The Russian Defence Ministry has received a new batch of Su-30SM2 heavyweight fighters, following the delivery of the first ever unit in January, which is expected to furnish a new unit with some of the most capable combat jets in the fleet. The Su-30SM2 is an upgrade package for the Su-30SM, one of the most widely fielded fighters in Russia, providing new avionics, access to new weapons classes, and integration of the Su-35’s AL-41 engine for an improved flight performance and greater endurance. The aircraft was also speculated to potentially be receiving a new radar, which could materialise later as more Su-30s are modernised. A small number of new Su-30s are also being procured off production lines at the Su-30SM2 standard. The Su-30SM fleet stood at 113 aircraft at the beginning of the year, meaning the modernisation program for the entire fleet could continue until near the end of the decade. All Su-30SM2s so far have been delivered to the Navy, and the latest batch is expected to be the first to join the Russian Air Force.
A Russian government statement announced on November 21 regarding the Su-30SM2: “The Irkutsk Aviation Plant of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC, part of the state corporation Rostec) has manufactured and delivered new Su-30SM2 fighters and Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft to the Defense Ministry of Russia… The new aircraft have received sophisticated onboard radio-electronic equipment. The upgrade carried out on an assignment from the Russian Defence Ministry has boosted the aircraft’s combat capabilities. In particular, the aerial target detection and identification range has been increased.” It further elaborated that the aircraft integrated standoff guided weapons with ranges of several hundred kilometres – a capability all post-Soviet Russian fighter classes benefit from.
The Su-30SM2 program allows the Russian Military to standardise the engines of its two main fighter classes, the Su-30 and Su-35, while bringing the former closer to the higher performance standard of the latter. Although the Su-30 was initially expected to be procured in much smaller numbers, serious delays to the development of the next generation Su-57 fighter, of which only six have entered service so far, led the Defence Ministry to invest in the Su-30SM as an interim means of replacing older Soviet built Su-27, MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters. Research and development costs for the Su-30SM program were negligible, having been paid for by India to develop the Su-30MKI variant in the late 1990s which the SM variant is very closely based on. Algeria, Malaysia, Belarus, Myanmar, Armenia and Kazakhstan all operate Su-30s from the same family built at Irkutsk. Irkutsk Su-30s have significantly superior air to air performances than other models, and integrate a number of features from the cancelled Su-37 air superiority fighter program of the 1990s.