Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

SUKHOI HAS BEGUN flight testing from the Zhukovsky flight-test centre, near Moscow, the first pre-production Su-27M (Su-35) Flanker variant equipped with thrust-vectoring nozzles.

The aircraft, Su-27 number 711, had five flights in April, apparently with the axisymmetric nozzles in a fixed configuration.

The Su-27M is fitted with modified Saturn Lyulka AL-31 engines, with the nozzles claimed to provide thrust vectoring in pitch and yaw. As the aircraft retains the traditional "tail sting" of the Flanker, yaw vectoring is likely to be limited because of the danger of exhaust-plume damage.

While other prototypes of the improved Su-35 have been used to test separate systems, aircraft 711 is believed to be the closest to the proposed production configuration.

The aircraft has a new multi-function radar, developed by the NIIP research institute, based in Zhukovsky. The radar is claimed to be able to operate in a compound air-to-air/air-to-surface mode, combining search and track of aerial targets with a simultaneous ground-mapping mode.

The navigation system, developed by RPKB of Ramenskoye, combines laser-gyro inertial sensors with the GLONASS satellite-navigation system. MNPK Avion-ika is responsible for the digital fly-by-wire flight-control system. The aircraft is also understood to be fitted with colour liquid-crystal cockpit displays.

The design bureau is financing the bulk of the development of the new fighter because the Russian air force does not have the funding available to support new and advanced programmes.

In an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia, Sukhoi general designer Mikhail Simonov says that part of the money is from export deliveries of Su-27s to China, 11 of which were completed in April, and Vietnam is being used to continue the development work.

While the first contract with China was paid for largely with the barter of consumer goods, Vietnam is reported to have paid $195 million for six Su-27s, mostly in hard cash.

The series-production plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur is claimed to have a limited amount of production work for the next five years. "We have passed through the bottom point of our crisis curve," claims Simonov.

As well as the thrust-vectoring Su-27M, the Yakovlev Yak-130 advanced trainer was flown for the first time in April.

Yakovlev is pitching the Yak-130 against MAPO-MiG's MiG-AT, which was flown for the first time six weeks earlier, for a Russian air force trainer requirement.

Source: Flight International