On 12th August 2020, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a visit to the Eastern territories- Khabarovsk Krai and Irkutsk oblast. The latter (alongside the aviation plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur) produce the National Air Force’s (VKS) SUKHOI Su-27/30/35 family, and the Minister’s visit has not been a surprise to these facilities.
Shoigu started his trip with a visit to the Gagarin KnAAZ in Komsomolsk, a plant which is busy fulfilling two large contracts with MoD, including one signed in 2015 for 50 Su-35 multirole fighters, which is to be concluded at the end of 2020 or even ahead of schedule. Earlier this year, KnAAZ handed four Su-35s to the Russian Knights display team. This is the latest derivative of the Su-27 family and is considered the most advanced and combat efficient platform to gain air superiority against any rival. Key features include super-manoeuvrability due the thrust vectoring engines and a huge range of weaponry, including air-to-air and air-to-ground long range missiles. According to Rosoboronexport, the aircraft’s maximum payload is 8000 kg, while the radar can detect air targets with a Radar Cross Section of 3 m² at a distance of 350 km. The plane was combat tested by the VKS in Syria to become fully operational in 2018, although to date the only confirmed foreign customer is China, having received 24 examples of the export version by April 2018.
The second KnAAZ contract is for Russia’s fifth generation fighter and the Minister has been assured that the Su-57 combat aircraft will go in a serial production this year to meet the contract plans for 76 planes to be delivered by 2028. Shoigu has also announced a new contract for 48 Su-35s with KnAAZ worth 70 billion roubles (over US$1bn on the current exchange rate) will be concluded by the end of the year and be fulfilled by 2024.
The IAPO in Irkutsk has also received an extra order worth over 100 billion roubles for 21 Su-30SM2 multirole fighters and 25 Yak-130 combat-training aircraft. The Su-30SM2 is the latest version of the Su-30 double-seater family which can be used as an air-superiority aircraft alongside a strike capability. It can employ the same payload as the Su-35 with several extras, including a heavy air-to-surface missile developed as part of the Adaptation-Su R&D work. The Izvestia daily newspaper noted that this programme probably refers to the Kh-32 liquid-propellant hypersonic missile, previously being by Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers.
The Yakovlev Yak-130 combat trainer has become a new generation “flying desk” for Russian pilots with over 100 examples employed at the Serov military college in Krasnodar. It has been exported to a number of nations including Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Between the two aircraft production facilities, Shoigu made a visit to the Amurskiy Shipbuilding Plant (ASZ) in Komsomolsk. The shipyard suffered difficult times in 1990s but enjoyed a period of revival in the last few years. Currently the plant is contracted to produce four corvettes of the 20380 project, with two having already been delivered to the Russian Tikhookeanskiy Flot (Pacific Fleet). The third, ALDAN TSYDENZHAPOV, is under mooring trials, while the fourth, REZKIY (Sharp), is under construction at the plant’s dock. The ambitious program for 20380 corvettes construction also employs the Severnaya Shipyard in St.-Petersburg, Shoigu announced that six more corvettes are to be built at ASZ with a new contract to be signed shortly.