New Su-30SM2: Will it be better than the Rafale?

  • Aishwarya Rakesh
  • Monday, September 21, 2020 @ 04:52 PM
  • 76115
New Su-30SM2: Will it be better than the Rafale?

Su-35 jet

Among the most popular Russian jets is the Sukhoi Su-30SM, which has regularly been improved upon to up its lethality, firepower and overall performance. Now, perhaps in its most ambitious upgrade, the aircraft will transition to its Su-30SM2 version - which includes an engine and radar borrowed from the top of the line Russian jet- the Su-35 besides all new avionics and fire control system.

The first flight of the Su-30SM2 also called “Super-Sukhoi” is scheduled for the end of 2020. After successful qualification, all current generation Su-30SM will be upgrade to the SM2 version. The Su-30SM2 is intended to breathe new life into the hundreds of Su-30 sold to international customers such as India, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Algeria.

The SM2 is expected to knock on the doors of potential customers considering 4++ generation jets such as the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and F-16. Of particular interest are countries which already have Su-30s in their inventory and are considering the Rafale to leapfrog their air force’s capabilities.

Does the Su-30SM2 have enough features to make countries veer away from the leading French jets and put their money in an upgraded Russian aircraft?

Pricing: Su-30SM2 Vs Rafale

The Su-30SM2 is derived from Su-30SM and Su-35. The advanced Su-35 Flanker-E, costs around $85 million per unit.

In August 2020, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to buy 21 4++ generation Su-30SM2 jets and 25 YAK-130 advanced jet trainers for RUB 100 billion or $1.33 billion. Without weapons, training and support packages, a single unit of the YAK-130 comes with a price tag of $15 million. Doing the math, 25 YAK-130s would add up to $375 million, which means the modernized Su-30SM2 costs around $44 million apiece!

Flyaway Rafale jets sans firepower and weaponry meanwhile cost $81 million per unit for Air Force single-seat C- variant, $87.6 million for Air Force two-seat B- variant and $93.6 million for Navy M- variant. Industry experts cited by Economic Times in 2018 put the price of a French Air Force Rafale to between $200-250 million. This includes maintenance, training of pilots and technicians, armaments and spares.

Sukhoi Specifications

The Su-30SM is a generation 4++ serial-produced and upgraded two-seat super-maneuverable fighter jet. It is furnished with two AL-31FP thrust-vectoring reheated double-flow turbofan engines. The fighter has an operating range of 1,500 km and a flight endurance of 3.5 hours without refueling.

New Su-30SM2: Will it be better than the Rafale?
Rafale fighter

While not much is known about the specifics of the Su-30SM2 over the base Su-30SM, some hints of what is coming were provided in early 2019. “The Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet will be standardized with the Su-35 by upgrading its onboard equipment and armament to cut its cost price and breathe a new life into the plane,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told journalists in February 2019.

Initially, it was planned to strengthen Su-30SM’s armament and change the composition of the avionics. The aircraft received the designation Su-30SM1. Soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2018 order to unify Su-30SM and Su-35S, manufacturer Sukhoi began drawing best features of both jets to build the Super-Sukhoi or the Su-30SM2. The Su-35S’s powerful AL-41F-1S engine and N035 Irbis-E radar was chosen over Su-30SM’s AL-31 and N011M BARS radar.

The Su-35S lists a top speed of Mach 2.25 at altitude, roughly 1,500 miles per hour and range, on internal fuel, is out to 1,900 nautical miles while Su-35S can ferry out to 2,400 nautical miles. The Su-35S will have the capability to operate at service ceilings of 60,000 feet and sport a 55,100 feet-per-minute climb rate.

In future, Russia plans to upgrade its Su-30 fleet to the SM2 standard.

Engine and Radar

The Su-30SM2 will be equipped by an Irbis-E Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar Designed by the Tikhomirov NIIP, an evolution of the BARS multimode radars currently installed in the Su-30SM jet. The radar is cited at an average power rating of 5 kilowatts, with 2 kilowatts CW rating for illumination. The NIIP claim twice the bandwidth and improved frequency agility over the BARS, and better electronic counter-countermeasures capability.

As part of  the “Super Sukhoi”  upgrade, the Su-30SM  would get the AL-41F-1S (also known as article 117S) thrust-vectoring engines that propel the newer Su-35 jets. Current generation Su-30SM and their variants such as the SU-30MKI (India), Su-30MKM (Malaysia) are equipped with the AL-31F engine or its variants which provide a maximum thrust of 12,500 kgf.

A single Su-35’s engine provides 14,500kgf or 16% more thrust than the Su-30SM engine. The service life of the engine is also doubled, up to 4 thousand hours, without increasing the mass and dimensions. Equipped with a plasma ignition system, the AL-41F-1S is more economical than the AL-31FP, which is currently installed on the Su-30 series of aircraft. With the same amount of fuel, the fighter can stay in the air longer.

The increased power is needed not only to create a reserve of traction. Increased power is necessary to equip the jet with energy-intensive onboard equipment such as electronic warfare system and a radar with better target-detection range.

According to the engine developer, the new engine will simplify and reduce the cost of servicing and extend the service life of the Su-30SM already purchased by Russia and its allies.


The Su-30SM2 is expected to receive Su-35’s avionics suite. According to Sukhoi, it is based on open architecture using multiplex data exchange links and includes: an information management system, sighting/navigation/control radar system, an optical locating station, as well as communications, monitoring, recording and EW equipment. The aircraft’s radar can detect air targets with RCS = 3 m² at a distance of 350 km.

The Su-35’s flight controls are highly ergonomic, the company claims, adding that widescreen color displays coupled with a helmet-mounted targeting system provides convenient perception of information.

The aircraft features an integrated in-flight refueling probe, provision for ECM (Electronic CounterMeasure) pods, upgraded and more powerful engines, larger wing surface areas and a forward and rear-facing Phazotron radar system capable of simultaneous tracking of 24 targets up to 62 miles (100km) away over uneven terrain. An additional auxiliary internal reserve fuel tank has been added as well to bring about the required operational range. The cockpit sports an updated color CRT display as well as HUD (Head-Up Display) along with digital fly-by-wire (FBW) capability with quadruple redundancy - the onboard computers able to to find four different ways to achieve the desired flight control action.

New Su-30SM2: Will it be better than the Rafale?

Rafale Specifications

Marketed as a omnirole jet by developer Dassault Aviation, the Rafale is a jet intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. Dassault combined a delta wing with active close-coupled canard to maximize manoeuvrability.

The Rafale is an aerodynamically unstable aircraft and uses digital fly-by-wire flight controls to artificially enforce and maintain stability. The aircraft's canards also act to reduce the minimum landing speed to 213 km/h; while in flight, airspeeds as low as 28 km/h; have been observed during training missions. According to simulations by Dassault, the Rafale has sufficient low speed performance to operate from STOBAR-configured aircraft carriers, and can take off using a ski-jump with no modifications.


The Rafale is fitted with two Snecma M88 engines, each capable of providing up to 5100kg of dry thrust and 7700kgf with afterburners. The engines feature several advances, including a non-polluting combustion chamber, single-crystal turbine blades, powder metallurgy disks, and technology to reduce radar and infrared signatures. The M88 enables the Rafale to supercruise while carrying four missiles and one belly drop tank.


The RBE2-AA is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar built by Thales. The RBE2 AA is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding RBE2 radar passive electronically scanned multi-mode radar that Rafale was fitted with initially.


The Rafale core avionics systems employ an integrated modular avionics (IMA), called MDPU (modular data processing unit). This architecture hosts all the main aircraft functions such as the flight management system, data fusion, fire control, and the man-machine interface. The total value of the radar, electronic communications and self-protection equipment is about 30% of the cost of the entire aircraft.

The aircraft features an integrated defensive-aids system named SPECTRA, which protects the aircraft against airborne and ground threats. Various methods of detection, jamming, and decoying have been incorporated, and the system has been designed to be highly reprogrammable for addressing new threats and incorporating additional sub-systems in the future.

The jet's ground attack capability is heavily reliant upon sensory targeting pods, such as Thales’ Reco New Generation/Areos reconnaissance pod and Damocles electro-optical/laser designation pod. The Rafale’s VHF/UHF radio communicates target communication with other aircraft and performs other key functions such as aerial optical surveillance and is integrated with the navigation system as a FLIR.






1 or 2

Max Take-off Weight




2x AL-41F-1S

2x Snecma M88

Weapons Load




2x 14,500kgf

(special power conditions)

 2x 7700kgf

Service Ceiling




Ibris-E hybrid PESA radar

RBE2-AA AESA radar








New Su-30SM2: Will it be better than the Rafale?
M88 engine

Weapons Comparison:  Su-35 Vs Rafale

As a multi-role fighter platform, the Su-35S benefits from the full array of Russian-sponsored ordnance options across no fewer than 14 weapon hardpoints, 12 underwing and under-fuselage - all external.

The Su-35 can carry air-to-air missiles (RVV-AE, RVV-SD, RVV-MD and R-73E), air-to-ground missiles (Kh-31PD, Kh-31A, Kh-29TE(L), Kh-59MK, KAB-500Kr, KAB-500S-E, KAB-500-OD, KAB-1500Kr-type guided bombs, aviation bombs (caliber 100, 250, 500 kg), unguided rockets (S-8, S-13) as well as an internal 30mm gun. Effective engagement of air, ground and surface targets is achieved through the use of modern radar, optical locating station and helmet targeting system, high target approach accuracy, employment of guided weapons with active and passive radar, laser and TV guidance systems.

Su-30MKI jet can be armed with BrahMos-A modified air-launched variant of the missile with a range of 400 km. So its cousin, the Su-30SM2, could also be compatible, although Russia has not yet announced plans to equip this particular jet with the missile.

The French bird Rafale has been cleared to operate MICA, METEOR, HAMMER, SCALP, AM39 EXOCET missiles; Laser-guided bombs with different warheads from 500lbs to 2,000 lbs, Classic bombs non guided, 2500 rounds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon, among others. The Rafale’s stores management system is Mil-Std-1760 compliant, which provides for easy integration of customer-selected weapons.

With its 10-tonne empty weight, the RAFALE is fitted with 14 hard points (13 on the RAFALE M). Five of them are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. Total external load capacity is more than 9 tonnes. Hence, RAFALE can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads. “Buddy-buddy” refuelling missions can be carried out in portions of the airspace out of reach of dedicated and vulnerable tanker aircraft.





Detonation Mechanism





Launch Platforms

Dassault RAFALE



3.1m x 0.16m


Proximity or direct impact

Solid-propellant rocket motor

500 m –80 km


  • Midcourse:
    • Inertial guidance
    • Datalink
  • Terminal:
    • MICA-EM: Active radar homing
    • MICA-IR: Infrared homing


Surface ships, Ground batteries, Dassault Rafale, Mirage 2000, Mirage F1, F16, Su-30MK1



3.65m x 0.178m

High explosive blast-fragmentation

Proximity or direct impact



(No escape zone of 60km)


Inertial guidance and mid-course update via Data Link.

Terminal active radar homing

Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab JAS 39 Gripen




250kg (Mk82, BLU 111 or CBEMS/BANG)


Solid-propellant rocket motor

50-60km (at high altitude)


15km (at low altitude)


Hybrid inertial/GPS + infrared homing

Mirage 2000D,





450kg (Bomb royal ordnance augmented charge)


Turbomeca microturbo TRI 60-30 Turbojet

560 km

Mach 0.8-0.95

Inertial, GPS, TERPROM


Terminal guidance : Imaging infrared DSMAC

Tornado, Typhoon,

Mirage 2000,




6m x 0.348m



Solid propellant engine turbojet (MM40 Block 3 version)


Mach 0.93

Inertial guidance, Active Radar homing, GPS guidance

MM38 surface-launched


AM39 air-launched


SM39 submarine-launched


MM40 surface-launched


Sukhoi Su-35

Vympel R77 or RVV AE (Export variant)



(Extended Range variant)


3.6m x 0.2m

22.5kg HE Fragmenting

Laser proximity fuse

Solid Fuel rocket motor


Air-breathing ramjet (R77-PD)


Mach 4


Mach 5(R77-PD)

Inertial with mid-course update


Terminal active radar homing

MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27, MiG-29, MiG-31


Su-27, Su-30, Su-33, Su-34, Su-35, Tejas, Yak-141, Chengdu J-10







HE Shaped charge


Solid fuel rocket in initial stage, ramjet for rest of trajectory


Mach 2.7 – Mach 3.5

Inertial guidance with Active radar homing

Su-27, Su-30MKI, Su-25, Su-34, Su-35,Su-33, Su-24




Tejas Mk1 and Mk2








Shaped charge fragmentation


2 stage rocket


Mach 0.72-0.88

Inertial guidance, Millimeter wave active radar seeker




  • With a higher thrust generating engine coupled with thrust vectoring system, the AL-41F1 engine from the Su-35 edges over the Rafale in terms of maneuverability. This would aid the Sukhoi Su-30SM2 to dominate aerial dog fights.
  • The longer range and sensitivity provided by the Irbis E PESA radar provides the upper hand to the Su-30SM2 in the battle of sensing enemies at a longer range.
  • The Higher Thrust and Max Take-off weight allows the Su-30SM to fly at a higher altitude compared to the Rafale.
  • The Rafale boasts of a suite of high tech sensors with ability to strike ground targets precisely, making it as a superior ground attack aircraft.
  • The Rafale’s Mil-Std-1760 compliance will help easier integration of newer weapons which the customer may desire.
  • The Rafale has the ability to do “Buddy-buddy” refuelling missions extending its operational range greatly while not risking tanker aircraft.