“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.
The Sukhoi Fitter family has always been a favourite with the AIRheads↑FLY editorial team. Why? Well, just take a look at the pics below. It doesn’t really look like a flying machine at all. It more resembles a dinosaur, one that survived extinction, one that will be around for some time to come, one that makes T-Rex look a tame animal. This is survival of the Fitter.
German Fitters weren’t around for too long. The East German NVA operated quite a number of aircraft, but after the reunification with West Germany only a few were kept in service for test purposes. Most aircraft were disposed of. They generaly had very few hours on the clock.
Slovakia Slovakia had its share of Fitters also and operated them well into the nineties. Some aircraft were eventually sold to other countries, Angola being one of them.
Czech Republic When the Czech Republic and Slovakia split up into seperate countries in 1993, both of them continued flying the Su-22 Fitters that were before flying under the flag of Czechoslovakia. The Czech even had a display team flying the Fitters. Flying Fitters would actually have been a perfect name for them.
,,Can’t be!” one of the authors of AIRheads↑FLY thought after seeing F-4F Phantoms touchdown for the last time at Wittmundhafen airbase in northern Germany. It should be Phantoms Phorever. So let’s throw a little afterparty, right here and now.
Starting off with some chilling, easy Phantom vibes, here are some Germans doing what they do best: looking phabolous.
Hellenic Air Force
Turning up the heat with a taste of Southern Europe. The Greeks modified their Phantoms to F-4E AUP standard, including the AN/APG-65GY radar suited for AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Advanced radar warning receivers were added, and the Greeks also took the opportunity to integrate the Rafael Litening II pod and AGM-142 Popeye missile. Plus their Phantoms can use state-of-the-art JDAM ammunition. The modified Phantoms are recognized by the four IFF transponders on the nose. But we actually don’t really care about all that … as long as the results look this good.
Turkish Air Force
Slightly further south Turkey still uses Phantoms everyday. In 2011 the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri showed a modified RF-4E during the Izmir airshow, celebrating a 100 years of military aviation in Turkey. That’s two tasty Phantoms!
South Korean Air Force
Okay, getting into serious Phantom territory now, with rarer-than-rare South Korean rhinos. The Koreans used the ancient F-4D up till a few years ago. Crazy stuff.
The South Korean RF-4Cs are nearing the end of their lives, but they still haul some serious equipment around. Feel free to guess what the center-line pod on this Phantom is … because we just don’t know.
The F-4E is still in use in South Korea. No problem, keep it going! Phantoms Phorever!
As we are still digging through our archives, we found Japanese, Spanish and US Phantoms caught a long time ago. They are screaming to be seen again. So, we’ll be back soon with more of the mighty Phantom.