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F-15 Killer: Meet Russia’s Su-27 Flanker Fighter

Su-27
Su-27 serving in the Ukrainian Air Force. Image: Creative Commons/Pavel Vanka.

The Su-27 Flanker Was Meant to Take on the F-15 Eagle – It Became Much More: Developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, the Sukhoi Su-27 was meant to be Moscow’s answer to the F-15 Eagle. The Su-27 first entered service as an air superiority fighter. Still, it has demonstrated considerable growth potential that included a variant for use as a carrier fighter, while the platform has become a proven export aircraft.

Sukhoi had first begun work on its T-10 design in 1969, and the goal was to create a highly agile fighter with long-range capabilities, heavy armament, and sophisticated sensors. To maximize the aircraft’s maneuverability, it was designed from the start to utilize a fly-by-wire (FBW) control system.  Development of the plane was slow going, and the first prototype didn’t make its maiden flight until May 1977. Moreover, in its initial form, the T-10 prototype aircraft displayed several serious deficiencies – so much so that a complete redesign was required. It reemerged as the radically reworked T-10S-1 in 1981.

The aircraft entered series production in 1982 as a single-seat multirole fighter and received the designation Su-27 (NATO reporting name “Flanker-B”). Two years later, the two-seater version, the Su-27UB (NATO reporting name “Flanker-C”), was introduced. By the end of the Cold War, just over 400 Su-27s in both versions were produced for service with the Soviet Air Force.

Post-Soviet Use

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991, the “Flanker” remained the backbone of the Russian Air Force throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Many aircraft underwent a mid-life upgrade, which transformed them into the re-designated Su-27SM. The fighters were equipped with a new avionics fleet, and they were complemented by a small batch of newly built aircraft that also featured improved avionics and mission equipment. Those aircraft were designated the Su-27SM3.

In the 1990s, Moscow also began to produce the Flanker for foreign sales. Among the export models was the baseline Su-27SK, developed for China. It was similar to the Flanker-B but with additional air-to-ground capabilities. In addition, China had also received the Su-27UBK, which was based on the Flanker-C.

After around eighty of the Russian-built aircraft were supplied to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Beijing began the production of a licensed version. It built an additional ninety-five single-seat models, designated as the J-11, a version of the Su-27 that was reverse engineered that angered Russia to a great extent.

A variant, the Su-30MK, was sold to India with licensed local production. The first of up to 140 aircraft indigenously built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was reportedly delivered in November 2004.

The Naval Flanker

Known as the Sukhoi Su-27K and the Su-33 (NATO reporting name “Flanker-D”), a specially-modified version of the aircraft developed for use on the Soviet Navy’s aircraft cruisers. It was first flown in August 1987. Compared to the Flanker-B, the Su-33 features an arrester hook, canard foreplanes, a folding tail “sting,” foldable wings, and tailplane, a strengthened twin nosewheel, modified flight control system, increased-area fin, and a retractable flight-refueling probe. The weapons control systems of the Su-33 are otherwise similar to the baseline aircraft, which essentially restricted it to air defense missions.

The aircraft was only produced following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, by which time Moscow was cash-strapped, and production was cut short. The first batch of four Su-33s entered service in 1993. By 1998, some twenty-four Flanker-D aircraft had been accepted by the Russian Naval Aviation service. It was primarily employed as a fighter aboard the Russian Navy’s sole carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

Key Su-27 “Flanker-B” Specs:

Type of aircraft: All-weather air superiority fighter

Length: 71 feet, 10 inches (21.90m)

Wingspan: 48 feet, 2.75 inches (14.70m)

Height: 19 feet, 5.5 inches (5.93m)

Weight: 72,751 pounds (33,000 kg) maximum takeoff

Powerplant: Two 122.58kN (27,557 pounds) Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F afterburning turbofans

Maximum speed: 1,417 mph (2,280km/h) at 39,090 feet (11,000m)

Range: 2,287 miles (3680km) at high altitude

Service ceiling: 58,071 feet (17,700 m)

Armament: One 30mm (1.18inch) cannon and up to 6,000kg (13,228 pounds) including up to six medium-range and four short-range AAMs

Su-27 Flanker

Su-27

Image: Creative Commons.

Su-27 Russian Knights

Russian Knights paying tribute to Igor Tkachenko, leader of the group who died during practice a week earlier.

Russia's Su-27 Fighter

Russia’s Su-27 Fighter. Image: Creative Commons.

The original Flanker-B/C production models could carry weapons on ten external hardpoints, including one on each of the wingtips, two under each wing, one under each engine, and two in tandem on the fuselage centerline. The aircraft’s self-protection suite includes a radar warning receiver (RWR), a two-pod electronic countermeasure (ECM) suite, and chaff/flare dispensers.

The Su-27 has been considered one of the best air superiority fighters for its time, and even today, it remains one of the most successful fighters in aviation history. Several Su-27s are now in service in Ukraine.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Suciu is also a contributing writer for Forbes Magazine.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Craig Johnson

    May 4, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    F-15 ? … the article never mentions the title about killing F-15s. I read that F-15s are undefeated in dogfights at 104-0.

    • Will F

      May 5, 2022 at 12:56 pm

      Correct! I also understood the F 15 is 100% in the win column in air to air combat. The SU 27 has not fared well against the F 15. This article, while accurate has a intentionally misleading dog whistle headline.

    • GhostTomahawk

      May 6, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      Right! More like the F15 knock off. Some loser sold his country out and took Soviet money for the design specs of the F15. Took the Rooskies almost 40 years to get it right. Tells you all you need to know

  2. Michael Nunez

    May 4, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    LOL … !

  3. Bob

    May 4, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    I believe the F-15 is 100-0 in combat. Equal pilots, the SU-27 is toast.

    • Michael Nunez

      May 5, 2022 at 11:06 am

      F-15 Killer is hilarious from the word go . The Su-27 is an assume jet for Shows , and is a crowd favorite with circus stunts but that’s it . No Su has ever tried to ingage a F-15 anywhere is very telling….. .

  4. Richvid

    May 4, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    Very pretty and very capable jet but it should be noted that it never took down one f-15 at least as of today lol

  5. Tom brown

    May 4, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Very interesting article ..

    • David J Aye

      May 4, 2022 at 10:36 pm

      The Eagle is 108-0 in air to air combat. If it goes up against a Flanker that second number won’t change.

  6. Joe simpson

    May 4, 2022 at 10:35 pm

    Please understand that most aircraft capabilities are based on the pilot and his commitment to utilize all systems employed. No amazing computer based defense and or attack systems are going to work well with a non-committed driver

  7. John Amos

    May 5, 2022 at 7:28 am

    A fine plane and it would lose against an F-15, 99 out of 100 times. People are still all twitterpated due to the vector cnozzle control that the US developed and the Russians built into the airplane which makes it capable of shocking movements which mean nothing. You must know that the T-72 was all hyped up as well.

    • Willie Colon

      May 5, 2022 at 4:10 pm

      That’s right The F15 Eagle Aircraft is a fighter champion of a air to air combat. It’s been proven to the Israeli Air Force who had a remarkable 100% air ratio kill against the Soviet Aircraft. So that guy Peter Suciu don’t know what the fuck he is talking about.

  8. Alex

    May 5, 2022 at 8:27 am

    1. F-15 did not meet in battle with the SU-27.
    2. What kind of aircraft shot down the F-15?
    Therefore, the hysteria of the “patriots” is not understandable.

  9. CK

    May 5, 2022 at 9:22 am

    Surely Alex, if anyone can understand the hysteria of patriots, it’s you?

  10. blkspade

    May 5, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    F-15 Killer, is of course just the design goal of the SU-27, not an actual accomplished task.

    Weird thing that stuck out to me in this article is claiming China licensed the Su-27. If it were licensed they wouldn’t have had to reverse engineer them, nor would Russia be upset.

  11. Clifford Jones

    May 5, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    The u.s and India had war games all of India su.33 got shot down by F15C that’s a fact.

  12. JML518

    May 6, 2022 at 5:38 am

    I wonder if it has the same undefeated record as the F15 does. Because if not,it’s not an air superiority aircraft. Plus seeing how bad Russia is doing in the Ukrain,I seriously doubt the capabilities of the SU 27 or SU 33

  13. Larry

    May 6, 2022 at 9:06 am

    The only thing that can take down an F-15 is democrats.

    • Bob bear

      May 6, 2022 at 2:12 pm

      Or trumpturd traitors

      • Larry

        May 6, 2022 at 5:28 pm

        Bob, The truth must really be painful for someone with your level of TDS. If you could think for yourself, reality would be much easier for you to grasp.

  14. Reid H Stafford

    May 6, 2022 at 9:46 am

    Yeah maybe if the PINKO COMMIE BASTARDS had something to possibly have the ability to fly it.

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