Russian Knights back with a bang

HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN


LANGKAWI: Over the past few days, residents and tourists would have seen four distinctively-liveried, sleek aircraft screaming across the skies and flying formations and death-defying stunts.

Those who were here in 2013 would probably recognise the blue-white-and-red of one of the world’s most famous aerobatics teams.

Yes, the Russian Knights are back with a bang at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition (Lima).

It isn’t the familiar SU-27 Flankers they are flying this time. The Knights are debuting their new aircraft, the latest edition of the Flanker family, the SU-30SM, designated Flanker-C by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The team, which has participated in hundreds of airshows since its formation in 1991, received eight of the aircraft in September and began training in December.

The Su-30SM fighters were manufactured and delivered to the team by Irkut Corporation.

The Knights had opted for the SU-30SM after test flights in 2013, due to its “supermanoeuvrability”, making it possible for pilots to master new figures for aerobatics deemed too risky for other aircraft. This is mainly due to the aircraft’s thrust vector control and advanced control systems.

Russian test pilot Vyacheslav Averyanov said the super agility also could provide superiority in short-range dogfights as it let a pilot use his armaments in quicker fashion.

“A fighter should have the ability to conduct long-range and short-range dogfights. If you are weak in one of the ways of dogfighting, your enemy will defeat you,” he said.

Averyanov, who also mastered new flight modes on the SU-30MKI, the version of the SU-30MK family used by India, said the performance of the SU-30SM would be familiar in Malaysia.

This is because the Royal Malaysian Air Force operates the SU-30MKM.

He said the features of both aircraft were practically identical, the difference coming only in terms of avionics.

Averyanov said the agility of the SU-30 family of aircraft was not the only advantage of the Flankers.

All versions, he said, were equipped with on-board radars with a phased array antennas, guaranteeing the destruction of air, ground and surface targets located beyond the limits of the human eye.

Averyanov said he and the Russian Knights pilots consider the SU-30SM’s two-seat configuration an advantage since it provided better coordination in group flying and simplified the commissioning of young pilots.

“In any case, two chaps performing their mission (are) better than one,” he said.

He said the SU-30MK/SM family of aircraft was also a favourite of large countries and those with large coastal areas, due to its ability to conduct long-range sorties.

“(This made it) quite logical that it was the Russian Navy’s option,” he said.

The SU-30SM is the only new fighter ordered by the Russian Navy, which began receiving them in 2014. Large numbers of the aircraft have also been delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The total order from the Russian Defence Ministry for SU-30SM stands at 110 aircraft, with more than half that number supplied.

Since 2015, Irkut has also been supplying the Kazakh Air Force with SU-30SM aircraft.