Su-27 Flanker


TypeAir superiority fighter
Country of originSoviet Union, later Russia
First flightMay 20th, 1977
IntroducedDecember 1984
Numbers built780
Unit costsUSD 30 million
Max speedMach 2.35 (2,500 km/h, 1,550 mph)
Max range3,530 km (2,070 mi)
DimensionsLength: 21.9 m (72 ft)
Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
Height: 5.92 m (19 ft 6 in)
Weight16,380 kg (36,100 lb)
Powerplant2 × Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F turbofans
Dry thrust: 7,670 kgf each
Thrust with afterburner: 12,500 kgf
Armament1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon
8,000 kg on 10 external pylons
Up to 6 x R-27, 2 x R-73
OperatorsAngola, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

The Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker has been developed together with the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum, to counter the new US 4th generation jet fighters. The Soviet PFI program (Advanced Frontline Fighter) was splitted after it has been realized that one aircraft couldn’t fullfill all the ambitious aims. As both Aircraft build on the same basic PFI design, the two Russian fighters are similar. The TPFI (Heavy PFI) resultet in the Su-27 Flanker, the LPFI (Lightweight PFI) in the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum.  The aim was to counter the new American F-15 Eagle and achieve Air superiority by adding 10% to the performance estimated for the F-15. The LPFI (MiG-29) can be seen as counterpart of the US Gerneral Dynamic F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet (Former McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet). The Sukhoi Design Bureau won the contest for the heavy fighter, Mikoyan won with the leightweight design. The Su-27 Flanker and the other aircraft of the Flanker family (Su-30 Flanker-C, Su-33 Flanker-D, Su-34 Fullback, Su-35 Flanker-E, Su-37 Flanker-F) are seen as the most successful Russian development throughout the Cold War.

Brilliant manoevrability

In fact the Flanker is a very large aircraft. To reduce the weight, about 30% titanium has been used which is the highest share of any aircraft worldwide. The body and space between the engines provides a large part of the lift. This reduces the wing-load. This aerodynamic configuration is called ‘integrated aerodynamic concept’. It means that wing and fuselage at the Su-27 are not seen really as separate parts, but in an extremely blended configuration, to create a single lifting body.

First fly-by-wire system in the USSR

Like other modern aircraft, the Su-27 needs a fly-by-wire system and is otherwise not controllable by the pilot. The pitch-only SDU-10 fly-by-wire used controls the pitch and ensures controllability, stability, increases its aerodynamic performance and limits overload. The system also limits the angle of attack when necessary and decreases the aerodynamic load to the airframe.

Together with this newly invented fly-by-wire system (the first in the Soviet Union) the manoeuvrability of the aircraft was brilliant given the very large size. Especially the Pugachev’s Cobra amazed Airshow visitors and experts alike. Later Versions with 3D vector thrust achieved super manoevrability. Supermanoeuverability means the attitude control exceeding the aerodynamic maneuverability. Simply said, a controlled loss of control which leads to incredible manouvres like the Pugachev’s Cobra or the Herbst manoeuvre. Supermanoeuverability is standard for 5th Generation aircraft like F-22 Raptor or the new Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA but was only used by some 4th and 4,5th generation aircraft.

Su-27 Flanker Tourist Fighter Flights

When the Soviet Union imploded and especially when Russia as heir of the Soviet Union suffered in a financial crisis in the 90ies, Sukhoi OKB tried to find new customers abroad for its successful Flanker Fighter Aircraft. The once top secret project became more and more available to Western aviation enthusiasts. People where stunned by the highly agile performance and the Supermaneuverability of that large jet fighter, especially the Cobra manouvre led to amazement. Moreover, with the Russian government desperately looking for funding (state employees were waiting for month to get their salaries), Su-27 jet fighter rides became available to Western tourists on Zhukovsky Airbase, Ramenskoe, near Moscow. This development is remarkable given the fact that this project was top secret a few years before and the top weapon of the Russian Air Force. The tourist flights took place until June 2006 on famous Zhukovsky Airbase near Ramenskoe, where the MAKS Airshow takes place. This is also the location where Western spy satellites spotted the Su-27 for the first time, which resultet in the code ‘Ram-K’.

Su-27 Flanker Operators

The Su-27 Flanker is a success, nearly 700 aircraft have been produced. The Flanker is in operation with many air forces throughout Asia and Afrika: Angola, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam. Four Su-27 Flankers are privately held in the US, two of them until recently by Pride Aircraft (aggressor training with the US Air Force). It has been reported that these aircraft have been sold meanwhile.

Su-27 Video

Su-27 Flanker – Pugachev’s Cobra

Su 27 Biggen Hill Airfair 99

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