Su-33 (Su-27K) is a carrier-based variant that first flew in May 1985, and entered service in the Russian Navy in 1994. The air regiment comprising 24 fighters of the type was formed up on Russia's only operating aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
The armament is similar to the basic Su-27, with 12 pylons. The Su-33 can carry guided missiles such as the H-25MP. The Su-33 is used in both night and day operations at sea, and operate with the command center ship and with the Ka-31 early-warning helicopter. With the R-27EM missiles it can intercept antiship missiles. The air-to-ground capability appears to be equivalent to the Su-27SK. It is reported to carry the Kh-31 (AS-17 `Krypton') ASMs underwing. Although it was exhibited with an inert 4,500 kg Kh-41 (3M80 Moskit: mosquito) anti-ship missile on the centerline, this considered as impracticable as an operational load.
It has extra small wings near the pilots cabin which shorten the take-off distance and improve manoeuvrability. While it is not assisted by a catapault the Su-33 has a higher thrust to weight ratio and also, due to better aerodynamics, generates more lift. Flaperons were replaced with slotted high lift flaps to increase lift and control at low speeds. Due to the lower approach and take off speeds a number of changes were made. Moveable foreplanes were attached which also aided maneuverability and controlability throughout the envelope. The outer wings fold for more compact storage on the aircraft carrier. To avoid tail scrape during landing and take-off the long tail cone on the land based versions was shortened. The landing gear was also streangthened, with a double wheel nose unit, an arrestor hook was added and specialized naval navigational aids were also added.
In 2006 China reportedly began finalizing negotiations for a deal to purchase Su-33 aircraft, likely for their aircraft carrier Varyag, purchased in 1999. The deal, reportedly involving up to 50 aircraft totalling 100 million USD, was to involve a first batch of 2 aircraft, followed by another 12, with a complete consignment potentially totalling 48 aircraft. The projected delievery date at the time was between 2007 and 2008. The deal appeared predicated on the performance of the first two aircraft. No concrete information about a transfer of aircraft was available as of June 2008.
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