A Russian-made Su-30 fighter jet crashed in mountainous northern Venezuela while training on the eve of the country’s independence day. A pilot died in the accident.
“I regret to inform you that during the practice maneuvers (…) an aircraft of our Bolivarian Military Aviation crashed to the ground, causing the loss of the pilot, Colonel Paulino José Millán Sabino,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro wrote on Twitter. The two crew members of the aircraft managed to eject, but one of the pilots died after hitting the ground.
The Su-30MK2 jet was one of 24 air superiority fighters that Venezuela, under the presidency of Hugo Chávez, had bought from Russia. President Chávez had undertaken a series of military modernizations as oil prices helped the country’s rentier economy.
The absence of Western economic sanctions also helped. Venezuela has been an important ally of Russia, Iran, China and Turkey. It signed a series of defense agreements with Russia between 1999-2013.
Chávez had acquired the 24 Sukhois to replace the country’s French Dassault Mirages. In September 2015, the two crew members of a Sukhoi-30 died when the aircraft crashed while trying to intercept an “illegal aircraft” in the southeastern state of Apure, on the border with Colombia.
Two other military pilots died in October 2019 when another Sukhoi-30 crashed.
The Su-30s are among the most powerful aircraft outside the US military. In Latin America, these Su-30s are among the best-equipped fighters in terms of range, payload, and sensor allocation. The fighters are equipped with R-77 active, radar-guided, long-range, air-to-air missiles, longer-range R-27ER and Kh-31 cruise missiles.
The Su-30 derives from the same airframe as the Su-35. Although less capable than its successor, the Su-35, it is one of Russia’s most cost-effective aircraft.
The Su-30 continues to outperform all rival Western fourth-generation platforms despite being manufactured at a fraction of the cost.
When US President Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela in 2018, experts were quick to point out that the US has yet to wage war against a country with fourth-generation Russian jets in its fleet.
Su-30MK series fighters are in service with the Algerian, Angola, Armenian, Belarusian, Indian (IAF), Indonesian, Kazakhstan Air Forces, the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Ugandan Air Force, Venezuelan Air Force and Vietnam People’s Air Force.
When Venezuelan Su-30s “aggressively followed” a US spy plane
The Su-30s have formed the backbone of the Venezuelan Air Force. Furthermore, the country spared no muscle when tensions rose between the US and Venezuela during the presidency of Donald Trump.
A Venezuelan Sukhoi fighter “aggressively followed” a US EP-3 spy plane flying in international airspace over the Caribbean.
The accusations flew when the United States accused Venezuela of violating its airspace. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused the US plane of entering his airspace.
In a statement, US authorities said the EP-3 aircraft was on a multi-country approved mission when the Venezuelan SU-30 fighter closely followed the plane, which the US said endangered its crew. “The EP-3 aircraft was adhering to international standards and regulations,” the US Southern Command said in a statement.
The Trump administration had thrown its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó and has been accused of trying to overthrow Maduro, whom they accuse of leading the country into a historic crisis. Countries like Cuba, China and Russia support the socialist leader. Following the incident, the US condemned Russia for “irresponsible military support of the illegitimate Maduro regime” and adding to Maduro’s “growing legacy of reckless and negligent behavior.”
By contrast, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López claimed that the US plane had entered Venezuelan airspace without prior notification, violating international standards. The fighter escorted the aircraft out of the region by identifying it as a US electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.
Super Sukhois Su-30SM2 with Su-35 capabilities
Following the success of its Su-30 “Flanker,” Russia has developed a new variant of this aircraft called the Su-30SM with improved capabilities. The aircraft has been further improved, with the Russian Armed Forces receiving its first Super Sukhois batch in November 2022. The United Aircraft Corporation’s Irkutsk Aviation Plant has manufactured the aircraft.
The Super Sukhoi is said to have an improved complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment. The improvements are aimed at detecting and identifying aerial targets from greater distances. The plane has new engines, radars and smart weapons.
The Su-30SM fighter was designed according to the requirements of the Russian Air Force and made its maiden flight in September 2012. The multi-role Su-30SM can be deployed in anti-aircraft, counter land and sea attack missions.
It can carry out early warning and electronic countermeasure tasks. The aircraft also acts as a command and control platform within a fleet of fighter jets conducting joint missions. Russia plans to replace its Su-24 fleet with Su-30SM fighters.
As noted on the Rosoboronexport website, the Su-30SM can effectively overcome air defense systems and has high combat power due to the large mass of the delivered combat load, which reaches eight tons.
As EurAsian Times previously reported, the decision to develop the Su-30SM2 arose from the need to incorporate the lessons the Russian Air Force learned during its air campaign in Syria. The new variant aims to integrate the capabilities of the Su-30 with those of the Su-35.
The initial batch of Su-30SM2 aircraft being delivered to the RuMoD does not feature the AL-41F-1S engines. According to Interfax sources, deliveries of Su-30SM2 with AL-41F-1S engines could start no earlier than the end of 2023. Flight tests of the modified Su-30SM with the AL-41F-1S engine are expected to conclude in December. of 2023.
The Su-30SM2 will be able to use the full spectrum of modern and promising high-precision air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, including KAB-250 bomb glides and X-59MK2 air-to-surface missiles.