Su-37 Superagile Flanker
The new multirole all-weather superagile fighter Su-37 (registration number 711) with
full thrust vector control (TVC) represents a logical
step forward in the steady implementation by the
Sukhoi EDB of a development program of fourth
and fifth generation of tactical aircraft from the
basic Su-27 fighter for the Russian Air Force. As
announced by General Designer Mikhail Simonov,
the new fighter is related to "the fourth with two
pluses" generation. This is the latest, although far
from the last, Sukhoi's development.
The first flight of the Su-37 prototype was on April 2, 1996, with test pilot Yevgeny Frolov, Hero of Russia, at the controls.
This was followed five months later by a
demonstration flight of this aircraft at the
prestigious Farnborough '96 air show, where it
amazed the spectators with its maneuverability.
Introducing the new machine, Mikhail Simonov
emphasized that, unlike the American X-31, this
was no experimental specimen, but rather a
prototype of the series production aircraft. It has a
standard configuration of the Su-35 multirole fighter, can carry up to 14 air-to-air missiles and up to 8,000 kg of ordnance. The following features clearly set this aircraft apart from the others:
The Su-37's powerplant comprises two experimental TVC turbofans, type AL-31FU.
The engine was developed by the Lulka-Saturn company team, led by General Designer
Victor Chepkin, and is a derivative of the twin-shaft AL-31F turbofan installed on the
Su-27. It has a modular design, which allows for replacement of its nozzle, afterburner,
mixer, low-pressure (LP) turbine and compressor, and gearbox as part of its
post-warranty servicing. One can also repair or replace the blades of the first stage of
the LP compressor and all stages of the HP compressor. The axis-symmetric swivelling
nozzle is secured to the annular swivel and can be moved in the pitch plane with the aid
of two pairs of hydraulic jacks.
- capability to deliver a preemptive strike at any air target, including hard-to-detect
- exceptionally high performance;
- phenomenal agility;
- multichannel redundancy and algorithmic protection of all
information and aiming systems;
- ground target attack standoff range capability;
- terrain following and ground obstacle avoidance capability;
- automated group actions during attacks at air and ground targets;
- ability to counteract enemy ECM and optronic means;
- automation of all phases of flight and combat employment.
Depending on a maneuver to be performed, the nozzles can be deflected both
synchronously and differentially. The biggest problem with the implementation of the TVC
nozzle concept, that has still not be resolved by the Americans, was to provide the nozzle
reversal joint with a seal strong enough to prevent outblast of the gases with a
temperature of almost 2,000 oC and pressure of 5 to 7 kgf/cm2.
The AL-31F and AL-31FU engines are fully interchangeable; in other words, all the
derivatives of the Su-27 and the base aircraft may be powered by the AL-31FU engine.
As well as powering the Su-37 fighter, the AL-31FU engine will be first installed on the
Su-30MK multirole two-seater fighter.
The Su-37 uses the 'unstable integral triplane' layout, which, in combination with the
small specific load acting on the wing, high power-to-weight ratio, integral electrical
remote control system and powerplant TVC feature, ensures the aircraft superagility,
increased range of controlled flight and improved takeoff and landing characteristics.
The TVC feature incorporated into the aircraft flight control loop makes it possible to
minimize, when required, the flight speed and perform aerobatics at speeds nearing
zero without angle-of-attack limitations (hence superagility).
According to Mikhail Simonov, the aircraft has virtually no angle-of-attack limitations. It
can fly flatwise to the air stream, with its tail forward, i. e., with 90 and even 180 deg
angles of attack. It can locate targets with its radars and attack them with its weapons
from any position. This feature is extremely important for both air combat and the
evasion of enemy missile attacks.
Su-37 is furnished with the full range of onboard systems and
equipment, and is a prototype of the series production aircraft.
Its avionics equipment comprises an onboard multifunction jamproof forward-looking
phased-array radar that can track up to 15 targets at a time, provide target designation,
launch and guide several air-to-air missiles fitted with active, passive and IR homing
heads, and an optronic fire control and surveillance system. In addition, the onboard
avionics equipment is used for mapping, multichannel employment of guided weapons
and low altitude flight with avoidance of ground features.
The information and control facilities in the pilot's cockpit cover four wide liquid-crystal
displays of tactical and flight-navigation data, onboard system monitors and an operating
conditions control panel. Information from
individual systems may be presented on
any display selected by the pilot. One more
widescope indicator is installed on the windscreen.
The side short-travel control stick of the
aircraft, avionics control handle and
strain-gauging engine thrust controls, as
well as tactical situation, flight conditions
and systems monitors enable the pilot to
effectively control the aircraft, systems and
The Su-37 multifunction fighter can carry air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons at its 12
hardpoints. For air combat, the aircraft is fitted with R-73E short-range air-to-air IR homing
missiles and RVV-AE air-to-air missiles with active radar guidance.
To attack ground and water-surface targets, the Su-37 can carry IR and radar homing
In the opinion of leading western experts, the Su-37 fighter will stay unrivaled for many
years to come and take a deserving position on the world arms market.
The visual differences from basic Su-27(red marks) and predecessor -Su35(green marks):
- New radar with larger nose cone(1)
- Pitot tubes moved from nose cone to the fuselage, this reduces
- IR sight moved to right side of canopy(3)
- Refueling system is installed(4)
- inclined (30-deg) pilot ejection seat, new cockpit instruments, new contol-stick (5)
- Two-weel nose gear(6)
- Canard foreplanes(7)
- Larger tail-planes(8)
- Advanced differential thrust-vectoring engines AL-31FU(9)
- Number of armament docks is increased(10)