Su-27 Flanker Pic GalleryFor years, Western leadership and Western Fighter Pilots came to fear a long succession of superior Soviet jet fighters called MiGs. NATO had designated these planes with names that the Soviets loved to hate. The MiG-21 'Fishbed', the MiG-23 'Flogger', and the MiG-29 'Fulcrum' were among the many NATO designations of Soviet MiGs. However, as the times changed and as the world moved into the climatic stages of the Cold War, another succession of superior jet fighters was introduced to the Western Nations by the soviets. These jet fighters became known as the Sukhoi or 'Su' jet fighters. By far, the most powerful Sukhoi jet fighter ever to be born was the Su-27, which NATO gladly designated as the Flanker. The Su-27's operational characteristics meets, if not surpasses, those of its American analogue - the F-15 'Eagle'. The Su-27 certainly earned its spot within the fighter units of the Air Defense (Russian designation PVO) and Air Force of the Soviet Union (Russian designation VVS) as a prized long-range fighter interceptor. It's mere existence had replaced the Soviet Tu-128 'Fiddler', the Su-15 'Flagon', and the Yak-28 'Firebar' in PVO service. Despite its lineage, the roots of the Su-27 traces back to a humble beginning.

In 1969, the Sukhoi OKB (Russian designation for Design Bureau) won a governmental contract to design a long-range interceptor that would be superior to Western jet fighters and would replace several Soviet fighters already in service. The design of the first prototype of the Su-27 (designated the "T101") was dictated by the growing importance of low-level penetration tactics. Thus, the T101 had to be capable of look-down/shoot-down intercepts of enemy aircraft and low flying cruise missiles and to be capable of destroying targets at very long ranges. On May 20, 1977, the T101 (piloted by Vladimir Ilyushin) completed a successful test flight in Zhukovsky. However, it was soon discovered that the maximum flight range and maneuverability of the new aircraft did not surpass those of the best foreign equivalents. There were also problems with drag, flutter, engine performance and fuel consumption. The aircraft was unstable and unaerodynamic- depending heavily on its fly-by-wire control system. The second prototype, the T102 had even crashed, killing its pilot. After the failures, the design bureau substantially modified the aircraft. In 1981, an entirely new aircraft called the T10S had taken shape and had flown on a test flight on April 20. This prototype became known as the Su-27. This new aircraft exerted itself as a truly outstanding jet fighter having no equals in maneuverability, flight range and combat effectiveness.

The airframe of this strong aircraft is constructed of advanced lightweight aluminum lithium alloys. Its airframe is light, despite its strength and size. The wing is designed using an ogival shape and wingroot extension. The wing has a 42 degrees leading edge sweep with full span leading edge slats and trailing edge flaperons. The flaperons combine the functions of conventional flaps and ailerons and move in unison as flaps to provide lift and drag. They move out of unison to function as ailerons.

The engines of the Su-27 are two AL31F turbojet engines designed by A.M. Lyul'la, the MMZ Saturn General Designer. These engines are deemed highly economical and is rated at 12500 kg static thrust in afterburner and at 7600 kg in military power. In afterburner mode, the engines eats about 1.92 kg of fuel per kg of thrust per hour. In military power mode, the engines eats about 0.75 kg of fuel per kg of thrust per hour. In cruise mode, the engines eat about 0.67 kg of fuel per kg of thrust per hour. The AL31F engine has been proven to be reliable, robust, and maintainable. When tested in severely disturbed airflow, and in extreme conditions, the engine performed effectively. That is why maneuvers like the tail-slide and the Cobra are possible.

When the aircraft is in flight, the pilot has many options at his fingertips. He won't enter into any fatal spins or pull too many G's because of the highly sophisticated quadruplex fly-by-wire remote control system (designated EDSU by Russians) with built-in angle of attack and G limiters. The pilot has a sophisticated weapons control system using a RLPK27 coherent pulse-Doppler jam proof radar with track while scan and look-down shoot-down capabilities. The radar detection range is 240 km, and it can simultaneously track up to 10 targets at 185 km away. The pilot can simultaneously fire missiles at two targets. In case of radar failure, the pilot is backed up by a 36sh electro-optical system designed by Geophysica NPO. The electro-optical system contains a laser range finder (which has a range of 8km) and Infrared Search and Track system (which as a range of 50km). The electro-optical system can be attached to the pilot's helmet mounted target designator to allow the pilot to target by moving his head.

In case of emergencies, the pilot can eject confidently and safely from the aircraft's Zvezda K36DM zero zero ejection seat. The pilot can eject safely on this seat at speeds of zero to Mach 2, and at altitudes from 0 to 25000 m.

In 1982, the Su-27 went into production at Komsomolsk-upon-Amur, and the aircraft went into service for the Air Defense and Air Force in 1985.

However, by 1989 the Soviet empire found itself collapsing, a grim reminder to us that even the strongest may not last forever. As for the strong Su-27s, their future became uncertain after the break-up of the USSR. Some of these aircraft were quickly sold and transferred to countries like China, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Georgia.

In 1991, China purchased 24 Su-27s for $35,000,000 a piece. No doubt that in the future, the Chinese Air Force will consist of mainly Su-27s. However, for China to be able to use these planes effectively, they must acquire aircraft carriers and greatly improve its transport aviation and methods.

In 1996, during the China-Taiwan conflict, China deployed four Su-27s (assembled in the lower Fujian Province) to the strait of Formosa. China used these aircraft to compliment the Air Force (which consists of mostly MiG-21s) fire power of the area.

Nation of Orgin: Russia
Contractor: Sukhoi
Type: interceptor / fighter
Crew: 1 pilot
Wing span: 14,70 m
Length: 21,60 m
Height: 6,36 m
Max take off weight: 28.800 kg
Powerplant: 2 Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F turbofans each rated at 12.499 kg of thrust
Max speed: Mach 2.2 at high altitude, Mach 1.13 at sea level
Service ceiling: 18.000 m
Max range: 4.000 km
Armament: 1 30mm cannon and up to 6.000 kg warload (AAMs, AGMs, bombs, rockets)