Fourth-generation jet fighter is a general classification of fighter aircraft in service from approximately 1980 to present day, and represent design concepts of the 1970s. Fourth-generation designs are heavily influenced by lessons learned from the previous generation of combat aircraft. Long-range air-to-air missiles, originally thought to make dogfighting obsolete, proved less influential than expected precipitating a renewed emphasis on maneuverability. Meanwhile, the growing costs of military aircraft in general and the demonstrated success of aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom II gave rise to the popularity of multirole fighters in parallel with the advances marking the so-called fourth generation.
The Sukhoi Su-30 (Cyrillic: Сухой Су-30; NATO reporting name: Flanker-C) is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
The Su-30 started out as an internal development project in the Sukhoi Su-27 family by Sukhoi. The design plan was revamped and the name was made official by the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996. Of the Flanker family, only the Su-27, Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35 have been ordered into serial production by the Defense Ministry. All the others, such as Su-37, were prototypes.
The Su-30 has two distinct version branches, manufactured by competing organisations: KnAAPO and the Irkut Corporation, both of which come under the Sukhoi group’s umbrella. KnAAPO manufactures the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which were designed for and sold to China, and later Indonesia, Venezuela and Vietnam. Due to KnAAPO’s involvement from the early stages of developing Su-35, these are basically a two-seat version of the mid-1990s Su-35. The Chinese chose an older but lighter radar so the canards could be omitted in return for increased payload. It is a fighter with both air superiority and attack capabilities, generally similar to the U.S.F-15E.
The Sukhoi Su-35 (Russian: Сухой Су-35; NATO reporting name: Flanker-E) is a designation for two separate heavily-upgraded derivatives of the Su-27 ‘Flanker’. They are single-seat, twin-engine supermaneuverable multirole fighters, designed by Sukhoi and built by Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO).
The first variant was designed during the 1980s, when Sukhoi was looking to upgrade its high-performance Su-27, and was initially known as the Su-27M. Later re-designated Su-35, this derivative incorporates aerodynamic refinements to increase manoeuvrability, enhanced avionics, longer range, and a more powerful engine. The first Su-35 prototype, converted from a Su-27, made its maiden flight in June 1988. More than a dozen of these were built with some used by the Russian Knights aerobatic demonstration team. The first Su-35 design was later modified into the Su-37 with thrust-vectoring engines and used as a technology demonstrator. A sole Su-35UB two-seat trainer was built in the late 1990s that, despite its name, shares a strong resemblance to the Su-30MK family.
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