The Sukhoi Su-27 (Russian: Сухой Су-27) (NATO reporting name: Flanker) is a twin-engine supermaneuverable fighter aircraft designed by Sukhoi. It was intended as a direct competitor for the large United States fourth-generation fighters such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle, with 3,530-kilometre (1,910 nmi) range, heavy aircraft ordnance, sophisticated avionics and high maneuverability. The Su-27 was designed for air superiority missions, and subsequent variants are able to perform almost all aerial warfare operations. Complementing the smaller MiG-29, the Su-27 has its closest US counterpart in the F-15 Eagle.
The Su-27 entered service with the Soviet Air Forces in 1985. The primary role was long range air defence against American SAC B-1B and B-52G/H bombers, protecting the Soviet coast from aircraft carriers and flying long range fighter escort for Soviet heavy bombers such as the Tu-95 “Bear”, Tu-22M “Backfire” and Tu-160 “Blackjack”.
There are several related developments of the Su-27 design. The Su-30 is a two-seat, dual-role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. The Su-33 ‘Flanker-D’ is a naval fleet defense interceptor for use on aircraft carriers. Further versions include the side-by-side two-seat Su-34 ‘Fullback’ strike/fighter-bomber variant, and the Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ improved air superiority and multi-role fighter. The Shenyang J-11 is a Chinese licence-built version of the Su-27.
The Su-27’s basic design is aerodynamically similar to the MiG-29, but it is substantially larger. The swept wing blends into the fuselage at the leading edge extensions and is essentially a cropped delta (the delta wing with tips cropped for missile rails or ECM pods). The Su-27 is also an example of a tailed delta wing configuration, retaining conventional horizontal tailplanes, though it is not a true delta.
The Su-27 had the Soviet Union’s first operational fly-by-wire control system, based on the Sukhoi OKB’s experience with the T-4 bomber project. Combined with relatively low wing loading and powerful basic flight controls, it makes for an exceptionally agile aircraft, controllable even at very low speeds and high angle of attack. In airshows the aircraft has demonstrated its maneuverability with a Cobra (Pugachev’s Cobra) or dynamic deceleration – briefly sustained level flight at a 120° angle of attack.
Su-27 carrying R-27 missiles
The naval version of the ‘Flanker’, the Su-27K (or Su-33), incorporates canards for additional lift, reducing takeoff distances. These canards have also been incorporated in some Su-30s, the Su-35, and the Su-37.
The Su-27 is equipped with a Phazotron N001 Myech coherent Pulse-Doppler radar with track while scan and look-down/shoot-down capability. The fighter also has an OLS-27 infrared search and track (IRST) system in the nose just forward of the cockpit with an 80–100 km range.
The Su-27 is armed with a single 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 cannon in the starboard wingroot, and has up to 10 hardpoints for missiles and other weapons. Its standard missile armament for air-to-air combat is a mixture of R-73 (AA-11 Archer) and R-27 (AA-10 ‘Alamo’) missiles, the latter including extended range and infrared homing models.
Soviet Union and Russia
The Soviet Air Force began receiving Su-27s in June 1985. It officially entered service in August 1990.
On 13 September 1987, a fully armed Soviet Su-27, Red 36, intercepted a Norwegian Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft flying over the Barents Sea. The Soviet fighter jet performed different close passes, colliding with the reconnaissance aircraft on the third pass. The Su-27 disengaged and both aircraft landed safely at their bases.
These aircraft were used by the Russian Air Force during the 1992–1993 war in Abkhazia against Georgian forces. One fighter, piloted by Major Vaclav Alexandrowich Shipko (Вацлав Александрович Шипко) was reported shot down in friendly fire by an S-75M Dvina on 19 March 1993 while intercepting Georgian Su-25s performing close air support. The pilot was killed.
In the 2008 South Ossetia War, Russia used Su-27s to gain airspace control over Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia.
On 7 February 2013, two Su-27s briefly entered Japanese airspace off Rishiri Island near Hokkaido, flying south over the Sea of Japan before turning back to the north. Four Mitsubishi F-2 fighters were scrambled to visually confirm the Russian planes, warning them by radio to leave their airspace. A photo taken by a JASDF pilot of one of the two Su-27s was released by the Japan Ministry of Defense. Russia denied the incursion, saying the jets were making routine flights near the disputed Kuril Islands. In another encounter near Japan, in 2014 a Su-27 nearly collided with an American RC-135.
A Russian Su-27 and a