Sukhoi is expected to begin test flights in mid-1998 of a modified variant of its Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter intended for the Chinese air force.

Russian sources say that an Su-27 airframe produced by the Komsomolsk on Amur factory has been fitted with a variant of the Phazotron N-010 radar, dubbed the Zhuk-27. The aircraft is being prepared in Moscow. A first flight is expected by May.

The Zhuk-27 is being considered as an upgrade to the air force's basic Flanker radar, the N-001. The N-001 is designed to support semi-active radar guided missiles only such as the Vympel R-27R (AA-10 Alamo). The Zhuk-27, by comparison, is intended for use with the Vympel R-77 active radar guided missile, as well as being able to support the use of air to surface missiles such as the Zvezda Strela Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton).

The radar may become the eventual baseline for all of the Chinese air force's Flankers, being retrofitted to the service's existing fleet, as well as equipping the follow-on batch orders for single and two seat Su-27s. Some sources suggest that Israel's Elta may also be a potential contender to provide an improved radar capability for the Chinese air force's Su-27s.

China is also in the final stages of evaluating the Zhuk for its Shenyang F-8IIM Finback fighter programme. An F-8IIM prototype is being test flown with the radar, although the final programme go-ahead decision has slipped, from late last year until at least the middle of this year.

The F-8IIM is being designed to carry the PL-7 and PL-9 infra-red short range dogfight missile, as well as the R-27 semi-active radar- guided beyond visual range missile. Russian sources suggest that, if the project is given the full go-ahead, the aircraft would also carry the R-77, deliveries of which would begin in 2000. It is a matter of conjecture as to whether the Chinese air force is the intended primary customer for the F-8IIM, or whether it is intended for a specific export customer.

Source: Flight International