I’ve commented on the Su-30 Flanker family a few times. I’ve written about how many Flankers Russia and China have, and which variants these Flankers represent. I shall, however, add a few words about the Flanker family, because some people wrongly believe that an Su-27 is the same as an Su-30. It is not.
The Su-27 variant of the Su-30 family was developed during the 1980s and is a decent type matching American F-15s and F-16s, as well as French Rafale planes. Several CIS states have Su-27s – for example, Russia has 449 such fighterplanes. Su-27s have also been exported to various countries (e.g. China has 76 such planes). The Su-27 variant has received the NATO reporting name “Flanker”.
The second Su-27 variant is the J-11 variant (also called “Flanker” by NATO). China bought a license from Russia to produce 200 J-11 fighterplanes (which are almost identical to Su-27s, hence NATO uses the same reporting name for them).
The third variant is the Su-30 variant. The Chinese AF has 76 such planes, the Chinese Navy has 24 aircraft of this typevariant, and the Russian AF has 64 Su-30s, and is scheduled to receive 19 additional Su-30 Flankers this year. Venezuela has 24 Su-30s. The NATO reporting name of this variant is Flanker-C. The USAF has admitted that its F-15s (not to mention its F-16s) are decisively inferior to Su-30s by many measures. The AF Association also judged F-15s as inferior to Su-30s by most measures.
For India, the first Su-30 export customer, Russia produced Su-30MKI jets, which NATO calls “Flanker-H jets”.
The “Flanker-D” variant is the Su-33 variant, which is a navalized version of the Su-30 type. It can operate from Russian aircraft carriers like the Kuznetsov, which features a skijump. It’s used by the Russian Navy, which has no fewer than 24 such jets.
The “Flanker-E” variant is the Su-35 variant, which is a 21st century Su-30 variant, significantly modernized. It was not introduced to the RuAF (VVS) until the 2000s, and the RuAF had 12 such jets as of 2008.
There is another Flanker variant which is related to the Su-35 variant, the Su-35BM variant (which doesn’t have a NATO reporting name yet). Although some people believe that an Su-35BM is the same as an Su-35, it is not. It’s a significantly better plane than an Su-35; the difference is about more than just 2 letters. An Su-35BM is a Generation #4++ fighterplane, a plane as good as an F-35, a good challenger for F-22s. A non-BM Su-35 is a Generation #4+ fighterplane. The prices reflect these facts: an SU-35BM costs $65 mn, while an Su-35 costs $45 mn.
Another SU-30 variant is the SU-34 variant, which is also a 21st century variant. The Russians began producing it in 2007, and it’s scheduled to join the Russian arsenal in 2010. It’s a modern fighterplane-bomber fleet superior to its American functional counterpart, the F-15E variant. It’s designed to replace SU-24s. The Russian military had 415 such planes as of 2008. Now, it’s retiring them.
And the last Su-30 variant is the Su-37 variant, an experimental version.