The star of this year's Le Bourget air show is undoubtedly set to be Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E, which is making its Paris debut. It is the first Russian-built fighter to appear at the Paris air show since the 1999 crash of an older-model Flanker.
Even before the show formally started, the powerful twin-engined fighter demonstrated a spectacular routine showcasing the manoeuverability afforded by its multi-axis thrust-vectoring Saturn 117S 14,500Kg (31,900lb) afterburning engines.
During a 12-minute routine the Su-35 performed a series of seemingly impossible manoeuvres that demonstrated remarkable low-speed handling characteristics. During one particular sequence, the Flanker appeared to hover before lowering its nose and accelerating smoothly away.
Maneuverability is not the only thing the Su-35 offers. The jet has enormous range and payload. The Flanker-E has a range of 3,600km (1,940nm) - more with external tanks and inflight refueling - and can carry 8,000kg (17,600lb) on 12 hard points. The jet, which is entering service with the Russian air force, also sports some of Moscow's most advanced avionics.
The radar is a Tikhomirov NIIP Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array set, but in future the aircraft is likely to be equipped with a true active electronically scanned array radar. The current radar can track up to 30 aerial targets and engage eight simultaneously. The Flanker-E is also equipped with an OLS-35 infrared search and track system and a Khibiny-M electronic warfare suite.
One mystery is how well the jet's avionics have been integrated compared to Western-types. While the Su-35's cockpit appears to include advanced displays, historically sensors and cockpit ergonomics have been weak spots for Russian aircraft.
Nonetheless, the Su-35's sheer kinematic performance, combined with its potent array of sensors and air-to-air missiles, which include the Vympel R-77 and R-73, will make it a formidable adversary for all but the most advanced western fighters. Additionally, the Su-35 can carry an array of advanced air-to-surface weapons.
Perhaps what is most important about the Su-35 is not that it is the ultimate incarnation of the original Su-27 Flanker that first appeared in the late 1970s, but that many of its systems are being used to mature technologies for the Russia's next-generation T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter.
Check out the latest news and views from this year's Paris air show, including:
- Latest news and blog headlines
- Images from the aerial displays
- Video highlights from the show
- Latest #PAS13 chat on our Twitter page
Finally, our new-look iFDN editions will contain exclusive footage from Paris 2013. Find out more
Source: Flight Daily News