Thursday, August 9, 2007

FLANKERs In Imagery


The Su-27 (FLANKER) is one of the most famous aircraft to come out of Russia. The result of a Cold-War requirement for an aircraft capable of besting the latest fighter aircraft the West had to offer, Sukhoi's T-10S design represented the pinnacle of Russian aerodynamic achievement in the 20th Century. The Su-27 design eventually spawned numerous variants, including the carrier capable Su-27K (FLANKER-D) and the Su-34 (FULLBACK) strike aircraft.


Su-27s and their offspring are employed by various nations worldwide. This article will provide an overview of all FLANKER users with airframes visible in overhead imagery provided by Google Earth. This is in no way a representation of every Su-27 user, or an accurate representation of true inventories, but rather an analysis of available imagery. As such, known Su-27 operators such as Indonesia and Angola are not covered; this does not suggest that there has been an oversight on the part of the author, but rather that there are no visible Su-27 airframes in these nations.

There are currently 498 FLANKER-family airframes visible in the available imagery. They operate from 29 airbases in 10 nations. Each nation will be detailed in the following format:

NATION (total number of airframes visible)

-Location: (coordinates)
-Inventory: (number and type; this field will be repeated for different types visible at a given airfield)

(Imagery highlights; not a visible representation of every FLANKER, but rather interesting or unusual aircraft)

(Image of identified FLANKER bases where more than one location has been identified)

Su-27 family types will be identified using the following designators:

Su-27: denotes Su-27 or Su-27UB, or export versions thereof
Su-30K: denotes Indian Su-30K
Su-30KI: denotes Russian single-seat prototype
Su-30MKI: denotes Indian advanced fighter aircraft
Su-30MKK: denotes Chinese twin-seat strike fighter
Su-33: denotes Russian carrier-based Su-27 derivative
Su-34: denotes Russian strike derivative
Su-35: denotes Russian advanced fighter derivative
J-11: denotes Chinese kit-assembled Su-27SK or UBK
FLANKER: generic designator used to denote an Su-27 or derivative where imagery cannot determine the type; for example, KnAAPO-located Su-27s are denoted as FLANKER as they cannot be identified as Su-27 or Su-27SM aircraft when both types are known to operate at the location


Identifying individual types is a detailed process that involves both a knowledge of standard recognition features, and the inventory of the nation being examined. Most FLANKER variants cannot be specifically identified due to the resolution of the imagery available. There are, however, features that are visible that can aid in identifying certain specific types. These features are the configuration of the tail structure which extends aft between the engine nozzles, and the presence or lack of canard foreplanes.

The basic Su-27

A lineup of basic Su-27s can be seen below. Note the lack of canards, and the standard-length tail structure:

The Su-30 and Su-30MKI

Tandem twin-seat FLANKERs such as the Su-27UB and Su-30 are not able to be distinguished using the available imagery. In the case of India, however, all FLANKER-family aircraft are of the tandem twin-seat variety, being either Su-30K or Su-30MKI variants. The two types are distinguishable as the Su-30MKI features visible canard foreplanes.

The following image depicts four Su-30K and one Su-30MKI aircraft visible at Pune AB in India. The arcraft on the north end of the lineup is the Su-30MKI. Note how the starboard canard is visible, as well as its associated shadow on the runway, differentiating this aircraft from the others in the lineup. The white rectangular shapes which appear to cover the port sides of the aircraft are actually markings on the runway.

The Su-33

The Su-33 is identifiable thanks to its shorter tail structure and the presence of canards, as evidenced in the image below. The aircraft on the right is an Su-33, and is also displaying another characteristic of the aircraft which is sometimes visible in overhead imagery: folding wings to permit storage at sea. In contrast, the FLANKER on the left possesses the standard tail structure. Canards make the aircraft either an Su-30MKI or an Su-35, both of which have been trialled at Akhtubinsk where the image was taken.

The Su-34

The Su-34 is easily identifiable. While the altered forward fuselage and side-by-side cockpit layout is not discernable, the tail structure of greatly increased length is readily distinguishable, as can be seen in the following image of three Su-34s parked at Akhtubinsk:

RUSSIA (376)

Akhtubinsk Flight Test Center
-Location: 48°18'24.62"N 46°12'08.80"E
-Inventory: 18 FLANKER, 1 Su-33, 3 Su-34

The following image depicts the primary Sukhoi ramp at Akhtubinsk:

-Location: 61°53'11.51"N 34°09'21.87"E
-Inventory: 28 Su-27

-Location: 54°46'00.03"N 20°23'45.05"E
-Inventory: 24 Su-27

-Location: 69°05'41.83"N 32°24'04.19"E
-Inventory: 38 Su-27

-Location: 50°36'20.98"N 137°04'52.80"E
-Inventory: 64 FLANKER, 1 Su-30KI

The following image depicts the Su-30KI demonstrator at the KnAAPO facility:

-Location: 45°05'02.94"N 38°56'47.78"E
-Inventory: 18 Su-27

-Location: 44°57'52.14"N 38°00'05.46"E
-Inventory: 47 Su-27

-Location: 55°36'45.74"N 36°39'00.97"E
-Inventory: 15 Su-27, 5 Su-35

The following image depicts 6 Su-27 and 5 Su-35 aircraft in service with the "Russian Knights" aerial demonstration team, based at Kubinka AB:

The following image depicts a "Russian Knights" Su-27 in a probable maintenance area at Kubinka AB:

-Location: 46°32'20.71"N 39°33'04.87"E
-Inventory: 9 Su-27

Lodeynoye Pole
-Location: 60°42'33.90"N 33°34'03.08"E
-Inventory: 28 Su-27

-Location: 59°41'05.32"N 30°20'15.14"E
-Inventory: 24 Su-27

-Location: 68°52'04.55"N 33°43'06.85"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-33

The following image depicts the Su-33 parking apron at Severomorsk-3 AB:

Tsentralnaya Uglovaya
-Location: 43°20'56.01"N 132°03'33.89"E
-Inventory: 30 Su-27

-Location: 43°54'32.00"N 131°55'32.52"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-27

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in Western Russia:

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in Eastern Russia:

Su-27 airframes are also visible at the following locations inside Russia:

Central Armed Forces Museum
-Location: 55°47'05.76"N 37°37'06.94"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-27

Irkutsk Southeast
-Location: 52°16'16.68"N 104°20'52.98"E
-Inventory: 1 FLANKER

Khodynka Air Museum
-Location: 55°47'16.67"N 37°32'04.73"E
-Inventory: the T10-20 development aircraft


-Location: 53°05'44.11"N 26°02'51.49"E
-Inventory: 9 Su-27

CHINA (20)

-Location: 38°24'10.37"N 116°55'51.65"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-30MKK

Dingxin Flight Test Center
-Location: 40°23'58.08"N 99°47'34.81"E
-Inventory: 4 FLANKER

-Location: 21°23'46.28"N 110°11'56.66"E
-Inventory: 1 FLANKER

-Location: 31°23'26.43"N 118°24'35.19"E
-Inventory: 8 Su-30MKK

-Location: 40°44'20.77"N 114°55'52.56"E
-Inventory: 5 J-11

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in China:

An Su-27 airframe is also visible at the following location inside China:

Shenyang Aircraft Corporation
-Location: 41°52'11.65"N 123°26'21.81"E
-Inventory: 1 J-11


Asmara International Airport
-Location: 15°17'16.41"N 38°54'28.41"E
-Inventory: 2 Su-27


Debre Zeyt
-Location: 08°42'59.43"N 39°00'21.02"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-27

INDIA (19)

-Location: 28°25'22.37"N 79°26'56.73"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-30K

-Location: 18°34'55.66"N 73°55'22.05"E
-Inventory: 6 Su-30K, 3 Su-30MKI


-Location: 45°07'21.15"N 78°26'33.87"E
-Inventory: 22 Su-27


-Location: 50°09'30.22"N 28°44'24.34"E
-Inventory: 14 Su-27


-Location: 38°50'01.00"N 65°55'18.57"E
-Inventory: 25 Su-27


Bien Hoa
-Location: 10°58'31.85"N 106°49'08.29"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-27


-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth


Anonymous said...

Ever seen an sat image of a FLANKER in flight : )

Anonymous said...

India has 50+ SU-MKI operational and 20+ SU-30K are under upgradation to MKI standard.

Sean O'Connor said...

They do have more aircraft than the numbers I give you, but what I am giving you is the number currently visible in overhead imagery. Which is out of date, by the way; this article is being updated.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Wery good ivestigation of our forces. I live on Russia Far East, near closed military airfield over port Nakhodka. But s-300 still work. i make some photos of it.