraft hover freely, or losing control but then simply regaining balance.
Basically, the design of the Su-37 is not much different from that of the Su-27 series. It is a large fighter with wings swept back. A pair of canards at the wing roots to improve lift and horizontal balance.
The fuselage is long forward, characterized by a pointed nose, which houses the radar system. The pilot sits in a bubble glass cockpit with great views. Compared to its contemporaries, the Su-37’s cockpit was much more modern, all of which were liquid crystal displays. Two vertical tail fins at the rear, each sitting on top of the engine exhaust.
The difference of Su-37 lies in avionics. The digital fly-by-wire flight control system, which was directly linked to the thrust-vectoring control system, provides additional maneuverability at high angles of attack and low speeds.
The radar system is an N011M Bars pulse-Doppler phased-array radar that provided the aircraft with simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground capability. The radar was capable of tracking twenty aerial targets and directing missiles toward eight of them simultaneously.
Powerplan and Performance
The heart of the Su-37 were two Saturn AL-37FU afterburning turbofan engines. It provides 83 kN (19,000 lbf) dry thrust each and up to 142 kN (32,000 lbf) with afterburner.
Su-37 can reach a maximum speed of 2,500 km/h (1,600 mph) at altitude, and at sea level it can cruise at 1,400 km/h (870 mph).
Range of 3,300km (2,100 mi), service ceiling of 18,800m (61,700 ft), rate of climb of 230 meters per second (45,000 ft/min).
In terms of weapons, the Russian fighter is armed with a 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon with 150 rounds. It has 12 hard points, consisting of 2 wingtip rails, and 10 wing and fuselage stations with a capacity of 8 tons (17,630 lb) of ordnance.
This fighter aircraft could carry a mix of short-range R-73E and R-77 missiles for air combat and various IR and radar homing missiles for ground attack role.
The only Su-37 painted in a disruptive sand and brown scheme. Its nozzles could deflect up or down in the pitch axis, together or differentially.
At the Farnborough show in September 1996, the Su-37 was launched with an amazing performance. The aircraft pitched up 180 degrees and maintained the tail-first position momentarily, which would theoretically allow the aircraft to fire a missile at a combat opponent. The Su-37 performed a 360-degree loop with an extremely tight turning radius the length of the aircraft. According to test pilot Anatoly Kvochur, thrust vectoring would have given the aircraft a considerable advantage in close-in dogfights.
The Su-37 is considered the most maneuverable fighter among the variants developed from the Su-27, it is also considered the best maneuverable aircraft of Russia in the past.
All hope for this modern fighter was put to an end on December 19, 2002. While performing a vertical flight to slow down, the Su-37 crashed and burst due to repeated exceeding of the aircraft’s design load during six years of testing.
The test pilot parachuted out safely, but the entire Su-37 program was subsequently suspended indefinitely. This was partly due to the fact that Russian contemporaries have had a significant level of development, on the other hand, because the Su-37 has spent too much on development.
From the experience of making Su-37, Russia has developed other versions such as Su-35 – the fighter is considered to be the most dangerous of Russia at the present time. The modern technologies on the Su-37 demonstrator also have helped Russia effectively modernize the Su-30MKI export aircraft.
As for the Su-37, the aircraft served as a pioneer to pave the way for the aircrafts with much more maneuverability later.
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