Russia’s sophisticated Su-30SM and Su-30SM2 fighter jets completed a series of training exercises over the Kaliningrad region last week, according to state news agency TASS. In these Baltic exercises, at least ten Russian aircraft conducted tactical exercises with bombing raids and missile strikes.

The press office of the Baltic Fleet issued a statement about the air exercises: “During the exercises, the pilots are trained to destroy columns of enemy military materiel, command posts, and accumulated personnel, military-industrial installations, adversary aircraft, forces airborne and amphibious assault weapons, and also to provide fire support to units of the Baltic Fleet corps.”

Moscow’s Su-30SM fighter fleet has been used in many of the country’s offensive operations in Ukraine over the past year, despite the generally dismal performance of the rest of the Russian military’s combat equipment.

A brief overview of the origins of the Su-30SM

The Su-30SM multi-role fighter was derived from the earlier Russian variant of the Su-30. The super-maneuverable twin-engine, initially developed in the Soviet Union by Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation, is a cornerstone of Russian air strategy. The Sukhoi-27 is the predecessor of the Su-30, a modern Russian fighter jet with a similar airframe.

Referred to as a “Flanker” by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Su-27 was specifically designed to counter the American-made fourth-generation fighters, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.

Although the Flanker housed significant capabilities and had a decent range, the Soviet Air Defense Forces were looking for a newer fighter that could circle the entire country without refueling. Eventually, the USSR Su-27PU met the range needs of the Air Force and was later renamed the Su-30 by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian Su-30SM2: A fighter worthy of respect?

The Su-30 performed well upon its entry into service in the mid to late 1990s, with the Russian Defense Ministry opting to order 60 variants of the Su-30SM in 2012. Two turbojet engines power the Su-30SM. Al-31FP by-ass and can reach a maximum flight speed of Mach 2.0.

The Su-30SM is an upgraded version of the Su-30F, boasting better radar, communications, and weaponry. The Su-30SM airframe is made of high-strength titanium and aluminum alloys. Air Force Technology says, “the Sukhoi Su-30SM is equipped with friend-foe identification equipment, a global positioning system, and an inertial navigation system. 

The open architecture design allows for the integration of modern avionics, including a new radar, radio and reconnaissance system, and other support systems.”

Moscow has deployed Su-30SM fighters to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s armed forces have teamed up with Su-30SM and Su-35 jets for patrols and other missions. The Bulgarian military website cited experts as saying the Su-30SMs were employed to shield Russian bombers in Ukraine.

 Su-30SM pilots grab Ukrainian attention while “high-flying bombers can carry out bombing runs.” Last year, the Russian military took delivery of its first batch of Su-30SM2 heavy fighters, the latest variant of the Su-30 family.

Russian Su-30MK series fighters have been exported all over the world. The Armenian Air Force, Indian Air Force, People’s Liberation Army Air Force, and several other nations possess advanced platform derivatives. As the invasion drags on, Moscow will continue to use its Su-30Sm fighters to help its war efforts against Ukraine.