Sukhoi Su-27

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Sukhoi Su-27SKM at MAKS-2005 airshow.jpg
Su-27SKM at MAKS-2005 airshow
RoleAir superiority fighter
National originSoviet Union
First flight20 May 1977
StatusIn service
Primary usersRussian Air Force
People's Liberation Army Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
See operators for others
Number built809
Unit cost
US$30 million
VariantsSukhoi Su-30
Sukhoi Su-33
Sukhoi Su-34
Sukhoi Su-35
Sukhoi Su-37
Shenyang J-11
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"Su-27 Flanker" redirects here. For the PC game, see Su-27 Flanker (video game).
Sukhoi Su-27SKM at MAKS-2005 airshow.jpg
Su-27SKM at MAKS-2005 airshow
RoleAir superiority fighter
National originSoviet Union
First flight20 May 1977
StatusIn service
Primary usersRussian Air Force
People's Liberation Army Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
See operators for others
Number built809
Unit cost
US$30 million
VariantsSukhoi Su-30
Sukhoi Su-33
Sukhoi Su-34
Sukhoi Su-35
Sukhoi Su-37
Shenyang J-11

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, with 3,530-kilometre (1,910 nmi) range, heavy armament, sophisticated avionics and high manoeuvrability. The Su-27 most often flies air superiority missions, but its most modern variants are able to perform almost all combat 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 Force in 1985.

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 navy fleet defense interceptor for use on aircraft carriers. Further versions include the side-by-side 2-seat Su-34 'Fullback' strike variant and the Su-35 'Flanker-E' improved air defense fighter.


In 1969, the Soviet Union learned of the U.S. Air Force's "F-X" program, which resulted in the F-15 Eagle. The Soviet leadership soon realized that the new American fighter would represent a serious technological advantage over existing Soviet fighters. What was needed was a better-balanced fighter with both good agility and sophisticated systems. In response, the Soviet General Staff issued a requirement for a Perspektivnyy Frontovoy Istrebitel (PFI, literally "Prospective Frontline Fighter", roughly "Advanced Frontline Fighter").[1] Specifications were extremely ambitious, calling for long range, good short-field performance (including the ability to use austere runways), excellent agility, Mach 2+ speed, and heavy armament. The aerodynamic design for the new aircraft was largely carried out by TsAGI in collaboration with the Sukhoi design bureau.[1]

When the specification proved too challenging and costly for a single aircraft in the number needed, the PFI specification was split into two: the LPFI (Lyogkyi PFI, Lightweight PFI) and the TPFI (Tyazholyi PFI, Heavy PFI). The LPFI program resulted in the Mikoyan MiG-29, a relatively short-range tactical fighter, while the TPFI program was assigned to Sukhoi OKB, which eventually produced the Su-27 and its various derivatives.

Soviet Su-27 in-flight

The Sukhoi design, which was altered progressively to reflect Soviet awareness of the F-15's specifications, emerged as the T-10 (Sukhoi's 10th delta wing design), which first flew on 20 May 1977. The aircraft had a large delta wing, clipped, with two separate podded engines and a twin tail. The ‘tunnel’ between the two engines, as on the F-14 Tomcat, acts both as an additional lifting surface and hides armament from radar.

The T-10 was spotted by Western observers and assigned the NATO reporting name 'Flanker-A'. The development of the T-10 was marked by considerable problems, leading to a fatal crash on 7 May 1978. Extensive redesigns followed, and a heavily revised version, the T-10S, made its first flight on 20 April 1981.

The production Su-27 (sometimes Su-27S, NATO designation 'Flanker-B') began to enter VVS operational service in 1985, although manufacturing difficulties kept it from appearing in strength until 1990.[2] The Su-27 served with both the V-PVO and Frontal Aviation.


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.

Sketch of Su-27 performing Pugachev's Cobra manoeuvre

The Su-27 had the Soviet Union's first operational fly-by-wire control system, developed based on Sukhoi OKB's experience in the Sukhoi 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 angles 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.

The naval version of the 'Flanker', the Su-27K (or Su-33), incorporates canards for additional lift, reducing take-off distances. These canards have also been incorporated in some Su-30s, the Su-35, and the Su-37.

Su-27 carrying R-27 missiles

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 Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer), Vympel R-27 (AA-10 'Alamo') weapons, the latter including extended range and IR guided models.

Radar and sensors[edit]

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.[3]

Operational history[edit]

Soviet Union and Russia[edit]

RuAF Su-27SM3

The Soviet Air Force began receiving Su-27s in June 1985. It officially entered service in August 1990.[4] The fighter has seen limited action.[citation needed]

On 13 September 1987, a fully armed Soviet Su-27, Red 36, intercepted a Norwegian Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft while 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.[5]

These aircraft were used by the Russian Air Force during the 1992–1993 war in Abkhazia against Georgian forces. One fighter, piloted by Major pilot Vaclav Alexandrowich Shipko (Вацлав Александрович Шипко) was reported shot down by an S-75M Dvina on 19 March 1993 while intercepting Georgian Su-25's performing Close Air Support. The pilot was killed.[6][7]

In the 2008 South Ossetia War, Russia used Su-27s to gain airspace control over Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia.[8][9]

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.[10] Four Mitsubishi F-2 fighters were scrambled to visually confirm the Russian planes,[11] warning them by radio to leave their airspace.[12] A photo taken by a JASDF pilot of one of the two Su-27s was released by the Japan Ministry of Defense.[13] Russia denied the incursion, saying the jets were making routine flights near the disputed Kuril Islands.[10] In another encounter near Japan, in 2014 a Su-27 nearly collided with an American RC-135.[14]

A Russian Su-27 and a British Typhoon meet over the Baltic, June 2014

Russia plans to replace the Su-27 along with the Mikoyan MiG-29 eventually by the Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fifth-generation multi-role twin-engine fighter.[citation needed]


Ethiopian Su-27s reportedly shot down two Eritrean MiG-29s and damaged another one[15][16] in February 1999 and destroyed another two in May 2000.[16][17] The Su-27s were also used in CAP (Combat Air Patrol) missions, suppression of air defense, and providing escort for fighters on bombing and reconnaissance missions.[18][verification needed] In the War in Somalia (2006-present), the EtAF used their Su-27s to deadly effect, bombing Islamist garrisons and patrolling the airspace. The Su-27 has replaced the aging Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 as Ethiopia's main air superiority fighter.[citation needed]


The Su-27 entered Angolan service in mid-2000 during the Angolan Civil War. It is reported that one Su-27 in the process of landing, was shot down by SA-14 MANPADs fired by UNITA forces on 19 November 2000.[15][19]


Four Indonesian Flanker type fighters including Su-27s participated for the first time in the annual Pitch Black exercise in Australia on 27 July 2012. Arriving at Darwin, Australia the Indonesian fighters two Su-27s and two Su-30s were escorted by two Australian No. 77 Squadron F/A-18 Hornets.[20] Exercise Pitch Black is a major multi-national biennial exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force, involving Offensive Counter Air and Offensive Air Support missions being flown at training ranges across the Northern Territory. Exercise Pitch Black 12 conducted from 27 July through 17 August 2012, and participated 2,200 personnel and up to 94 aircraft from Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand and the United States.[21]


Ukrainian Air Force Su-27UB in July 2011

During the post-Euromaidan Ukrainian crisis of 2014, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 was scrambled to intercept Russian fighter jets that violated Ukraine's airspace twice over the Black Sea on 3 March to prevent any possible "provocative actions".[22]



Initial T-10 prototype
Left side scheme of a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker B, first production series
Russian fighter Su-27K (later designated Su-33) on the deck of Admiral Kuznetsov

Post-Soviet era[edit]


All operators and former operators of the Su-27
People's Air and Air Defence Force of Angola – Seven Su-27s in service as of January 2013[26] Three were bought from Belarus in 1998. Received a total of eight.[27] One has reportedly been shot down on 19 November 2000 by an SA-14 MANPADS during the Angolan Civil War.[28]
 People's Republic of China
People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) – 59 Su-27 fighters, consisting of 33 Su-27SKs and 26 Su-27UBKs as of January 2013[26] The Flankers were produced under three separate contracts by the Russian KnAAPO and IAPO plants. Delivery of the aircraft began in February 1991 and finished by September 2009. The first contract was for 18 Su-27SK and 6 Su-27UBK aircraft. The deal, known as '906 Project' within China, saw the Su-27 exported to a foreign country for the first time. In February 1991, an Su-27 performed a flight demonstration at Beijing's Nanyuan Airport. The official induction to service with the PLAAF occurred shortly thereafter. Chinese Su-27 pilots described its performance as "outstanding" in all aspects and flight envelopes. Differences over the payment method delayed the signing of the second, identical contract. For the first batch, 70% of the payment had been made in barter transactions with light industrial goods and food. Russian Federation argued that future transactions should be made in US dollars. In May 1995, Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman, Liu Huaqing visited Russia and agreed to the term, on a condition that the production line of Su-27 be imported. The contract was signed the same year. Delivery of the final aircraft from the second batch, occurred in July 1996. In preparation for the expanding Su-27 fleet, the PLAAF sought to augment its trainer fleet. On December 3, 1999, a third contract was signed, this time for 28 Su-27UBKs. All 76 of the aircraft featured strengthened airframe and landing gear – result of the PLAAF demands that the fighter has a "usable" air-ground capability. As a result, the aircraft are capable of employing most of the conventional Air-to-Ground ordnance produced by Russia. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) increased to 33,000 kg (72,750 lb). As is common for Russian export fighters, the active jamming device was downgraded; Su-27's L005 ECM pod was replaced with the L203/L204 pod. Furthermore, there were slight avionics differences between the batches. The first batch had N001E radar, while the later aircraft had N001P radar, capable of engaging two targets at the same time. Additionally, ground radar and navigational systems were upgraded. The aircraft are not capable of deploying the R-77 "Adder" missile due to a downgraded fire control system,[29] except for the last batch of 28 Su-27UBKs.[30]
At the 2009 Farnborough Airshow, Alexander Fomin- Deputy Director of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Co-operation, confirmed the existence of an all-encompasing contract and an on-going licensed production of the Su-27 variant by the Chinese. The aircraft are being produced as the Shenyang J-11.[31]
Eritrean Air Force – 9 Su-27s in service as of January 2013.[26] It received about 8 Su-27SK/27UBs in 2003.[32]
Ethiopian Air Force – 12 Su-27s, including 8 Su-27SKs in use as of January 2013[26]
Indonesian Air Force (TNI - AU or Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara) – 5 Su-27SK/SKM fighters in service as of January 2013[26]
Military of Kazakhstan – 30 Su-27s as of December 2010.[33] It had another 12 on order.[32]
Russian Air Force – 359 Su-27 aircraft, including 225 Su-27s, 70 Su-27SMs, 12 Su-27SM3s, and 52 Su-27UBs in service as of January 2014.[34] A modernisation program began in 2004.[35][36][37] Half of the fleet has been modernized by 2012.[38] The Russian Air Force is currently receiving aircraft modernized to the SM3 standard.[39]
Russian Navy – 53 Su-27s in use as of January 2014[34]
Ukrainian Air Force – 70 Su-27s[40] It has 50 Su-27s in inventory as of January 2013.[26]
Military of Uzbekistan – 34 Su-27s in use as of January 2013[26]
Vietnam People's Air Force – 9 Su-27SKs and 3 Su-27UBKs in use as of January 2013[26]
 United States
Two Su-27s were delivered to the United States in 1995.[32][41] Two more were bought from Ukraine in 2009 by a private company, Pride Aircraft, to use for warbird exhibition. They are stored at an Air Force base in Delaware for Air Force evaluation.[42]

Former operators[edit]

Belarusian Air Force received 23-28 Su-27s from the former Soviet Union.[32] They had 22 in service as of December 2010.[33] Belarus had 17 Su-27P and 4 Su-27UBM1 aircraft remaining when they were retired in December 2012.[27][43]
 Soviet Union
Soviet Air Force and Soviet Anti-Air Defence.[44] Passed to successor nations in 1991, except for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Private ownership[edit]

According to the U.S. FAA there are 2 privately owned Su-27s in the U.S.[45] Two Su-27s from the Ukrainian Air Force were demilitarised and sold to Pride Aircraft of Rockford, Illinois, USA. Pride Aircraft modified some of the aircraft to their own desires by remarking all cockpit controls in English and replacing much of the Russian avionics suite with Garmin, Bendix/King, and Collins avionics. The aircraft were both sold to private owners for approximately $5 million each.[46]

On 30 August 2010, the Financial Times claimed that a Western private training support company ECA Program placed a US$1.5 billion order with Belorussian state arms dealer BelTechExport for 15 unarmed Su-27s (with an option on 18 more) to organize a dissimilar air combat training school in the former NATO airbase in Keflavik, Iceland with deliveries due by the end of 2012.[47][48] A September 2010 media report by RIA Novosti questioned the existence of the agreement.[49] No further developments on such a plan have been reported by 2014, while a plan for upgrading and putting the retired Belorussian Air Force Su-27 fleet back to service was reported in February 2014.[50]

See Sukhoi Su-30, Sukhoi Su-33, Sukhoi Su-34, and Sukhoi Su-35 for operators of Su-27 derivatives.

Notable accidents[edit]

Russian Knights paying tribute to Igor Tkachenko, leader of the group who died during practice a week earlier

Aircraft on display[edit]

Su-27 Red 27 at Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow

Specifications (Su-27SK)[edit]


Data from Gordon and Davison,[69] KNAAPO Su-27SKM page,[70] Sukhoi Su-27SK page[71]

General characteristics



Su-27S armament[edit]

Su-27SM armament[edit]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


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External links[edit]