Belarus unleashes a Su-30SM in surprise combat readiness drill

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On June 26, the Belarusian Air Force carried out a surprise combat drill featuring a Su-30SM fighter, according to the country’s defense ministry. The crew quickly took off, reached their patrol zone, and completed an air defense mission efficiently, the ministry said.

This drill was part of a series of surprise combat checks across the Belarusian armed forces that started on June 21. These checks included ground force training in different terrains like forests and marshlands, and exercises with drones and electronic warfare tools.

Belarus, Russia’s only security ally in Europe, has been experiencing increased tensions with Western countries. This tension is worsened by the buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, including Poland’s fast modernization efforts, such as buying ground equipment from South Korea and F-35 stealth fighters from the United States.

Russia revealed what tasks the Su-30SM performs in Ukraine
Photo credit: 5Mods

The relationship between Belarus and Western nations worsened in 2020 when Minsk claimed that the West supported protests to overthrow the government. This tension grew with the start of the war in February 2022, where Belarus’ ally, Russia, faced off against Western and Ukrainian forces.

The Belarusian Air Force chose the Su-30SM to replace the MiG-29 as its main fighter jet. This new jet is the heaviest and has the longest range in Europe, with the biggest radar in its class. However, the Su-30 is more expensive to operate than the MiG-29, so fewer will be bought. The fleet will shrink by about one-third, with around two dozen Su-30SMs in the end.

The overall length of the Su-30SM is approximately 21.9 meters [71.9 feet]. The wingspan of the Su-30SM is about 14.7 meters [48.2 feet]. The wide wingspan enhances the aircraft’s maneuverability and stability, which are crucial for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

10+ Russian Su-30s began tactical rehearsals over Kaliningrad - Su-30SM2
Photo credit: Soldar

In terms of height, the Su-30SM stands at around 6.4 meters [21 feet]. The aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of approximately 34,500 kilograms [76,059 pounds]. The Su-30SM features a twin-seat configuration, with the cockpit designed to provide excellent visibility and ergonomic controls for both the pilot and the weapons systems officer.

The choice of the larger Su-30 over similar-sized jets like the MiG-29M or MiG-35 was likely due to two reasons: it is more cost-effective to get a more capable jet, and it is important to stay compatible with the Russian Air Force, which mainly uses the Su-30SM or heavier jets like the Su-34 and MiG-31. Right now, the Belarusian Air Force has four Su-30SMs in service, with eight more on order and possibly another 12 to follow.

In early 2021, it was reported that Minsk intended to order eight new Su-30SM fighter jets from Russia. Russian sources indicated that Moscow had set the price at $400 million for the jets. However, there hasn’t been any confirmed progress from Belarus regarding the acquisition. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022 likely caused negotiations to stall, preventing Belarus from receiving the first units of its second order.

10+ Russian Su-30s began tactical rehearsals over Kaliningrad - Su-30SM
Photo credit: Twitter

The Su-30SM, a close relative of the Su-30MKI originally made for the Indian Air Force, combines the long-range capabilities of the Su-30 with advanced technologies from the Su-27M and Su-37 fighters, which were too expensive for Russia’s budget.

This impressive fighter uses the Su-37’s NO11M radar – an early electronically scanned array radar found on a fighter jet – and also has features from the Su-35, like its canards, AL-31FP engines, and thrust vectoring nozzles. In simulated combat exercises, the Su-30SM has proven it can outperform competitors such as the British Eurofighter and the American F-15.

The Su-30SM builds on these capabilities by incorporating more homegrown Russian subsystems. It integrates the highly advanced N011M Bars radar, which boasts a maximum detection range of 400 km and a search range of 200 km. Additionally, this aircraft features a wide-angle heads-up display, new identification friend or foe systems, and new communication systems, as well as compatibility with the SAP-518 jamming pod.

Kazakhstan purchases 10 Su-30SM aircraft ignoring French Rafale
Photo credit: Reddit

This versatile aircraft can carry a variety of advanced munitions, including the R-37M long-range air-to-air missile, which has demonstrated significant effectiveness in the Ukrainian theater. In the future, it is also expected to support the Kh-32 anti-ship cruise missile.



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