Russian air force seeks 24-36 Su-35 fighters

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The Russian air force has asked the nation's defence ministry to approve a "worthwhile order" for Sukhoi's new Su-35, service commander Gen Aleksandr Zelin revealed during the first official presentation of the type in Moscow on 7 July.

Zelin calls for sufficient aircraft to equip "at least two to three regiments", with this indicating interest in 24-36 examples of the new type. Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan says the Russian air force is being offered a special version of the aircraft optimised "for-inner-use", dubbed the Su-27SM2.

su-35
 © Aleksei Mikheyev

The air force is only seeking a limited number of Su-35s, despite its offering significantly greater combat effectiveness than the baseline Su-27. "We do not need new aircraft in quantities matching our Su-27 fleet, because the new types have multirole nature," says Zelin.

If approved, deliveries would take place in the 2009-12 timeframe, with the Su-35 to provide an interim solution until the availability of Russia's fifth-generation PAK FA fighter, which Zelin says is scheduled to fly next year and to become operational in 2013.

The air force commander also sees the Su-35 as a counter to the US Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22. "We have not seen the Raptor in action yet. What we have seen is how Raptor performs at flight displays. I render the Su-35 as not lagging behind in manoeuvrability," he says.

Sukhoi's lone Su-35 prototype had by earlier this month completed 22 flights since making its flight debut on 19 February.

Russia's air force meanwhile expects to receive its first Kazan Ansat training and Mil Mi-28N night attack helicopters later this year, and to field Yakovlev's Yak-130 advanced jet trainer from 2009, says Zelin. The defence ministry is also preparing a five-year contract with Sukhoi to equip two regiments with Su-34 bombers.