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Su-33 Sukhoi
ASCC codename: Flanker
Carrier-borne Multi-Role Fighter

The Sukhoi Su-33 is a navalized version of the Su-27 originally designed to operate from the Soviet Union's first class of large aircraft carriers. To meet the requirements of carrier duty, the Su-33 features a strengthened airframe, corrosion resistance, arrestor gear, more powerful engines, and wing and tailplane folding mechanisms for storage aboard ship. The Su-33 is also the first member of the Su-27 family fitted with canards near the juncture of the wing and leading edge extensions allowing better maneuverability while reducing the takeoff distance and landing speed.

The Su-27K, as the design was first known, was originally developed for the Soviet Navy alongside the MiG-29K. It was envisioned that both aircraft would be purchased for carrier operations. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the Russian Navy with only one Kuznetsov class carrier, and the decision was made to acquire a single aircraft type for carrier use. The Navy chose the Su-27K over the competing MiG-29K because of its greater range and payload. The tradeoff is the Su-27K is a larger and more expensive plane reducing the number that can be stored aboard ship.

The total number of Su-27K fighters, now better known as the Su-33, built for the Russian Navy is somewhat questionable. Several experimental Su-27 aircraft were used to test features of a navalized model including folding wings, ski-jump takeoffs, arrested landings, and canard aerodynamics. These features were finally combined in two T-10K prototypes and seven pre-production examples of the Su-27K configuration. Perhaps another 18 production models were ultimately delivered out of an original order of 24. At least four pre-production airframes are also believed to have been adapted for operational use, and the remainder of a single active-duty squadron is made up by the standard Su-27 land-based version.

Unfortunately, budget cuts severely hampered aircraft carrier deployments throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and these aircraft have been operated primarily from shore bases. Although Russia has announced an ambitious plan to build as many as five or six aircraft carriers by 2030, the Su-33 production line has been closed for several years. It has been suggested the Su-33 fleet may be phased out in favor of the revised MiG-29K that has been updated and resumed production thanks to an order from India.

On the other hand, stories appeared in the Russian media in 2006 stating that China was negotiating with Russia for as many as 48 Su-33 fighters for its navy. These planes were said to begin delivery in 2007 or 2008. However, no further details of a finalized order have emerged, and given the dispute over China illegally building its own copy of the Su-27 called the J-11B, a deal for the Su-33 appears to be unlikely. If it does come to pass, however, such an order would make further Su-33 purchases for the Russian Navy a viable option.

A further development of the Su-33 airframe is the two-seat Su-27KUB (or Su-33UB) trainer that features the side-by-side seating arrangement of the Su-34.

Last modified 13 September 2009

First Flight (T-10-24) May 1985
(T-10K-1) 17 August 1987
(T-10K-3) 17 February 1990
(Su-27KUB) 29 April 1999
Service Entry


CREW: one: pilot



Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip


Length 71.92 ft (21.94 m)
Wingspan 48.17 ft (14.70 m)
Height 19.42 ft (5.92 m)
Wing Area 666 ft (62.0 m)
Canard Area


Empty 35,275 lb (16,000 kg)
Normal Takeoff 49,605 lb (22,500 kg)
Max Takeoff 70,545 lb (32,000 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal: 20,725 lb (9,400 kg)
external: unknown
Max Payload

14,330 lb (6,500 kg)

Powerplant two Saturn/ Lyul'ka AL-31F afterburning turbofans
Thrust 61,730 lb (274.6 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 1,430 mph (2,300 km/h) at 32,780 ft (10,000 m), Mach 2.17
at sea level: 870 mph (1,400 km/h), Mach 1.1
cruise speed: 870 mph (1,400 km/h) at 32,780 ft (10,000 m)
Initial Climb Rate 45,235 ft (13,800 m) / min
Service Ceiling 55,720 ft (17,000 m)
Range typical: 1,620 nm (3,000 km)
ferry: unknown
g-Limits +9

Gun one 30-mm GSh-301 cannon (149 rds)
Stations ten external hardpoints and two wingtip rails
Air-to-Air Missile R-27/AA-10 Alamo, R-73/AA-11 Archer, R-77/AA-12
Air-to-Surface Missile Kh-25MP/AS-12 Kegler, Kh-31/AS-17 Krypton, Kh-41
Bomb various
Other rocket pods, ECM pods

T-10-24 Experimental Su-27 designed to test features for a carrier-based derivative
T-10K-1 to
Prototypes of the Su-27K confuguration; 2 built
T-10K-3 to
Pre-production airframes of the Su-27K; 7 built
Su-27K 'Flanker-D' Official designation of the Su-33 used by the Russian Navy
Su-33 'Flanker-D' Production model with canards, strengthened structure, folding wings and tailplanes, arrester hook, uprated engine, corrosion protection, an in-flight refueling probe, and other modifications to make the aircraft suitable for carrier operations; approximately 18 built and 4 pre-production airframes converted
Su-27KM Proposal for a new production model with a better radar, thrust vectoring nozzles, and improved surface attack capability; cancelled
Su-27KPP Proposed carrier-based electronic warfare and airborne command model
Su-27KRT Carrier-based reconnaissance and targeting model possibly based on the Su-27KUB featuring a millimeter wave search radar, electronic reconnaissance gear, and an encrypted communications/datalink suite; 1 prototype built
Su-33UB or Su-27KUB Side-by-side two-seat combat-capable trainer similar to the Su-32 or Su-34 but retaining the more rounded nose of the Su-33
Su-28 Proposed airborne early warning (AEW) model with a rotating radome mounted on the fuselage spine; not developed
Su-33 Upgrade Proposed program to modernize the cockpit displays, flight control system, and navigation equipment of the existing Su-33 fleet including adding compatibility with a variety of new weapons such as the R-77 air-to-air missile, Kh-31P anti-radiation missile, Kh-29/Kh-59N/KAB-500Kr/KAB-1500Kr TV-guided bombs, and Kh-29L/KAB-500L/KAB-1500L laser-guided bombs; not believed to have been developed


KNOWN OPERATORS: Russia, Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskoyo Flota Sily Rossii (Russian Naval Aviation)



  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 868, Sukhoi Su-27 and derivatives.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000, p. 414, Sukhoi Su-27K/Su-33.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 268, Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker'.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1995, p. 366, Su-27K.
  • Isby, David C. Jane's Fighter Combat in the Jet Age. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997, p. 181.
  • Munro, Bob and Chant, Christopher. Jane's Combat Aircraft. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p. 224-225, Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker'.
  • Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery
  • Rendall, David. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, p. 104, Sukhoi Su-33/35/37 Flanker.
  • Sky Corner Su-33 site
  • Spick, Mike. Brassey's Modern Fighters: The Ultimate Guide to In-Flight Tactics, Technology, Weapons, and Equipment. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2000, p. 82-87, Sukhoi Su-27, -35 and -37 Flanker.
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 93-94, Sukhoi Su-33 (service designation Su-27K) (NATO name Flanker-D).
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000. London: Brassey's, 1999, p. 75-76, Sukhoi Su-33 (Su-27K) (NATO name Flanker-D).

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