Air Force 1 AF10116B Russian Sukhoi Su-35S "Super Flanker" Multirole Fighter - "Red 08", Le Bourget Paris Air Show, France, 2013 (1:72 Scale)
"It's a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them. I think even an AESA [active electronically scanned array-radar equipped F-15C] Eagle and [Boeing F/A-18E/F] Super Hornet would both have their hands full."
- An unnamed senior U.S. military official with extensive experience on fifth-generation fighters
The Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E) Also known as Super Flanker, is a designation for two separate, heavily upgraded derivatives of the Su-27 'Flanker'. They are single-seat, twin-engine, supermaneuverable multirole fighters, designed by Sukhoi and built by Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO).
The first variant was designed during the 1980s, when Sukhoi was seeking to upgrade its high-performance Su-27, and was initially known as the Su-27M. Later re-designated Su-35, this derivative incorporated aerodynamic refinements to increase manoeuvrability, enhanced avionics, longer range, and more powerful engines. The first Su-35 prototype, converted from a Su-27, made its maiden flight in June 1988. More than a dozen of these were built, some of which were used by the Russian Knights aerobatic demonstration team. The first Su-35 design was later modified into the Su-37, which possessed thrust vectoring engines and was used as a technology demonstrator. A sole Su-35UB two-seat trainer was built in the late 1990s that strongly resembled the Su-30MK family.
In 2003, Sukhoi embarked on a second modernization of the Su-27 to produce what the company calls a 4++ generation fighter that would bridge the gap between legacy fighters and the upcoming fifth generation Sukhoi PAK FA. This derivative, while omitting the canards and air brake, incorporates a reinforced airframe, improved avionics and radar, thrust-vectoring engines, and a reduced frontal radar signature. In 2008 the revamped variant, erroneously named the Su-35BM in the media, began its flight test programme that would involve four prototypes, one of which was lost in 2009.
The Russian Air Force has ordered 48 production units, designated Su-35S, of the newly revamped Su-35. Both Su-35 models marketed to many countries, including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, but so far have not attracted any export orders. Sukhoi originally projected that it would export more than 160 units of the second modernized Su-35 worldwide.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Russian Sukhoi Su-35S "Super Flanker" multirole aircraft that performed at the Le Bourget Paris Air Show, France, during 2013.
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Release Date: May 2015
Historical Account: "The Generational Divide" - Fourth-generation jet fighter is a general classification of jet fighters in service from approximately 1980 to present day, and represent design concepts of the 1970s. Fourth-generation designs are heavily influenced by lessons learned from the previous generation of combat aircraft. Long-range air-to-air missiles, originally thought to make dogfighting obsolete, proved less influential than expected, precipitating a renewed emphasis on maneuverability. Meanwhile, the growing costs of military aircraft in general and the demonstrated success of aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom II gave rise to the popularity of Multirole combat aircraft in parallel with the advances marking the so-called fourth generation.
During the period in question, maneuverability was enhanced by relaxed static stability, made possible by introduction of the fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FLCS), which in turn was possible due to advances in digital computers and system integration techniques. Analog avionics, required to enable FBW operations, became a fundamental requirement and began to be replaced by digital flight control systems in the latter half of the 1980s.
The further advance of microcomputers in the 1980s and 1990s permitted rapid upgrades to the avionics over the lifetimes of these fighters, incorporating system upgrades such as active electronically scanned array (AESA), digital avionics buses and Infra-red search and track (IRST).
Due to the dramatic enhancement of capabilities in these upgraded fighters and in new designs of the 1990s that reflected these new capabilities, the US Government has taken to using the designation 4.5th generation to refer to these later designs. This is intended to reflect a class of fighters that are evolutionary upgrades of the 4th generation incorporating integrated avionics suites, advanced weapons efforts to make the (mostly) conventionally designed aircraft nonetheless less easily detectable, and trackable as a response to advancing missile and radar technology (see stealth technology). Inherent airframe design features exist, and include masking of turbine-blades and application of advanced sometimes radar-absorbent materials, but not the distinctive low-observable configurations of the latest aircraft, referred to as fifth-generation fighters or aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
The United States defines 4.5 generation fighter aircraft as fourth generation jet fighters that have been upgraded with AESA radar, high capacity data-link, enhanced avionics, and "the ability to deploy current and reasonably foreseeable advanced armaments." Contemporary examples of 4.5 generation fighters are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.