F-22A Raptor, FB-22, F-22E, F-22N and Variants Index Page [Click for more ...] People's Liberation Army Air Power Index Page  [Click for more ...]
Military Ethics, Culture, Education and Training Index Page [Click for more ...]
Russian / Soviet Weapon Systems Index Page [Click for more ...]

Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

Sukhoi Su-33 and Su-33UB Flanker D

Shenyang J-15 Flanker D

Technical Report APA-TR-2008-0603

by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng
June, 2008
Updated April, 2012
Text, Line Art © 2004 - 2012 Carlo Kopp

Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker D on a carrier flight deck (KnAAPO).


With the PLA-N now in the process of rebuilding the carrier Varyag to provide a training and limited operational capability, the Su-33 and Su-33UB Flanker D variants have been identified as the type intended to arm this vessel.

This analysis is an updated and expanded version of the original 2004 analysis.

Sukhoi Su-27K/Su-33 Flanker D and Su-27KUB / Su-33UB 

The navalised Su-27K for Korablny' was developed for the Project 1143.5 55,000 tonne class aircraft carrier, of which four were to have been built. The Su-27K is the Russian equivalent to the US Navy F-14 series, but also important as it was the prototype for design features which migrated to a wide range of other Flanker variants and derivatives.

The Su-27K had folding wings and stabilators, strengthened undercarriage with twin nosewheels, upgraded hydraulics, a tailhook, enlarged flaperons, a modified ejection seat angle, folding outer wings and stabs, upgraded FBW, modified LERX (Leading Edge Root Extensions) with canards, enlarged leading edge slats and a deployable aerial refuelling probe. The refuelling probe modification included a pair of deployable floodlights in the nose, used to illuminate the tanker aircraft, here intended to be either an Il-78 Midas or another Su-27 buddy tanker carrying a centreline UPAZ hose-drogue pod. The probe permits a fuel transfer rate into the fighter of up to 4,000 lb/min. Another notable Su-27K feature which migrated to later Flanker variants was the right offset IR Search and Track housing, this improving the pilot's downward view over the aircraft's nose. Production Su-27Ks operated by the Russian Navy are often designated the Su-33. Perhaps the most important feature of the Su-27K/Su-33 are the enlarged LERX/canards which increase the available body lift of the aircraft, and the centre of pressure forward thus enhancing achievable pitch rates. The Su-27 series shares with the F-14 series a large body lift capacity resulting from the wide fuselage tunnel - as a result the aircraft's effective wing loading is much lower than that of aircraft with different configurations. This is reflected in superb high alpha handling and sustained turn rates. The enlarged LERX/canards migrated to a range of other Flanker variants, including the Su-35, Su-37 and production Su-30MKI.

Experience from initial Su-27K flight testing and trials indicated that major issues would arise with training pilots for carrier recoveries. Without the large range of aircraft types, and specialised carrier trainers operated by the US Navy, the Soviet AV-MF needed an aircraft which was identical in handling to the basic Su-27K but dual seated, without the forward visibility impediments of the existing tandem configuration Su-27UB.

Design of the dual navalised combat trainer derivative began in 1989, the aim being to produce an airframe suitable for a range of other carrier based roles such as reconnaissance, aerial refuelling, maritime strike and support jamming - niches in the US Navy now being filled by F/A-18E/F derivatives.

The new Su-27KUB (Korabl'niy Uchebno-Boyeviy - Shipboard Trainer-Combat) included a radically revised forward fuselage and a range of incremental aerodynamic changes. The latter are cited as enlargement of the canards, stabilisers, fins and rudders. The wing fold position was moved further outboard.

The new side-by-side cockpit involved a major resculpting of the forward fuselage, with crew access via a nosewheel well deployable ladder. The crew sit on upward firing ejection seats under jettisonable canopy panels. The circular cross section of the nose was retained, but the baseline NIIP N-001 multimode radar was to be replaced by a Phazotron Zhuk derivative. The OEPS/OLS-27 IRST housing was located on the centreline of the cockpit.

The prototype Su-27KUB first flew in April 1999, but no significant production orders have materialised due to the collapse of Russian carrier aviation funding post 1991. Production aircraft, designated as Su-33UB, would be built by KNAAPO at Komsomolsk Na Amure.

A demonstration Su-33UB aircraft has been flown at a Russian airshow, equipped with thrust vectoring Saturn Al-31FU engines. A TVC capability would be useful for ski jump launches, reduced approach and trap speeds, and improved turning performance, compromised to some extent by the heavier forward fuselage against baseline Flanker variants.

The PLA-N was reported to have taken an interest in the Su-27KUB, as it supplements the Su-33 which the PLA-N was to acquire for its embryonic carrier fleet, being formed around the former Russian Project 1143.5 carrier Varyag. Since then the PLA-N disclosed the existence of the J-15 Flanker D, which is a Chinese reverse engineered Su-27K airframe with Chinese systems migrated from the J-11B/BS Sino-Flanker. It is claimed that the template for the J-15 was at least one derelict Su-27K prototype procured in the Ukraine in 2001 and shipped to China for reverse engineering.

A J-15 prototype in flight.


  1. NAPO (JSC), 15 Polzunov Street, Novosibirsk, 630051, Russia
  2. KnAAPO (JSC), ul. Sovetskaya, 1, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, 681018, Russia
  3. Sukhoi Company (JSC), 23B, Polikarpov str.,Moscow, 125284, Russia, p/b 604
  4. NAPO - Истребитель-бомбардировщик Су-34
  5. Kopp C., Australian Aviation  - November 2004 - Sukhoi's Fullback (Su-32/34)
  6. Kopp C., Australian Aviation  - August 2003 -Asia's Advanced Flankers (Su-27/30)
  7. Kopp C., Australian Aviation  - September 2003 - Su-30 vs RAAF Alternatives (Su-27/30)
  8. Kopp C., Australian Aviation  - July 2004 - Asia's Advanced Precision Guided Munitions
  9. Kopp C., Australian Aviation  - August 2004 - The Sleeping Giant Awakens (PLA-AF/PLA-N)
  10. Kopp C., Defence Today - Dec  2003 - Sukhois present new strategic risk for Australia
  11. Kopp C., Defence Today - Sept  2004 - 2010+ Regional Futures
  12. Kopp C., The International Assessment and Strategy Center -  May 3rd,  2006 -  The Flanker Fleet -The PLA's 'Big Stick'
  13. Kopp C., Defence Today - January/February 2006  - Regional Developments 2005
  14. Kopp C., Defence Today - January/February 2006  - Regional Precision Guided Munitions Survey
  15. Imagery Sources: MAKS, KnAAPO, Sukhoi, Rosoboronexport; Russkaya Sila; Vestnik PVO; MilitaryPhotos.net.

Sukhoi Su-27K/Su-33 Flanker D and Su-27KUB / Su-33UB Imagery

Carrier operations have required significant redesign of the Flanker B into the tailhook equipped Flanker D.

Cruise missiles integrated on or proposed for the Flanker (Author).

Kh-61 Yakhont on Su-33 Flanker D. Note the centreline Kh-41 Moskit / Sunburn.

Kh-41 Sunburn. China deploys the supersonic ramjet 3M-82 Moskit on its Sovremmeniy DDGs, the air launched ASM-MSS/Kh-41 variant has been integrated on the Su-30 series, via the Su-33. Below launch from Sovremmeniy DDG (Rosoboronexport).

Air launch canisters for the 3M14AE land attack (upper) and 3M54AE anti-shipping (lower) air launched variants. The canister protects the ACLM during carriage and is jettisoned after the missile deploys.

Digital rendering of the air launched supersonic 3M-54AE being released from an Su-33 Flanker D (Novator).

Digital rendering of the launch sequence for the supersonic 3M-54AE Sizzler. Rather than redesign the missile airframe to accommodate hard points, Novator opted to use a canister not unlike the encapsulated sub launch Harpoon arrangement. Once the canister is clear of the aircraft, the nosecone is jettisoned, the missile ejected, upon which it deploys its wings and tail controls, starts its turbojet engine, and cruises until the target is acquired. Not depicted is the terminal stage of the missile's flight, where the subsonic cruise airframe is jettisoned and the supersonic rocket propelled kill stage engages the target at a speed in excess of 2.5 Mach (Novator).

GNPP KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs (Author)

An Su-27K prototype performs a dry hookup during buddy refuelling trials using the UPAZ-1A Sakhalin series centreline refuelling store.  Most late build Flankers are equipped with a retractable aerial refuelling probe and floodlights (RuAF photo).

The Su-27K/Su-33 Flanker D was recently ordered by the PLA-N Air Arm to equip the Varyag air wing (RuN).

Comparison of Su-33 and Su-33UB.

Su-33UB demonstrator with thrust vectoring Al-31FU engines (MAKS 2005).

The Zhuk MSF/MSFE (above) is a passive ESA design intended to compete against the NIIP N011M BARS. It uses a Phazotron unique radial distribution arrangement in the backplane waveguide feed, and proprietary radiating element placement. The Zhuk MSFE has a .98 meter diameter aperture with 1662 radiating elements, and was developed for the Su-30MK3 Flanker G avionic suite intended for the PLA-AF. The Zhuk-MSFE is being flown in an Su-33UB demonstrator (MAKS 2005/2007).

Su-27KUB Prototype (Sukhoi)

The dual seat Su-27KUB/Su-33UB is a mulirole naval variant suitable for carrier conversion training, but also a wide range of strike and air defence roles. It retains the existing avionics of the Su-27K/Su-33 Flanker D (Sukhoi).

Shenyang J-15 Flanker D Imagery

Above, below, unpainted J-15 prototype on short finals.

A J-15 prototype in grey camouflage livery, lacking numbers and insignia.

A J-15 prototype in grey camouflage livery, with insignia applied.

Line Artwork: © 2003, 2007, 2008 Carlo Kopp

Technical Report APA-TR-2008-0603

People's Liberation Army Air Power Index Page [Click for more ...]
Military Ethics, Culture, Education and Training Index Page [Click for more ...]
Russian / Soviet Weapon Systems Index Page [Click for more ...]

Artwork, graphic design, layout and text © 2004 - 2014 Carlo Kopp; Text © 2004 - 2014 Peter Goon; All rights reserved. Recommended browsers. Contact webmaster. Site navigation hints. Current hot topics.

Site Update Status: $Revision: 1.753 $ Site History: Notices and Updates / NLA Pandora Archive