We narrate the odyssey of the Su-37, an icon of the 20th-century arms race, which evolved in response to the mythical US F-15 Eagle.
Deployment of the Russian Colossus in the Aerial Arena
As the specter of the Cold War loomed over the globe, the need for air superiority had never been more vital. The Soviet Union answered the call of duty, forging the impressive Su-27 to take on the American F-14 Tomcat.
This quantum leap in aircraft design resulted in the creation of the Su-37, a war machine that loomed as an imminent threat in the skies. Born from the lineage of the Su-27 “Flanker,” the Su-37 “Terminator” was designed to test and improve advanced features and combat capabilities.
The T10M-11, a streamlined Su-27M, rolled off the production line in 1995 and was renamed the Su-37. It was intended to be a flying laboratory with a constellation of new systems and high-tech equipment on board.
Cutting Edge Upgrades: Unleashing the True Potential of the Su-37
Among the Su-37’s secret weapons was the N011M Bars radar, capable of tracking and fixing up to twenty targets simultaneously, outperforming the Su-27 with its old radar, which could only track fifteen. Pilots could interact with this sophisticated radar and enhanced avionics system through four full-color LCD multifunction displays, providing better visual representation even in bright sunlight.
The Su-37 also received a critical upgrade to propulsion, being fitted with thrust vectoring nozzles, improving the aircraft’s maneuverability at low speeds and extreme angles of attack.
Thrust Vectoring: Transforming the Rules of Air Combat
Although the Su-37 could not be fitted with a new, more powerful engine, it did benefit from the fitting of thrust vectoring nozzles capable of deflection up to fifteen degrees. This capability was evident in tests in which the aircraft displayed phenomenal aerial performance.
The world witnessed the prowess of this aerial “Terminator” at the Farnborough Air Show in 1996, where pilot Yevgeni Frolov performed the “Super Cobra” maneuver. This bold combat move allowed the Su-37 to go near vertical without gaining altitude, slowing its airspeed to zero and causing a pursuing aircraft to overshoot its position.
This astonishing aerobatics stunt left the spectators in awe, reaffirming the indomitable spirit of the Su-37.
The Aerial Gladiator Who Defied the Limits
In the years that followed, the Su-37 was displayed at numerous air shows and flown in tests, proving its superior capability time and time again. However, during one of these tests in 2002, it met its abrupt and tragic end.
The left horizontal stabilizer detached, causing a fatal accident. The probable cause was that the Su-37 had defied the limits of G-force on numerous occasions during its operational life.
The “Terminator” was not a flop; on the contrary, it was a powerful contender in the air combat arena that demonstrated the audacity of Russian engineering.