“Why enemy pilots don’t sleep well”, said an eighties General Dynamics advertisement for the F-16 Fighting Falcon *. “Why allied pilots don’t sleep well”, is what applies to the Sukhoi Flanker family. The Flanker is a slender, delicate and elegant looking machine despite its surprisingly large dimensions. But most of all it is a feared fighter. Stuff of nightmares, really.
Let’s count from 10 to 37. The Flanker prototypes were designated T10, and the very first flight took place on 20 May 1977. NATO came up with the name ‘Flanker A’ for the prototypes, and ‘Flanker B’ for the production Su-27s that followed.
Counting on to 30. The Su-30 is a two-seat variant based on the Su-27UB ‘Flanker C’ trainer aircraft. Not many were built of the ‘vanilla’ Su-30 without thrust vectoring. Variants with thrust vectoring became a valuable Russian export success, however.
The Flanker platform was used for various other roles as well. The most ‘Frankenstein Flanker’ is probably the Su-34 Fullback, known earlier as Su-27IB and Su-32FN.
Going hi-tech now with the Su-37 Flanker F. This aircraft stunned airshow crowds in the nineties with truly spectacular moves that made the famous ‘Cobra’ act by Su-27s and MiG-29s look like childs play. If allied pilots weren’t worried before, they definitely were now.