By Bijan Razzaghi
The Su-30SME has seen a major increase in export sales in 2018 with 6 aircraft being sold to Myanmar, 12 being sold to Belarus, 14 to Algeria and 26 to Kazakhstan. The rise in export sales reflect the aircrafts popularity with Air Forces that do not operate western platforms as well as those that are barred from purchasing western military equipment due to arms embargoes. The sales also reflect how the aircrafts capabilities match the cost with an estimated unit cost between $35-$40 million. The distinct difference between the Su-30SM and Su-30MK2 developed in the 1990s is 3D thrust vectoring engines, frontel canards and the N011M Bars planar phased array radar with a detection range of 215 nmi (400 km).
The Su-30SM boast air to air air, air to ground, anti ship and SEAD capabilities. The air air capabilities provide the aircraft with the ability to conduct interceptor and air superiority missions due to the aircrafts long range of 1,860 nmi (3,000 km) and payload of 12 hardpoints which can include the long range AA-12 adder active radar guided air to air missile and short range AA-11 archer inferred air to air missile. This range and payload can also be useful for the wide range of air to surface operations. The Su-30SM can employ the Kh-35 Anti Ship missile, Kh-25 and 29 air to ground and anti radar missiles along with an assortment of Kab series bombs both guided and unguided.
Air Forces that wish to purchase a single aircraft that can fulfill a variety of mission types are likely to choose the Su-30SME. NATO analyst view the aircraft as the primary threat aircraft of today along with the single seat SU-35. Russia is likely to continue selling the SU-30SME into 2019. The older Su-30MK2 also remains on the market as well yet has not seen the level of interest that the Su-30SME has.
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