Mikhail Petrovich Simonov, designer of the iconic Su-27 Flanker, realized after the 1977 first flight that the T-10 prototype was a dog, a fact he explained to the aviation minister in Moscow.
“‘It’s a good thing, Petrovich, that today is not 1937,” the minister replied.
That is one of the incredible anecdotes sprinkled throughout a Simonov feature published today in the London Telegraph. The article is a must read for anyone even slightly curious about aviation history. For example, we learn the lead designer’s delightfully Russian reaction to Simonov’s proposed solution to the T-10′s problem, which involved moving a belly storage compartment onto the top of the fuselage.
“‘Why don’t you, Mikhail Petrovich, go to your wife,” the designer shouted, “and ask her to move her breasts onto her back?! We’ll see how useful she will be then!’”
But the best — and most newsy — part of the feature is about Simonov’s views about the F-15′s performance compared to the Su-27. Simonov is obviously biased, but he makes some interesting points. Simonov described what he believes happened when Russian Su-27s and American F-15s ‘fought’ during a 1990s exercise.
“The F-15 constantly needed to make a kind of a “step” – fly along a straight line for a certain period of time. The Russian pilots took advantage of that – they persuaded the Americans to go upward, at which point they lost speed, and the Sus, having made a sharp turn, found themselves on the tail of the enemy. A moment later and the target was “destroyed”.”
Simonov also revealed what he thinks about the Indian’s Su-30MKI’s recent run-ins with American fighters.
Thus, when the Americans learnt that India had acquired the more advanced Su-30s, they decided to pay them a visit. In their exercises they decided to use the improved F-15. The result of the meeting was 6:4 in favour of the Su-30. However, instead of the Su-30MKI, the Indians used the ordinary training Su-30, a machine without the new radar or thrust vector control. The next time Americans arrived in India, they brought the improved F-16.
“This fighter jet is smaller and lighter than our Su-30,” says Simonov. “Thus, logically, it ought to be more manoeuvrable and win in close combat. But everything was exactly the opposite. Su-30MKIs were used. The defeat was unquestionable.”