The Su-35S, powered by two 117S engines with thrust vectoring, combines high maneuverability and the capability to effectively engage eight air targets simultaneously using both guided and unguided missiles and weapon systems. The aircraft has been touted as "4++ generation using fifth-generation technology." The Russian Defense Ministry was planning to buy about 90 Su-35s, which will gradually become the core of Russia’s fighter jet fleet.
Defined as a Generation 4++ fighter, the Su-35S is capable of flying at a speed of up to 2,400 kilometers per hour and ascending to a height of 20,000 meters. The plane's maximum range stands at 3,600 kilometers, and with an additional fuel tank the figure can be increased by 900 kilometers. The Su-35S's super-maneuverability is provided by a new engine with thrust vector control, which allows the aircraft to reach supersonic speeds without using afterburners.
Notably, the Su-35S was developed with the help of high technology used in the creation of Russia's fifth generation aircraft, the T-50 PAK FA. For example, the Su-35S's crew consists of one pilot, and the plane is controlled without using analog devices, which were replaced with just two screens on which all the information is displayed. Western military experts were especially impressed with the Su-35S's sophisticated phased-array radar control system Irbis, which allows the plane to detect targets at distances of up to 400 kilometers, as well as track aerial targets and engage up to eight of these targets simultaneously.
The Su-35UB (Uchebno-Boyevoy - combat trainer) is a two-seat combat trainer version of the basic fighter. The prototype two-seat trainer variant, designated the Su-35UB, under-took its first test flight at Komsomolsk-on-Amur on 7 August 2000. As of 2003 the only Su-35UB produced to date was identifiable by sporting a three tone blue camouflage paint scheme.
Colonel Nikolay Baranov, a former Su-27 pilot, was interviewed on Russia Today on May 21, 2007. Baranov was asked about Russia's response to the US carrying out a gradual replacement of its F-15s with the new F-22 fighters. Baranov said that "Russia’s response to it already exists and we have talked about such aircraft as Su-30 and Su-35. These models also have “stealth" elements. If we compare F-22 with Su-27, “Raptor", as F-22 is called in the U.S., often outperforms Su-27, but Su-30 and Su-35 surmount F-22, in their turn, even in terms of “stealth" elements. As you remember, it is “stealth" technology, which distinguishes F-22 from its predecessor, F-15, but almost all radars in Russia can easily find F-22. Thus, I think money spend on modernisation of F-15 were just thrown away. As far as avionics are concerned, Su-30 and Su-35 can compete with F-22 anywhere in every situation. For instance, Major General Kharchevsky have conducted 8 mock air combats in the U.S. and won all of them."
The first flight prototype of the Su-35 multifunctional supermaneuverable fighter of JSC KNAAPO production was presented at MAKS-2007 International Aviation and Space Salon on 21-26 August 2007. On 27 September 2007 Sergey Chemezov, chief of Russia’s state weapons exporter Rosoboronexport, suggested that Venezuela could be the first buyer of Su-35 fighter. Venezuela is buying 24 of Russia’s Su-30MK2. Rosoboronexport planned to set to detailed talks about Su-35 deliveries once the supplies of Su-30MK2 are completed. Sukhoi will deliver 12 of 24 Su-30 fighter jets to Venezuela by the end of 2007 in accordance with its contract.
Brazil wanted a multirole fighter to protect its national airspace as well as to keep track of smugglers in the Amazon basin and guard the country's offshore oil rigs. However, it also wanted the multi-billion dollar contract to reenergize the domestic defense industry through home-grown production and as much technology transfer as can be afforded.
Bids for Brazil's long-delayed F-X BR fighter procurement expired at the end of 2004 without a government decision, nominally requiring a new round of updated submissions. Amid political wrangling and funding difficulties and rumors that the program will be indefinitely shelved, in January 2005 Brazil's new defence minister Jos‚ Alenca said a decision would be announced before the retirement of the air force's Dassault Mirage IIIEBR fleet in December 2005.
In February 2006 it was reported that Brazil’s defence ministry was re-examining the decision to scrap the air force’s F-X BR fighter procurement, and was attempting to organise a new procurement budgeted at $2.2 billion. Unlike the previous program, the defence ministry did not contemplate an open bidding process, but would simply select a fighter and negotiate a contract for between 36 and 42 aircraft. Brazilian sources indicated that Dassault’s Rafale was considered to be a leading contender.
As of early 2007 the Brazilian Air Force planned on the acquisition of 12-16 multi-role fighters under a program budgeted at $1.1 billion. This is viewed as the successor to the F-X BR procurement. The ministry of defence did not plan open bidding, with the prime contenders being Dassault's Rafale and the Sukhoi Su-35, with the Eurofighter Typhoon a possible third candidate. Dassault heads up a group of French companies that have acquired a stake in Brazil's Embraer, which would assemble the Mirages under license. The Brazilian Air Force reportedly preferred the Sukhoi Su-35. The program called for the purchase of an initial batch of aircraft, with deliveries from 2012, followed by a further two orders by 2020.
In April 2009 it was reported that Russia may allow Brazil to produce its fifth-generation fighters under a license in the future. "We are discussing with the well-known Brazilian company Embraer the transfer of technology and the construction of facilities for the future licensed production of the aircraft, including the fifth-generation fighter," said Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation. Russia's advanced multirole fighter is being developed by the Sukhoi aircraft maker, part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), along with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), under a preliminary intergovernmental agreement signed in October 2007. The first prototype is scheduled to make its maiden flight before the end of 2009.
In November 2008, Russia and Brazil signed a series of agreements on military technology cooperation which emphasize the protection of intellectual property rights and technology secrets. The agreements will facilitate the transfer of technology and the licensed production of the Russian aircraft in Brazil if Moscow decides to sign a contract with the South American country.
Russia's Su-35 jet fighter participated in an ongoing tender for the delivery of over 100 fighters to the Brazilian Air Force. "We are actively participating in the Brazilian tender, which had been reopened. It involved over 100 fighter planes. Russia has made a bid in the tender with its Su-35 multirole fighter. The tender has stiff requirements, involving not only the sale, but also the transfer of technology. It was a key condition of the deal and Russia was ready to satisfy it," Fomin said.
The Russian Air Force will receive up to 100 Sukhoi fighter jets by 2015, the Defense Ministry spokesman said on 01 January 2011. Three state contracts with the Sukhoi design bureau on the supply of the jets have been already signed, Vladimir Drik said. Fifty advanced Su-35 Flanker-E multirole fighters, billed as "4++ generation using fifth-generation technology," more than ten advanced Su-27SM Flanker multirole jets and five Su-30M2 Flanker-C multirole fighters are among the aircraft to be supplied. The Russian Air Force will also receive twenty-five new Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers in the next few years, the spokesman said.
Russia's Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer has started test flights of its first series-produced Su-35S Flanker-E multirole fighter, the company said on 03 May 2011. The aircraft took off from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur airfield in Russia's Far East, spending one and a half hours in the air testing propulsion and control systems. After the tests are completed, the Su-35 will be transferred to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Sukhoi aircraft maker delivered the first six Su-35S fighter jets to the Russian Air Force, the company said 28 December 2012. The acceptance documents were signed by Defense Ministry officials at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft manufacturing plant in Russia’s Far East. “The Sukhoi holding has fulfilled its obligations on the delivery of this type of aircraft under the 2012 state defense order," the company said in a statement. “The fighter jets will fly to their designated home base in the near future," the statement said.
In December 2015, Russia's defense ministry signed a five-year contract with Sukhoi company worth more than 60 billion rubles for the supply of 50 multi-role fighters Su-35S for the Russian air force. The agreement seemed to indicate that the 5th generation aircraft Sukhoi PAK-FA will not be produced for many years in quantities allow for the replacement of the withdrawn Su-27aircraft. The contract was concluded in the last days of December by the Ministry of Defence, OKB Sukhoi and United Aircraft Corporation. The contract is to include delivery of 50 multi-role aircraft Su-35S in 2016-2020.
The initial production plan was to be signed in April 2015, when the air salon MAKS-2015, but due to the lack of precise budgetary appropriations for the years 2016-2018, it was impossible to plan production and delivery schedule. Details were established after the signing of the budget for the year 2016 by President Vladimir Putin. Eventually, an agreement was signed in December 2015 its planned value exceeds 60 billion rubles. This is probably not the total value of the contract, for the supply of 50 aircraft by the end of 2020.
So a significant number of aircraft ordered belonging to the late 4th generation (the Russians say that the Su-35 is a generation 4 ++) seems to clearly indicate that the Russian air force did not yet consider the PAK-FA aircraft as sufficiently refined and cost-effective to begin to actually replace the family fighter Su-27 and its derivatives over the next five years.
This is also reflected announced at the beginning of 2015 a significant reduction in orders for aircraft Sukhoi PAK-FA. In July 2015, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov announced that the first contract will be reduced to 12 aircraft, or one squadron.
The first order for 48 Su-35S copies was made in 2009, and completed in 2015. The contract is for another 50 aircraft to Russia. In 2015 Sukhoi signed a contract for 24 units for China and was negotiating a contract for 12 machines for Indonesia provide long-term production of the Su-35.
The Su-35 tactical fighter will fill the niche for the new 4++ generation of ultimate fighters and reinforce the fleet of old and slowly modernized Su-27 fighters. Forty-eight aircraft have been commissioned and will be delivered through 2015. There is every reason to believe that the contract will be renewed after 2015. The Su-35 machines will come as a makeshift solution before the PAK FA fifth-generation fighters are fielded by the Russian Air Force. However, given the huge amount of innovation brought in by the PAK FA, it will take time before this aircraft is fully deployed and mastered. As of 2012, the purchase of approximately 100 Su-35 fighters was planned to complete the transition period of the 2010s in a relatively painless manner.
On 01 February 2016, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that the four Su-35S fighters have been deployed to Hmeymim Airbase in Syria. The warplanes are expected to provide coverage for SU-24 bombers, which launch airstrikes on Daesh and Al-Nusra Front militants in Syria.
Russia's deployment of four state-of-the-art Su-35S fighter jets to Syria swiftly hit international headlines, with Western media describing the Su-35 as one of the most dangerous fighters in the world," according to the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The newspaper mentioned the German magazine Stern, which stated that the Su-35S can be considered the world's deadliest fighter jet other than the fifth-generation US F-22. As far as flight characteristics are concerned, the Su-35 is significantly superior to its competitors, combining the best features of the fourth generation fighter and the basic features and properties of a fifth generation warplane, according to Stern.
The magazine was echoed by the US newspaper Washington Times, which said that the Su-35S will add significantly to Russia's ability to protect its aircraft in any area of the Middle East, in light of Turkey's downing of a Russian bomber in Syria in November 2015. "The deployment also sends a message to Turkey that, in combination with the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, Russia can defend its aircraft anywhere in theater with weapon systems equal to or even more capable than NATO can field," the newspaper said.
The US international affairs magazine The National Interest in turn quoted a high-ranking US military official as saying he was quite impressed with the Su-35S. "It's a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them. I think even an AESA [active electronically scanned array-radar equipped F-15C] Eagle and [the Boeing F/A-18E/F] Super Hornet would both have their hands full," he said.
Russian Ministry of Defense in 2017 will receive ten new super-maneuverable multi-role Su-35S, four Su-27 will be upgraded to the level of the Su-35. This was announced on 09 March 2017 by Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov. "Last year, we signed a long-term contract for the construction of the Su-35S, this year we plan to get ten Su-35S, will upgrade to the Su-35 appearance of four Su-27", - he said during a visit to Komsomolsk-on Amur aircraft plant named after Gagarin. He praised the characteristics of the Su-35S. "Feedback from the pilots, airplane wonderful, has unique performance characteristics, has passed its baptism of fire in Syria, which has shown itself perfectly," - said the deputy head of the Ministry of Defense.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list