The Su-37 Terminator : The ferocious Soviet beast


In the maelstrom of the Cold War, where the superpowers battled for domination of the skies, a steel beast emerged, a fighting machine as lethal as it was elegant: the Su-37 “Terminator.” 

This imposing Russian fighter rose like a titan among its equals, pushing the limits of technology and maneuverability and leaving an indelible mark on military aviation history.

Clash of the Titans in the Arms RaceIn the turbulent setting of the 20th century, as if it were a duel between two monstrous creatures, the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union led to amazing advances in combat aviation. Like a hungry eagle, the USSR developed the Mig-25, leading the United States to sharpen the talons of its F-15 Eagle in response.

The appearance of the American F-14 Tomcat, a fierce machine taking to the skies, challenged the Soviets to design the Su-27 to match its power. The fight between these steel beasts forged an unprecedented technological advance, giving rise to the fearsome Su-37 “Terminator.”


The birth of the Terminator

Born from the Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” lineage, the Su-37 “Terminator” was established to improve its predecessor’s capabilities. Entering service in 1985, this ferocious air hunter evolved into a variety of versions, much like a combat chameleon, adapting to multiple capabilities and roles.

In 1995, the eleventh Su-27M, an improved and deadlier version, was renamed the Su-37 and handed over to the designers to undergo tests with a myriad of new systems and equipment, much like an experiment in genetic engineering applied to a flying beast.

Radar and Avionics: Eyes of the Predator

Although initial tests focused on the new radar systems, these proved to be incredibly efficient. The N011M Bars radar, like a hawk’s eye, could detect and track up to twenty targets, outperforming the Su-27’s radar which could only track fifteen. Pilots communicated with this radar and upgraded avionics through four multi-function, full-color LCD screens, giving them a clear view even in bright sunlight.

Thrust Vector Nozzles: Dragon’s Wings

The most significant improvement on the Su-37 was undoubtedly the addition of thrust vectoring nozzles to the engine. Like a dragon spreading its wings, this innovation allowed the pilot or aircraft to change the direction of the thrust produced by the engine through moving nozzles, giving them unprecedented maneuverability.

The Su-37 demonstrated its prowess at the Farnborough Air Show in 1996, wowing spectators with the Super Cobra maneuver.

The Super Cobra Demonstration: The Warrior Dance

This maneuver, executed by the Russian pilot Yevgeni Frolov, brought the plane to the vertical without gaining altitude and reduced its airspeed to almost zero, causing a pursuing plane to pass its position. 

The Super Cobra was a variation on Pugachev’s Cobra, but Frolov took it beyond belief: he pushed the nose up, held position momentarily, then allowed the plane to level again in a movement as agile as a cat in the full hunt.

The Su-37 Legacy: An Aviation Icon

For five years, the Su-37 “Terminator” continued to prove its capabilities in multiple air shows and test flights, like a gladiator facing challenges time and time again. However, the ultimate fate of this majestic steel beast would be tragic. On a test flight in 2002, the left horizontal stabilizer broke, probably because the plane had exceeded g-force limits several times in its life. The Su-37 crashed, marking the end of its era.

The Su-37 “Terminator”: A technological leap or a failure?

Despite its tragic end, the Su-37 “Terminator” left an indelible legacy in the history of combat aviation. Like a lion leading its pack, this imposing hunter from the sky represented a technological leap that opened the doors to future innovations in combat aircraft maneuverability and control. The Su-37 may have known failure on its last flight, but its warrior spirit and technological achievements will live on in the memories of those who were privileged to witness its majestic flight.