Top fighters jets in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia emerged in the 1980s as one of the world’s leading arms markets. 

While tensions in Southeast Asia remain low and are frequently mediated through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), many countries have made substantial defense investments, acquiring cutting-edge weapons from Russia and the United States.

Even though many nations, such as Brunei and the Philippines, have not made significant investments in their air forces, others, such as Vietnam and Singapore, have highly skilled air forces comprised of modern fighters with great endurance and a wide operational range.

According to Military Watch Magazine, the following are the five most dangerous combatants in Southeast Asia.

1. Su-30MKM and Su-30SM (Malaysia and Myanmar)

The Malaysian Air Force became the first force in the region to deploy ‘4+ generation’ fighters after receiving the first Su-30MKM heavy fighters in 2006. 

These were purchased to replace the US-supplied F-5E Tiger II jets. At the time, the Su-30MKM was one of Russia’s most advanced fighters.

It is based on the Su-30MKI, a Russian-made fighter jet delivered to India with a few avionics upgrades.

The Su-30MKI / MKM is a radical departure from the original designs of the Su-27 and Su-30 Flanker and benefits from features first introduced on the Su- prototypes.

Modern electronic warfare equipment and anti-aircraft missiles are standard on the Su-35 and Su-37, along with completely digital cockpit displays, electronically scanned radar, thrust vectoring engines, increased usage of composite materials, and more.

 The Su-MKM can surpass any Western fighter in durability and maneuverability. This design was later used as the basis for the development of the Su-30MKA for the Algerian Air Force and the Su-30SM for the Russian Air Force and Navy.

In the 2000s, the Su-30MKM was considered one of the most dangerous aircraft in the world, and 18 were delivered to the Malaysian military, offering significantly higher combat performance than all other weapons. Other countries combined. 

However, due to neglect in maintenance, Malaysia had to “struggle” to keep the Su-30MKM operational in the 2010s, a problem that fighters like the MiG-29 and F- Their 18 also face.

An improved version of the Su-30MKM, the Su-30SM, is also being ordered by the Myanmar Air Force. One of the main improvements on the Su-30SM is that it is equipped with superior avionics and, most importantly, the N011M Bars radar with an extended detection range of 400km. Not stopping there, the Su-30SM is also equipped with more modern R-37M and SAP-518 missiles.

2. F-15SG (Singapore)

F-15SG – Singapore

Contracts for purchasing 40 F-15SG fighter jets have made the Singapore Air Force the fifth F-15 Eagle export customer worldwide after Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.

 F-15SG is one of the special versions equipped with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. This provides superior combat capabilities as well as dealing with attack situations. 

The F-15 is considered the deadliest fighter aircraft used by Western air forces during the Cold War. The F-15SG is a durable fighter with a large sensor.

3. Su-30MK2/MK (Vietnam and Indonesia)

Su-30MK2/MK – Vietnam and Indonesia

Unlike the Su-30MKM/SM produced at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant, the Su-30MK2 was developed as part of a separate line of fighters at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant.

 The Su-30MK2 has a design quite similar to the Su-30MKK developed for the Chinese Air Force and Navy. The Su-30MK2 is optimized for the maritime strike role with modern avionics systems.

 The aircraft can perform well in intelligence, surveillance, targeting, and reconnaissance missions. Vietnam and Indonesia purchased Su-30MK2 with 35 and 9 units, respectively. 

The aircraft inherits the outstanding features of the Su-30, such as long-range, high flight performance, and powerful sensors.

 The Su-30MK2 is also equipped with several modern weapons, such as Kh-31 Mach 3 anti-ship missiles and R-77 air defense missiles.

4. Su-27SK (Vietnam and Indonesia)

Image Courtesy: Jetphotos.com

Considered one of the deadliest fighters of the Cold War, the Su-27 Flanker first entered service in 1985 and was designed to ” surpass” the F -15 Eagles of the US Air Force. 

The Su-27 was widely exported in the 1990s, currently being used by the Vietnamese and Indonesian air forces. 

In the mid-1990s, the Indonesian Air Force planned to become one of the world’s largest customers for the Su-27 Flanker, with plans to create a fleet of more than 100 Su-27s as tensions with Western powers over the conflict in East Timor were escalating. 

The limited defense budget, Western pressures, and the lack of a long-term acquisition plan have made it impossible for the Indonesian Air Force to carry out the plan.

Although still considered one of the most formidable fighters today, it is undeniable that the Su-27 is gradually becoming obsolete, especially the old 1990s variants that are being used in some Southeast Asian countries. 

Vietnam is currently planning to replace the Su-27 with the Su-57, a fighter receiving widespread attention in Southeast Asia.

5. MiG-29SE/SM (Myanmar)

MiG-29SE/SM (Myanmar)

The MiG-29 medium fighter jet is one of the most popular Russian exports in the field of combat aviation. Although highly regarded for its low operating costs and impressive flight performance, it is less popular in Southeast Asia due to its durability and low range. 

The MiG-29 was developed to “surpass” the American F-16 and F-18 fighters during the Cold War. MiG-29 is currently the “mainstay” of the Myanmar Air Force, with about 27 aircraft currently in service, of which 16 are modernized MiG-29SE and SM variants.

 The MiG-29SE and MiG-29SM were significantly superior to the Malaysian Air Force’s MiG-29N, benefiting from new computers and flight control systems. 

The MiG-29SE/SM is equipped with the L-203BE Gardeniya-1 electronic warfare system and has a larger weapon payload than the older variants. The MiG-29SE/SM is also equipped with the Phazotron N019M radar, which provides multi-mission capabilities that older MiG-29s do not. 

Despite being regarded as one of the most formidable fighters in Southeast Asia, Myanmar’s MiG-29 still performs worse than modern variants such as the MiG-29M or the Navy’s MiG-29K. Used by the Indian Army.