Russian 'Flankers' take off from the saddest carrier on the ocean
Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG has faded from its glory days, when it produced many front-line fighters for the Soviet Union. Arturo Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, co-founders of the design bureau, helped usher in a number of aviation classics, like the MiG-21 Fishbed (11,496 built by the Soviets, plus 2,450 J-7s produced by Communist China).
Sukhoi, another major Russian aircraft manufacturer, responsible primarily for attack planes like the Su-17/20/22 Fitter and the Su-24 Fencer, ended up stealing the show by developing the Su-27 Flanker, which proved to be a better fighter. In this case, ‘better’ means being shot down less often. The Su-27 has demonstrated some superb maneuverability at slower speeds, able to perform demanding, acrobatic maneuvers, like the Pugachev Cobra.
Such precise control is key for taking off from and landing on carriers. The naval version of the Su-27, the Su-33 “Flanker D,” was designed to do just that and first flew in 1987. The Su-33, like the Su-27, is equipped with the AA-10 “Alamo” semi-active radar-guided missile, the AA-11 “Archer” all-aspect heat-seeking missile, and the AA-12 “Adder” radar-guided missile. It also packs a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds. This plane has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,287 miles.
The Su-33 made its combat debut over Syria in 2016. The Russian Navy sent the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to support the regime of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. The plane didn’t fly combat from the Kuznetsov, but instead operated from land bases. In fact, one was lost in a splash landing while trying to land on the carrier.
Despite a relatively tame debut in Syria, the capability of the Su-33 is a worldwide affair. China is currently producing a version of this fighter, called the J-15 Flanker. This lightly modified jet operates off the Liaoning, a Kuznetsov-class carrier. The Chinese are currently building a copy of the Liaoning, and have plans for other, larger carriers that will most certainly operate J-15s.
Learn more about Russia’s carrier-based fighter in the video below: