Described as an aerodynamic miracle by some, and a masterpiece by others, the Sukhoi Su-27 (Сухой Су-27) Series (NATO name: Flanker) has evolved into one of the finest achievements in modern aviation - of any nation.
|Su-35S of the Russian Air Force|
Below is Su-30
It should be noted that “departing the aircraft” has historically at times - been a necessity - to survive an engagement. Both U.S. and Russian engineers have largely supplanted this capability in exchange for ‘Super maneuverability’ (inherently unstable airfoils needing computerized flight-control fly-by-wire’ systems) that may no longer allow traditional departing? However, both this Su-35S and Su-30 [above] appear to have retained this essential capability.
|Su-30SM of the Russian Air Force|
[Below] The Su-35S in 2012. Pay close attention to the superb energy recovery (and short distance flown) from a hard starboard turn into a simply impossible nose-pointing maneuver (starting at playback point ). Note the engine-louver actuation on each engine nacelle at playback point 6:22.
[Below] Many in the Western defense establishment claim that Flanker cannot maneuver properly with a full weapons load - and why it is never shown doing so. That a weapons load makes Flanker not only too heavy and produces too much drag. [Below] This is yet another false Western assertion that is easily challenged simply by locating applicable footage. The flanker is so large that weapons loads have little impact. Watch this Su-27M:
And here this Su-30MK:
The Sukhoi Su-27 is a non-stealth design developed during the last years of the USSR by Sukhoi Design Bureau Chief Designer, Mikhail Simonov (prototype T-10S). At the time the Russians needed to counter both high-flying reconnaissance aircraft like SR-71 and the low-level penetration types like the F-111, FB-111, Panavia Tornado, cruise missiles, as well as the Rockwell B1. It also needed enormous range to cover the vast expanses of Soviet airspace of some 11 time zones, and together with the MiG-31 Foxhound, to replace the Sukhoi Su-15, Yakovlev Yak-28, and Tupolev Tu-28/128 series of interceptors.
F-15-like model at far right used as a test baseline.The other requirement was it needed to be significantly superior to the superb new 'super fighters being fielded by NATO, including the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, General Dynamics F-16, and later, the Northrop-McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet.
It must be said that developing an aircraft to counter the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and its AWG-9 and AIM-54 Phoenix missile system - remained 'not a simple matter.'
Development started in 1970, and the first T-10-1 prototype did not fly until 20 May 1977. The test program was very difficult, and after a fatal crash on 7 May 1978, Mikhail Simonov was brought in by Sukhoi to design a whole new aircraft.
According to Mikhail, the only parts his new T-10S inherited from T-10 predecessors were landing-gear wheels and ejection seat. It was a total redesign. T-10S-1 made its maiden flight on 20 April 1981. Development problems persisted resulting in a second fatal crash on 23 December 1981.
Without going into lengthily design analysis, the Flanker bears striking similarities in layout to both the American Grumman F-14 Tomcat and the General Dynamics F-16, seemingly a blend of these two concepts.How much the design was influenced by the F-14 is a subject of debate in some defense circles. The Russian 'Tsentralniy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut' (TsAGI) Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute also played a key development role. There is no evidence, however, to support - as many suggest - that the Soviets flight-tested F-14A-GR Tomcats from Iran after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
The Flanker is big (roughly 30% larger than the F-15 Eagle) and only makes Flanker agility for a 20+ ton aircraft - even more astonishing.
The Su-27 Flanker uses two Saturn/Lyulka AL-31 class turbofans, rated at ~122.8 kN (27,600 lbs), and has tremendous tolerance to severely disturbed air flows. Fitted at the bottom of each engine nacelle near the intakes is a clever louver system that assists engine gas flow - even if the aircraft flies tail-forward. The AL-31FP and AL-37FU variants have thrust vectoring (this included independent, fully-articulating 3D-asymmetric thrust-vectoring engine nozzles).
[Below] Flanker "P-42" was specially prepared (as was the American 'Streak Eagle') to perform time-to-climb flights.
Flanker 'P-42' has also taken over two-dozen time-to-climb records away from the American F-15 Eagle. The Flanker's range is ~ 4,000 km (~ 2,480 miles) without external fuel tanks - this un-refueled range has no Western equivalent.