Russia uses Su-35 and Su-30SM fighters “in sync” to bait Ukrainian warplanes and destroy hardened ground targets

Russia effectively uses its Su-35S and Su-30SM fighters operating in sync as a set of two aircraft to strike Ukrainian ground targets and simultaneously degrade Ukrainian air defense systems.

On November 6, 2022, Izvestia reported that the crew of Russian multipurpose fighters, Su-30SM and Su-35S, identified and destroyed a Ukrainian military aircraft.

Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) images accompanying the Izvestia report show a Su-35S armed with 2 RVV-MD short-range missiles, 2 RVV-SD medium-range missiles and 2 Kh-31P anti-radiation missiles (ARM )-up and a take-off.

Next, the sequence shows the view from the fighter’s cockpit at high altitude. You see the launch of a long-range air-to-air missile through the pilot’s heads-up display. A few seconds after the launch of the missile, the Su-35S interrupts the attack to the left.

Screenshot of the Su-35S carrying the Kh-31P on the right inner pylon

Next, the video shows a grounded Su-30SM taxiing on the ground and then taking off. The fighter carries an air-to-air missile weapon load similar to the Su-35S – 2 RVV-SD and 2 RVV-MD.

Instead of the 2 ARM Kh-31P carried by the Su-35S, the Su-30SM carries 2 air-to-surface missiles (ASM) Kh-29. Cockpit view images show the Su-30SM operating at low altitude before landing at the base.

About a week ago, the RuMoD released similar video footage claiming that a pack of Su-35S and Su-30SM shot down a Ukrainian fighter which was later identified as a Su-24.

On both occasions, the Su-35S fighter was armed with RVV-MD and RVV-SD air-to-air missiles and Kh-31P anti-radiation missiles. The Su-30SM, with similar air-to-air missiles but Kh-29 ASMs instead of Kh-31P ARMs.

File Image: Su-30SM

The Kh-31P is designed to destroy radars of medium and long range SAM systems, air operations control radars and early warning radars. It has a passive radar guidance system capable of operating in a wide frequency band.

The Kh-29 is optimized for attacking visually observed hardened ground targets, such as large railroad and highway bridges, industrial facilities, concrete runways, aircraft in reinforced concrete shelters, and hardened defensive positions.

There are two variants of the Kh-29 missile – Kh-29L and Kh-29TE. The Kh-29TE missile is equipped with a passive TV guidance system and the Kh-29L with a semi-active laser guidance system using reflected laser illumination.

Tactical

When operating as a two-aircraft set, the Su-30SM functions as a ground-attack fighter and the Su-35S as an air-dominant fighter providing superior cover to the Su-30SM.

The Su-35S stays high and uses its powerful N135 Irbis-E radar to ensure that the airspace in the area of ​​operation is free from enemy air threats.

In July 2022, TASS reported, citing a Rosoboronexport official, that the Su-35 is capable of coordinating the actions of other aircraft in the air, performing the functions of an airborne early warning and control aircraft (AWACS ).

In normal trajectory in scanning mode, the Irbis-3 radar can scan 120 degrees to each side and detect targets of 3 m² at a distance of 200 km.

With the Su-35S providing superior cover, the Su-30SM descends to lower heights to visually acquire its target, destroy it, and attack it using ASM Kh-29s.

As EurAsian Times previously reported, there are two variants of the Kh-29 missile – Kh-29L and Kh-29TE. The Kh-29TE missile is equipped with a passive TV guidance system and the Kh-29L with a semi-active laser guidance system using reflected laser illumination.

The missiles are armed with a high-explosive penetrating warhead and impact target sensor. They are powered by a single-mode solid-fuel rocket engine.

TV guidance and semi-active laser guidance give the missile extreme precision. Rocket propulsion gives the missile a lot of momentum, aiding in destruction and penetration.

The Kh-29’s optical seeker can be locked onto the target before release. Once locked, the optical finder maintains the lock even during maneuvers. That is, the plane can change speed, descend or climb 1000 m, and deviate 30 degrees – this will not affect the accuracy of the hit.

While providing protective cover, if the sensors on board the Su-35S detect a radar emission, the fighter attacks the radar using its Kh-31P missiles.

If it detects a likely airborne threat, as reportedly happened in the two incidents reported by the Russian Defense Ministry, the Su-35S positively identifies the threat and, if confirmed as hostile, shoots it down. using long-range air-to-air missiles.

Besides the medium-range RVV-SD, the Su-35S was also spotted carrying the much larger long-range RVV-BD missile on its underbelly pylon between the air intakes. The RVV-BD has a range of 300 km.

  • Vijainder K Thakur is a retired IAF Jaguar driver. He is also an author, software architect, entrepreneur and military analyst. PERSONAL VIEWS
  • Contact the author at vkthakur(at)gmail.com