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What Krypton fighter jets can do to protect Russia’s Arctic

Advanced multi-role Sukhoi-30SM fighters in the Russian Armed Forces
Su-30SM fighter jet Marina Lystseva/TASS
Su-30SM fighter jet
© Marina Lystseva/TASS


The Russian Armed Forces keep getting more advanced multi-role jet fighters Sukhoi-30SM. Last spring a squadron of eight such planes was formed at Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. A jet fighter regiment stationed in the Rostov Region received two such planes. Just recently a batch of Sukhoi-30SMs was delivered to an assault air regiment of the Russian Navy in the Arctic. Naval aviation units in the Baltic are to get them next year. It is expected that under the effective defense contract Russia’s Aerospace Force will get more than 30 planes of this type by 2018.

Sukhoi-30SM planes have been widely engaged in the Syrian operation, in particular, to escort frontline and strategic bombers.

As the daily Izvestia says, the planes that have already become organic to the Northern Fleet’s aviation group will be armed with air-to-air rockets and supersonic anti-ship rockets Kh-31. The daily says the fighter planes’ task will be to protect the Barents Sea from warplanes, attack drones, cruise missiles and combat ships of a hypothetical enemy. Also, Sukhoi-30SMs will have the capability to attack radars, air defense systems and other facilities on the ground. For coping with such tasks the supersonic Kh-31 missiles may be employed.



Kh-31PD and Kh-31AD anti-ship missiles Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
Kh-31PD and Kh-31AD anti-ship missiles
© Ruslan Shamukov/TASS

A dozen upgraded and newly-developed types of cruise missiles were provided for the ground forces and the Navy in 2015. A family of anti-ship and anti-radar missiles Kh-31A (also known as Kh-31M, NATO’s reporting name AS-17 Krypton) proved one of the latest products available from the OJSC Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV).

Research and development began back in 1975. The Krypton became the world’s first batch-produced missile with a mixed type engine that keeps the missile in low altitude flight (just 3-5 meters above the surface) at a Mach 2 speed. High maneuverability is the missiles’ another key feature. A combination of these two factors make the missiles highly invulnerable while piercing the air defenses of individual facilities and let them effectively hit the selected targets amid the enemy’s electronic countermeasures.

In the late 1990s the United States’ Boeing corporation had plans for acquiring up to 100 hypersonic anti-ship Kh-31A cruise missiles with the aim to convert them into air targets to be used in testing surface-ships’ air defense capabilities.

Many have tried to replicate our Kh-31 missile over the past decades. To little avail, though. China has failed to produce its counterpart to this day. So has the United States, although the Americans have been trying to purchase targets from us in attempts to create a working model of Kh-31
Boris Obnosov

Currently there are four alterations of high-sped air-launched guided missiles of the Kh-31 type:

  • Anti-radar Kh-31P and Kh-31PD
  • Anti-ship Kh-31A and Kh-31AD

Certain configurations of the missile are available to foreign customers.

Kh-31PD was designed to hit air defense systems’ radars. Its range has been increased to 250 kilometers and the mass of the warhead, to 110 kilograms.

The anti-ship Kh-31AD, as its designers say, by far outperforms its predecessors in terms of combat effectiveness and is in no way inferior to the latest foreign counterparts. Its task is to destroy surface and amphibious surface ships and transport ships operating as part of task forces or sailing on their own. In contrast to its prototype (Kh-31A) the yield of the warhead is 15% higher and the range (120-160), twice greater.

The Kh-31AD missiles arm the Sukhoi-30/35 and MiG-29K/35 families of fighter planes. According to 2015 reports, the anti-ship missiles Kh-31/35 may be stalled on Ka-52K helicopter gunships possessing a new onboard radar.



Multirole fighter Sukhoi-30SM is an offspring of the Sukhoi-30 family. The latest alteration boasts the same capabilities as the export-oriented Sukhoi-30 MKI. Its onboard electronic equipment was adjusted to meet domestic requirements. The plane’s weaponry was changed and a new ejection seat installed.


The Sukhoi-30SM (batch-produced, upgraded) is meant for gaining air supremacy and attacking surface targets on land and in the sea. Horizontal stabilizers in the front part of the fuselage and thrust vectoring engines lend the plane super-maneuverability.

The plane is equipped with a multi-functional control radar Bars, a system of refueling in flight, new navigation systems, wider range of group operations control equipment and an improved life support system.

The Sukhoi-30SM has impressive flight range and duration parameters, such as a combat range of 1,500 kilometers. It can also be used for training pilots for single-seat fighter jets of the future.

Twelve suspension devices enable the plane to carry medium-range air-to-air missiles of the R-27 family (up to eight), R-77 (ten) and short-range R-73 missiles (up to six).

Armed with anti-radar and anti-ship missiles Kh-31P and Kh-31A (up to six) the Sukhoi-30SM can be used in operations to suppress enemy air defense and destroy surface ships. Also, the Sukhoi-30SM is capable of delivering pin-point strikes with:

  • Kh-59 family missiles (up to five);
  • Guided air bombs KAB-250 (up to six), KAB-500 (up to six) and KAB 1500 (up to three);
  • Kh-29T missiles with a TV-guided warhead (up to six);
  • Unguided air bombs (100 kg, 250 kg and 500 kg).
  • Sets of unguided missiles S-8 (set B-8M) and S-13 (B-13P), and S-24 and S-25 missiles.



Sukhoi planes have displayed the best of their qualities during Russia’s aerospace operation in Syria. The first reports saying these planes flew  combat sorties with an air group of other planes on October 12, 2015. The fighters provided cover for all sorties by Russia’s attack aircraft in Syria.

Sukhoi-30SM planes were repeatedly seen in Syrian airspace by pilots of US Air Force planes and by US attack drones. In November 2015 multirole planes of this type escorted Russia’s strategic bombers Tupolev-160 over the Mediterranean and Syria.

In September 2016 naval aviation pilots flying four Sukhoi-30SM planes participated in the large-scale exercise Kavkaz to have destroyed a combat ship of a hypothetical enemy by dropping four 250-kg bombs. Also, the pilots imitated a dogfight – an aerial battle at close range. The pilots performed a variety of aerobatics maneuvers at low and very low altitudes in attempts to take the most advantageous position for attack.

The Russian aerobatics group Russian Knights received a batch of these extra maneuverable planes in the autumn of 2016. For the past 25 years the group’s pilots used Sukhoi-27 jets.

The first contracts for providing Sukhoi-30SM planes for the Russian Armed Forces were concluded with the Irkut Corporation in 2012. Successes in Syria will surely encourage the Aerospace Force to order more such planes. A certain number of planes will be purchased for the Navy’s aviation component.