At the turn of the century, in parallel with the new-build Su-30MKI (for India), Su-30MKK (for China), Su-30MKM (for Malaysia) and Su-30MK2, the Sukhoi Holding Co. developed an upgrade package for the Russian Air Force’s Su-27 single-seat fighters and Su-27UB combat trainers; the upgraded aircraft were designated Su-27SM and Su-27UBM respectively, the M standing for modern-izeerovannyy (updated). Experts rate these aircraft as Generation 4+ fighters. The upgrade involves installation of modified engines and new avionics.

While the Su-27SM Is intended for the Russian Air Force, an equivalent is offered to foreign customers as the Su-27SKM; traditionally for Sukhoi aircraft, the K stands for kommehrcheskiy (‘commercial’, that is, export version). According to Sukhoi spokesmen, the Su-27SKM is 50% more effective than the Su-27SK version supplied to China (which also built it under licence) and Vietnam. Coded ‘305 Grey’, the Su-27SKM prototype (c/n 36911040102) converted from the Su-27KI demonstrator made Its debut at the MAKS-2003 airshow (19th-24th August 2003). It was also displayed at Airshow China 2004 (held at Zhuhai-Sanzao in November 2004), the 47th Paris Air Show in June 2005 and the MAKS-2005 airshow (16th-21 st August 2005).

The export Su-27SKM differs from its Russian Air Force counterpart only in a few details – mostly In the identification frlend-or-foe (IFF) system. The new guided weapons types are the same, regardless of what customer the aircraft Is intended for. Interestingly, the first upgraded Flanker delivered to the Russian Air Force was not a single-seater but a Su-27UBM combat trainer coded ’20 Red’ (formerly ’62 Blue’, c/n 96310420230). The official handover ceremony took place at Zhukovskiy on 6th March 2001. Subsequently the aircraft underwent comprehensive testing at the 929th GLITs, which lasted several years and included live weapons trials, and the pilots’ appraisal was generally positive. On 14th-19th August 2001 Su-27UBM ’20 Red’ was in the static park of the MAKS-2001 airshow.

The Su-27SM prototype coded ’56 Red’ entered flight test shortly after the two-seater. The trials of the Su-27SKM prototype and its demonstration flights abroad in the hope of attracting export orders proceeded in parallel.

The new technology incorporated into the Su-27SM/Su-27SKM increases the fighter’s combat potential by 50% over the standard Flanker-B thanks first and foremost to the wider range of weaponry and the addition of strike capability. Combat efficiency is also helped by the new cockpit data presentation and control systems and by the upgrade ECM/IRCM systems which increase the chances of survival in the face of head enemy anti-aircraft defences.

The performance of the navigation/attack suite is enhanced by the use of new operation algorithms and state-of-the-art electronic components. The modified N001 radar can perform ground mapping in actual best mode, detecting ground targets with a high radar signature at up to 100 km (62 miles large surface ships at up to 350 km (21 miles) and small ships at up to 120 km (74 miles). The Su-27SM/Su-27SKM is able to use TV-gulded missiles (whose seeker head receive Initial target information from the aircraft’s radar) and deliver bomb attacks instrument meteorological conditions and night. The weapons range include Kh-29T/TE TV-guided missiles and Kh29 laser-guided missiles, Kh-31A active radar homing anti-shipping missiles, Kh-31P radiation missiles, KAB-500Kr and KAB-1500Kr ‘smart bombs’, R-77 active radar homing AAMs and more. All those upgraded versions of the Flanker; Su-27SM/Su-27SKM and the Su-27UBM feature an up-to-date ECM suite; additional the Su-27SM features a new ELINT/targeting system. The upgrade also includes a service life extension and measures aimed at improving reliability.

All three versions feature a new air-to-surface weapons control system (designated SUV-VEP1 in the version fitted to the export Su-27SKM). The cockpit features MFI-10 ten-inch liquid-crystal MFDs and an MFPI multi-function input/output device. Data exchange between the various avionics components takes places via high-speed multiplex data-buses. The new navigation suite incorporating a satellite navigation system receiver makes for much more accurate navigation and allows new data to be entered quickly from a memory card. The high-tech ELINT/targeting system with digital signal processing picks out the radar which is painting the aircraft, gives the pilot timely warning and quickly provides target information to the seeker head of the Kh-31 P ARMs.

In air-to-air mode an increase in the Su-27SM/Su-27SKM’s firepower is provided by modifications to the SUV-V weapons control system to permit carriage of R-77 (RW-AE) AAMs. Higher survivability in the face of enemy air defences is ensured by an up-to-date ECM suite.

The Su-27SKM has a top speed of 1,400 km/h (869 mph) at sea level and 2,430 km/h (1.509 mph) at high altitude; the service ceiling is 18.000 m (59,055 ft) and the ferry range 3,680 km (2,285 miles). The maximum weapons load of 8,000 kg (17,640 lb) is carried on ten hardpoints. The operational G limit is 9 Gs.

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