A Russian-made Su-30 fighter jet crashed in mountainous northern Venezuela while practicing ahead of the country’s independence day. A pilot died in the accident.
“I regret to inform you that during the practice maneuvers… an aircraft of our Bolivarian Military Aviation fell to the ground, causing the physical loss of the distinguished pilot Col. Paulino Jose Millan Sabino,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wrote on Twitter. Both the aircraft crew members managed to eject, but one of the pilots died after hitting the ground.
The Su-30MK2 aircraft was one of the 24 air superiority fighter jets that Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez had purchased from Russia. President Chavez had undertaken a series of military modernization as the oil prices helped the rentier economy of the country.
Also, the lack of Western economic sanctions was helpful. Venezuela has been an important ally of Russia, Iran, China, and Turkey. It signed a series of defense agreements with Russia between 1999-2013.
Chavez had acquired the 24 Sukhois to replace the country’s French Dassault Mirages. In September 2015, the two crew members of a Sukhoi-30 were killed when the aircraft crashed while trying to intercept an “illegal aircraft” in the southeastern state of Apure, on the border with Colombia.
Two other military pilots were killed in October 2019 when another Sukhoi-30 crashed.
Todays crash is the third Venezuelan military aviation Su-30 to have crashed since their introduction into service between 2006-2008. 5 pilots have died in those 3 crashes and today was the first time a pilot had successfully ejected.#Venezuela pic.twitter.com/ddf9sv6dhe
— CNW (@ConflictsW) July 2, 2023
The Su-30s are one of the most potent aircraft outside the US military. In Latin America, these Su-30s are among the best-equipped fighter jets in range, payloads, and sensor suits. The fighters are equipped with R-77 active, radar-guided, long-range, air-to-air, longer-ranged R-27ER missiles and Kh-31 cruise missiles.
The Su-30 is derived from the same airframe as Su-35. Even though it is less capable than its successor Su-35, it is one of the most cost-effective aircraft offered by Russia.
The Su-30s continues to surpass the capabilities of all Western fourth-generation rival platforms despite being manufactured at a fraction of the cost.
When US President Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela in 2018, experts quickly pointed out that the US has yet to fight a war against a country with fourth-generation Russian fighter jets in its fleet.
The Su-30MK series fighters are in service with the Algerian Air Force, Angolan Air Force, Armenian Air Force, Belarusian Air Force, Indian Air Force (IAF), Indonesian Air Force, Kazakh Air Force, People’s Liberation Army Air Force, People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Ugandan Air Force, Venezuelan Air Force, and Vietnam People’s Air Force.
When The Venezuelan Su-30s ‘Aggressively Shadowed’ An American Spy Plane
Su-30s have formed the backbone of the Venezuelan Air Force. Moreover, the country has not shied away from flexing its muscles as tensions rose between the US and Venezuela during Donald Trump’s presidency.
A Venezuelan Sukhoi fighter jet “aggressively shadowed” a US spy plane EP-3 flying in international airspace over the Caribbean.
Accusations flew as the US accused Venezuela of violating its airspace. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the US plane of entering its airspace.
In a statement, the US authorities said that the EP-3 plane was on a multi-nationally approved mission when the Venezuelan SU-30 fighter jet closely trailed the plane, which the US says endangered its crew. “The EP-3 aircraft was adhering to international standards and rules,” the US Southern Command said in a statement.
The Trump administration had thrown its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó and has been accused of attempting to oust Maduro, whom they accuse of leading the country into a historic crisis. Countries including Cuba, China, and Russia support the socialist leader. Following the incident, the US condemned Russia for “irresponsible military support to the illegitimate Maduro regime” and adding to “Maduro’s growing legacy of reckless and negligent behavior.”
On the contrary, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the US plane had entered Venezuelan airspace without prior notification, violating international rules. Upon identifying the plan as a US electronic intelligence gathering aircraft, the fighter jet escorted it from the region.
Super Sukhois Su-30SM2 With Su-35 Capabilities
After the success of its Su-30 ‘Flanker,’ Russia has developed a new variant of this aircraft called Su-30SM with enhanced capabilities. The aircraft has been further improved, and the Russian Military received its first batch of ‘Super Sukhois’ in November 2022. The Irkutsk Aviation Plant of the United Aircraft Corporation has manufactured the aircraft.
The Super Sukhoi is said to have an improved complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment. The improvements are aimed at detecting and identifying air targets from greater ranges. The aircraft has new engines, radars, and smart weapons.
The Su-30SM fighter jet was designed to the requirements of the Russian Air Force and took its first flight in September 2012. The multirole Su-30SM can be deployed in counter-air strikes, counter-land, and counter-sea missions.
It can conduct electronic counter-countermeasures and early warning tasks. The aircraft also acts as a command-and-control platform within a fleet of combat aircraft performing joint missions. Russia plans to replace its Su-24 fleet with the Su-30SM fighters.
As noted on the website of Rosoboronexport, the Su-30SM can effectively overcome air defense systems and has high combat power due to the large mass of the delivered combat load, which reaches eight tons.
As the EurAsian Times earlier reported, the decision to develop the Su-30SM2 stemmed from the need to incorporate the lessons the Russian Air Force learned during its air campaign in Syria. The new variant aims to integrate the capabilities of the Su-30s with the Su-35s.
The initial lot of Su-30SM2 aircraft being delivered to the RuMoD does not feature the AL-41F-1S engines. According to Interfax sources, deliveries of Su-30SM2s with AL-41F-1S engines could begin no earlier than 2023. Flight tests of modified Su-30SM with the AL-41F-1S engine are expected to conclude by December 2023
The Su-30SM2 will be able to use the entire spectrum of modern and promising high-precision weapons of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, including KAB-250 glide bombs, as well as X-59MK2 air-to-surface missiles.
- Ritu Sharma has written on defense and foreign affairs for over a decade. She holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Studies and Management of Peace from the University of Erfurt, Germany. Her areas of interest include Asia-Pacific, the South China Sea, and Aviation history.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com