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Moscow promised to deliver 8 Su-30SMs to Minsk by year’s end

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BULGARIAN MILITARY

In June 2017, the Belarusian Defense Ministry made a major move by ordering new fighter jets for the first time since the Soviet era. They signed a $600 million deal to buy 12 Su-30SM aircraft from Russia. By August 2019, the first four jets were delivered. The remaining eight are expected by the end of 2024. Delivery delays are often due to Belarus postponing payments, mainly because of the increased Russian security presence, which made expensive upgrades less urgent.

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

This enhanced security umbrella included Russian Su-30SM and Su-35 fighters sent to Belarusian airfields, along with S-400 air defense systems and MiG-31K/I strike fighters. Belarus, in the meantime, is focusing on getting more affordable assets like the S-400 air defense systems and Iskander ballistic missiles, and they’ve even got access to Russian nuclear warheads for the Iskanders.

Belarus is going for at least 12 Su-30SMs, and they might expand this fleet to 24 units. This choice shows a lot about Minsk’s current geopolitical stance.

Russian Su-30SM2 fighter gains range with R-37M LRAAM integration
Photo credit: Telegram

Belarus after the Soviet Union

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the Belarusian Air Force reduced its size significantly. They quickly retired their powerful MiG-25PD/PDS interceptors and MiG-25BM jets. Over the next decade, they also phased out the Su-27 air superiority fighters and Su-24M fighters, with the Su-24Ms being sold to Sudan.

The upgraded MiG-23MLDs were sent to Syria during the 2000s, leaving the MiG-29 as their only fighter. However, the aging MiG-29s and their minor upgrades have made it essential for Belarus to find replacements.

Slow entry of the Tejas Mk II will extend Indian MiG-29 life
Photo credit: Medium

For a long time, there was talk about the country choosing upgraded MiG-29M or MiG-35 fighters. These are known for being cheaper to operate and better performing than the older MiG-29s. Yet, they picked the Su-30SM instead. Choosing the Su-30SM was likely because it fits well with the Russian Air Force. The Su-30SM, along with the Su-34 strike fighter, forms the heart of Russia’s military aviation.

Encouragement from Russia

Russia has encouraged former Soviet states to buy the Su-30SM fighter jet, offering it on favorable terms. For example, from 2015 to 2023, Kazakhstan ordered three squadrons, totaling 36 aircraft, in five separate deals. Similarly, Armenia bought four of these jets in December 2019.

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

This aircraft is known for being versatile and affordable compared to the Su-35 air superiority fighter. It’s well-regarded and often outperforms other ‘4+ generation’ aircraft like the French Rafale in range, radar size, and maneuverability, surpassing many Western fighters.

The Soviet Union aimed to have fifth-generation fighters by 2001, starting with the MiG 1.42 program. However, the collapse of the state delayed these plans. Now, Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57, is expected to be operational in 2024, though it’s less ambitious than earlier plans.

In the meantime, Russia and its export clients have relied on upgraded fourth-generation fighters like the Su-30SM. These jets are still competitive against European fighters but have drawbacks when facing fifth-generation fighters from China and the U.S.

Su-30 has used Khibiny EW during an interception of the F-35
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

After the USSR’s collapse, Belarus retired older models like the MiG-25, Su-24M, and Su-27. They shifted to the more affordable MiG-29, reducing their focus on fighter aviation. The current Su-30SM is superior to regional aircraft, but this advantage might decrease as F-35s become more common in Eastern Europe.

About Su-30SM Flanker-C

The Su-30SM is a versatile fighter jet made by the Russian company Sukhoi. It is an upgraded version of the Su-30 family, built for air fights, attacking ground targets, and striking ships. The ‘SM’ stands for ‘Serial Modernized,’ showing it’s better than older models.

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

The Su-30SM is about 21.9 meters [71.8 feet] long, has a wingspan of 14.7 meters [48.2 feet], and is 6.4 meters [21 feet] tall. It can take off with a weight of up to 34,500 kilograms [76,060 pounds]. The jet has a strong but lightweight frame, an advanced design for smooth flying, and thrust-vectoring nozzles. These features make it very maneuverable, and good for close-air battles and tricky aerial moves.

The Su-30SM’s propulsion system includes two AL-31FP afterburning turbofan engines, each generating roughly 27,500 pounds of thrust. This lets the aircraft reach speeds up to Mach 2 [about 2,120 kilometers per hour or 1,320 miles per hour] at high altitudes.

The avionics suite of the Su-30SM features an advanced radar system, like the N011M Bars-R, allowing it to track and target multiple objects at once. Additionally, the aircraft comes with an electronic warfare system to boost its defense in dangerous areas.

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

The Su-30SM jet is loaded with features to handle many types of missions. It has advanced navigation and targeting systems, a digital flight control system, and a modern cockpit with screens that give pilots important details instantly.

The Su-30SM’s weapons are powerful and varied. It can use different air-to-air missiles like the R-77 and R-73, and air-to-ground missiles such as the Kh-29 and Kh-31. The jet can also carry guided bombs, unguided rockets, and a 30mm cannon for close combat.

The Su-30SM can fly about 3,000 kilometers [1,864 miles] without needing to refuel. With the ability to refuel in the air, it can cover even greater distances, allowing it to fly long missions and operate far from its home base.

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