Which plane has better maneuverability, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI or the Rafale?

Now many advanced users can easily notice: yes, these are aircraft of different classes, oak head! And how can we compare them, if we compare the Rafale, then with its classmates! That is, with the same MiG-35.

Don’t even write like that in the comments, I immediately agree with all the claims made. The author, as is often written today, is not so much off topic, but in a misunderstanding of how this even happens: they are tendering for the Rafale, but in the end they are buying the Su-30MK. And if this were an isolated incident, then no! However, I would risk convincing someone else of my misunderstanding.

So, “Rafal” or “Shkval”

History This aircraft is very distinctive and original. In general, if this aircraft had appeared on the world stage when it was developed, perhaps a lot would have gone wrong. After all, the first flight of the Rafale took place in July 1986, and the decision to accept this aircraft into service with the French Air Force and Marine aviation was adopted only in 2004. 18 years is a very thoughtful figure, which suggests that either the plane was originally rubbish, and it was “finished off” for so many years, or about the short-sightedness of the French military department.
The aircraft itself is very interesting, it has a good speed even today (2200 km/h), a simply gorgeous combat radius of almost 1400 km, however, with three anti-tank tanks, which reduces the combat load.
The combat load is quite reasonable: 9 tons of bombs and missiles, and it can also carry SCALP/Storm Shadow. And so – the entire NATO nomenclature is hung easily and naturally. Fire control systems allow the use of all the splendor, which makes the Rafale a versatile multi-mission aircraft.
And the plane fought, albeit in “light mode”, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq (against ISIS). That is, where there were not only no equal opponents in the sky, there was no enemy as such in the sky. But it gained recognition and other countries began to order it.
The list of those who bought the Rafale is small: Greece, India, Qatar, Egypt.

It seems that (if there is money for it) Croatia can still be added to this list. But more tenders were lost, some for clearly political reasons, as happened with Brazil.

In general, initially the French behaved in a very “mistral” way: they inflated the performance characteristics of the aircraft, misleading customers, they say that they were more than arrogant in the negotiations and set deliberately inconvenient conditions. As a result of this, the Rafale found itself at the bottom of the tender lists in terms of benefits, even becoming known as the most expensive fighter of the 4++ generation. Moreover, it is unreasonably expensive.

That is why tenders were lost in South Korea, Singapore, UAE, Morocco, Switzerland and Brazil. In Brazil, we note that politics was to blame for everything: if France had not “dumped” President da Silva with his initiative on the Iranian nuclear program (I emphasize that the initiative was practically agreed upon at the UN, but France turned on the “reverse gear”), as a result of which da Silva buried the idea of ​​arming himself with Rafales, instead of which the Griffins from SAAB won.

And as you know, if you don’t score, they score on you. After the nightmare of the early nineties, when Russia practically stopped producing any aircraft, the combat aircraft market was in thought: write Russia off and start purchasing American or European aircraft, or wait?

Those who decided to wait were rewarded, because the Su-30, born in cooperation with India (read – with Indian money, they somehow didn’t have any of their own back then), turned out to be not just a wonderful aircraft, in the 21st century there is not a single heavy one at all the fighter was not bought in such quantities as the Su-30.

And just as the MiG-21 was a hit in Soviet times, the Su-30 became such a hit in Russia. Of course, the popularity of the MiG-21 is far from “drying”, but nevertheless, the fighter has become the basis of the air forces of several large countries: India, China, Vietnam and Algeria. And even if you don’t take Uganda-Armenia-Belarus, which have single copies of the Su-30, Venezuela and Kazakhstan are understandable, but Malaysia and Indonesia, which were not at all noticed to be partial to Russian weapons, ordered normal batches of aircraft.

And China, in its usual manner, bungled the J-16, which is simply disgracefully similar to both the Su-27 and Su-30, and which is being mass-produced in decent quantities. But if you look at all the movements around Taiwan, then for some reason the Su-35 and J-20, the most valuable and modern aircraft of the PLA Air Force, do not appear in the videos. But the Su-30MKK is “stars on the carpet.”

Su-30MKK over the Taiwan Strait. Photo by PLA Air Force

The Su-30MK returned Russia to the international market with relative ease. And the main victim, oddly enough, was the Rafale. In the early nineties, the French very actively entered the world market, moreover, into the segment that Russia inherited from the USSR. And, naturally, they went with the Rafale, because they did something stupid: they stopped production of the Mirage 2000, which, although morally outdated, was of interest to many not very rich countries.

Negotiations, advertising displays, banquets, exhibitions, cultural communication – promoting such a complex product as an airplane requires both time and money. And then suddenly, practically kicking the door out, Russians and Indians burst into the market (the latter are also selling almost their Su-30s), dragging the Su-30 behind them.

And all those who looked back at Russia, asking the price of Mirages, Rafales, and Falcons, immediately turned towards the Russian aircraft. The same Vietnamese military who were torn between choosing between the Rafale version “C” (at that time as damp as grass after a thunderstorm) and the frankly already outdated F-16 Block 50/52.

And here it is, the moment of truth! Rafale and F-16 are classmates, but the Su-30 is not. It is more likely to be a brother of the F-15, only it will be even slightly heavier.

But sorry, for most buyers this doesn’t really matter.

What do the military want? Buy aircraft that would meet their needs in terms of performance characteristics and performing missions in the air in accordance with defense doctrines.

What do government leaders want? Buy as cheaply as possible, and with an eye to the future.

If the Su-30 is cheaper than the Rafale, and in many ways superior to the French aircraft… And this is not a reproach at all, the Rafale, despite its age and difficult modernization path, is a very good combat vehicle! The Su-30 is just head and shoulders better.

The Vietnamese have almost already agreed to buy the Rafale, but the problem is the Su-30… The deal was eventually canceled, and Vietnam acquired 36 vehicles, which are now up to the level of the Su-30SM. In fact, it is the penultimate version of the aircraft, if you don’t count the Su-30SMD (serial, modernized, modified), because “revision” is about 2% of imported components removed from the design. In all its characteristics, the Su-30SM is no different from the Su-30SMD.

In Algeria, they actually organized a natural competition for several days, as a result of which they forgot about the Rafale.

Libya. There, too, the Rafale was denied a place, the competition was won by the Su-30MKA (version for Algeria), but the Rafale returned, but the head of Libya, Gaddafi, did not see his Su-30s, although the contract was signed. Well, you all remember what they did with Libya, and the Rafales took part there in full. It is a pity that Russia did not manage to deliver the ordered aircraft to Libya; it would be informative to get acquainted with the results.

Venezuela. Everything happened there so quickly that they didn’t have time to open the champagne.

Well, in the end, just a few words about how the Rafale miserably lost the Su-30MKM tenders in Malaysia and Indonesia. Considering that neither the first nor the second country were regular clients of Russia in terms of weapons, this says a lot.

In fact, Rafale only once defeated a Russian aircraft in a tender, but with reservations.

This, as you understand, is all about India and its scandalous long-running and sluggish MMRCA competition. But the Su-30 did not take part in it for a very good reason – the Su-30MKI by that time had become the main fighter, fighter-bomber and anti-ship missile carrier in the Indian Air Force. And will continue to remain so for many years to come. Despite the fact that the Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force recently called the Su-30 a “completely Indian aircraft,” the country still regularly buys 10-12 SK-30MKI vehicle sets per year. In principle, you can endure such attacks for that kind of money.

As for the Rafale’s victory over the MiG-35, everything is clear: a real-life aircraft is of course preferable to a project that is not really in the metal. The MiG-35, which exists in the form of six flight prototypes, will no longer be of interest to anyone in the world: it is customary to buy aircraft that have proven themselves in the sky.

In this regard, the experiment with the Su-30 was still a gamble from the point of view of the Indians, but they bet on Irkut and the Sukhoi Design Bureau and won the plane for themselves. But with the MiG-35, such a miracle obviously will not happen again, so even here everyone is slowly forgetting about the plane. Well, it didn’t take off, it happens.

But overall, the victory was clearly Pyrrhic. The Indian TV series “MMRCA” will be remembered for a long time in the country. And it’s not about scandals, intrigues, conspiracies and massacres. Although it was like in the series, in abundance. The fact is that by paying for one Rafale as for a Su-30MKI, India received literally crumbs of aircraft (126 were ordered), which are not yet combat-ready. But these are really not our problems. India didn’t want to repeat the success with the Su-30, but with the MiG-35 – why not? Their choice.

As a result, scandals, resignations, criminal cases…

But the idea was not bad: buy Rafales and replace them with Mirages 2000, which have been serving in the Indian Air Force since 1985. The Mirages, together with the MiG-29, showed themselves very well in the Kargil War. “Rafal” instead of “Mirage”, Su-30MKI instead of MiG-29 and MiG-21 – the Indian Air Force would really become the strongest in the region. And in terms of mass numbers, there is order.

But what makes plans so bad is that they don’t have to come true at all.

And here we come close to what made the Su-30MKI (and not only the MKI) such a terrible contender in the tender war.

Do you remember what the ambush of the Rafale contract was? The fact is that the French promised one thing, but in reality something completely different happened. The French categorically refused to transfer technology to the Indians and organize the localization of aircraft assembly in India. Cunningly drawn up contracts made it possible to arrange this, dare I say it, scam.

Then the French simply stopped assembling aircraft for India. First the crisis, then the pandemic, then the post-pandemic crisis. There is simply no time to work. At the Indian Ministry of Defense, the marshals were furious, but they could not do anything. There, the price of 218 euros for the aircraft was accompanied by a bonus penalty for refusal to purchase almost half the cost of the aircraft.

The only thing that Indian lawyers were able to do was to reduce the number of aircraft purchased under the contract from 126 to 36. And they decided to abandon the purchase of fuel tankers for Rafales based on the Airbus A-330 for another one and a half billion euros. The fact that it was impossible to constructively refuel French aircraft from India’s existing Il-78MKI tankers was the last straw.

When the time came for anti-Russian sanctions, France expectedly rubbed its hands together. Of course, there would be an opportunity to settle scores and remove such a competitor!

Indeed, this is what happened in Egypt and Indonesia.

And now the air forces of these countries will become the proud owners of Rafales instead of the Su-35 and Su-30. US pressure is a serious thing. And the fact that the French entered the market with the Rafales came back to haunt them with the loss of a contract to build submarines for Australia. But that’s just business.

However, those who are independent and truly independent continue to vote with their dollars for Russian aircraft, no matter what.

Kazakhstan. They also danced a cotillion there for a long time, trying to conclude a contract for the supply of Rafales. Alas, in Kazakhstan they preferred the Su-30. Yes, the purchase of 12 aircraft cannot be called a large batch, but Kazakhstan does not have tasks that require 120 aircraft. And 12 Su-30SM2 are a very serious force in the region.

Ethiopia. For ten years the French have been hammering the military of this country, trying to deliver the Rafale. For ten years the French have been trying to enter the African market, which, let’s say, is not very large. African countries have big desires, but tiny budgets, and countries with money can be counted on one hand.

And then in January it became known that the Su-30 won.

The photo shows a Su-30MKI of the Uganda Air Force

A pleasant moment and not only in financial terms. And here I would like to say precisely on the topic of why, despite all today’s Russophobia, Russian aircraft are not abandoned.

How does the Russian approach differ from the French one?

Yes, still the same: they have trade weapons, like everyone else, according to the law “just business.” In Russia it is more difficult, and historically. The very attitude of the French towards customers is somewhat different than on our side. It (the ratio) can be measured in “mistrals”.

How many modifications have the French created for the Rafale? By and large – not much. M and N are single- and double-seat carrier-based aircraft, VM is a carrier of nuclear weapons, and two modifications each (1- and 2-seat, respectively) for Egypt and India. Over the 38 years of the model’s existence and 23 years of service, well, the French didn’t strain themselves too much.

With the Su-30 everything is somewhat different. Over 32 years of operation and 34 years since the first flight, 17 modifications were created, several of them were created specifically for the customer: India, China, Vietnam, Venezuela, Algeria, Indonesia. By the way, the French made modifications for Egypt and India with an eye on the work of our designers.

In addition, it has always been easy to negotiate with the Russians in terms of obtaining technologies and licenses. And some didn’t bother themselves much with this, and that’s okay. There were never any conflicts.

The Su-30, no matter what letters appear after the numbers, is a wonderful aircraft. This is modernity, a complete platform, flexibility in terms of technical appearance, integration and configuration according to the customer’s wishes, and the possibility of technology transfer. Together with excellent flight characteristics, all this makes up the essence of the Su-30 aircraft, which, as many people think, will be a relevant participant in the global arms market for a long time.

The Rafale is in its own way a very good aircraft that is capable of fighting for a place in the market, but the main problem of the Rafale lies in the political plane and depends on the French government officials who are trying to sell the aircraft.

So, despite the fact that the aircraft are actually different classes, the Rafal will still be competing with the Su-30 at tenders for a long time. And no matter how much pressure is exerted from the NATO bloc and no matter what promises are made, there is confidence that the Russian plane will still more often prevail over the French one.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *