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Indonesian Flankers touch down in Darwin

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 27, 2012
A pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets escort four Indonesian Su-27 and Su-30 fighters into Darwin ahead of multi-lateral air exercises. (SGT Shane Gidall/Department of Defence)

Four Indonesian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters touched down in Darwin yesterday as the top line Russian-built jets made their first visit to Australia.

The arrival of the jets, ahead of the bi-annual ‘Pitch Black’ air combat exercise, marks the first time RAAF personnel will have come in close contact with the advanced Russian-made fighters, designed as a foil to ‘fourth-generation’ US-built warplanes such as the F-15.

More significantly, the arrival marks the first time Indonesia has taken part in the exercise, reflecting a key Australian foreign policy goal of strengthening ties with its populous neighbour.

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Billed as the largest air force exercise in the South Hemisphere, this year’s Pitch Black 12 includes 94 aircraft and some 2,200 personnel from six countries, including Australia, the US, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand. In addition to the Indonesia fighters, aircraft making a first appearance in the exercise include the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornet, Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft and KC-30 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, as well as Singapore’s F-15SG Eagle. The exercise also marks the last time the RAAF’s C-130H Hercules transports will take part, with those aircraft scheduled for retirement later this year.

The exercise, which started today and runs through August 17, is built on a scenario in which two rival air forces square off for control of a massive swath of airspace over the Delamere Range and Bradshaw Filed Training Area in the Northern Territory, with one air force based at RAAF Darwin and the other at RAAF Tindal near Katherine. The scenario progressively heats up over the course of the exercise, so residents can expect increasing noise levels come mid-August.

The visit marks the first time the advanced Russian-built fighters have visited Australia. (SGT Shane Gidall/Department of Defence)

But anyone who hasn’t had enough fighter jets can view a static display of 21 of the warplanes at RAAF Darwin as part of an open day on August 11. More details on the open day are available on the RAAF’s website.

(SGT Shane Gidall/Department of Defence)

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32 Comments

  • Dan

    says:

    Interesting to see how the Super Hornet goes up against the SU 30 one on one?
    I’m sure the Government and the RAAF will tell the truth of the outcome, lol

  • Chris

    says:

    What a truely momentous occassion!

  • John

    says:

    actually, its NOT the first time the Flanker family has been in Australia.You may want to review your records of Avalon airshows, possibly 2001.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Sorry if the wording is ambiguous, we mean the first visit by Indonesian Flankers. Yes, there was a Flanker demonstrator at Avalon some years back, we think it was 1995?

  • Tim

    says:

    Yup, 1995, Su-27P Flanker. Russians stole the show that year. From memory the RAAF didn’t do a Hornet display and the USAF did do an F-16 display but I think they had external fuel tanks on which “restricted” the display.

  • Sam Spooner

    says:

    LOL. Look at the Hornets all flying with drop tanks, while the Sukhoi’s are flying nice and clean due to their superior internal fuel load, and range.

    Why Australia didn’t buy some Su-30’s or Su-34’s I’ll never know.

  • Peter

    says:

    Hello Tim

    Actually it was the specially modified Su-27PD (single-seat demonstrator with improvements such as inflight refuelling probe and the absence of the IRST sensor ball) which was at the Avalon Air Show 1995. One of my mates has been to the show back then and has touched the Su-27s nose cone. He said to me it felt like sand paper, rough as guts.

    Yes the F-16C display had external fuel tanks which restricted the air display.

  • Peter

    says:

    @ Gerard Frawley, (Publisher & Managing Editor)

    Yes it was 1995. Maybe if you want to recheck the past Avalon events you’ll find Australian International Air Show 1995 which mentioned the Su-27PD took part of its flying display. At the time the Russians stole the show.

  • Navy Rules

    says:

    Interesting… But a very unrealistic scenario a one air force against another in close proximity??? This is not 1945 anymore Dorothy!

  • Dane

    says:

    The Yanks probably didn’t want to show too much off in front of the Ruskis. They were the pre-Youtube days and you couldn’t just download a video of aircraft handling displays.

  • Dan

    says:

    God i can’t wait for the Super Hornet to go up against the SU 30, I just hope the Government (like how they have lied for the last 5 years and the ADF, who only gets 20 percent of things right), have the logic to tell the truth how the wargames went. And i don’t expect the truth either from none of them and Aviation Australia magazine because they will loes there funding and there interviews with the Raaf and Lockheed Martin.

  • Nickoli

    says:

    Being ex Russian fighter pilot, am interested how go this but ‘Navy Rules’ he is right. Unrealistic scenario. More of “good will” visit. We know all that beyond visual missile and satellite is key these days. Still, interesting if you like take photo and like play school boy war game.

  • Navy Rules

    says:

    @Nickoli
    Not quite what I was getting at.
    I would like to see a more realistic excersise over much larger distances and more opposing SU’s. You’re right about it though being a publicity stunt. Probably to bolster support to back the purchase of the F35’s. Sorry Peter/Dan…know you don’t like that 🙂

  • Dane

    says:

    It would be interesting to see who the winner would be in a realistic and modern air battle, however, the loser would be very red-faced and have a lot to answer for. The only real test would be to shoot at each other. Last man standing wins.

  • Air Observer

    says:

    Hopefully in the future we will see more of them flying around together and worry less about them facing each other.

  • Foo

    says:

    I think with the Wedgetail support and future possible purchase of the Growler Superhornet the Raaf is ahead of the game also the reliability of the Russian machines will questioned.Hopefully we can remove Gillard and the Liberals can keep spending on Raaf needs so we can keep that one step ahead

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    @Foo
    Totally agree with you brother. Gillard and labor need to go if defence (RAAF) is to have any chance of a viable and effective defence spending Regime.

  • Richard

    says:

    Such cynicism Dan. You sound like you’re all over it!

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    Dan and Peter are one of the same Richard

  • pez

    says:

    All the political talk aside, damn they are good looking planes!

    I do wonder what defence would look like if Gillard never snuck into the Lodge, although considering the only purchase under Labor has been the C-27 (aside from the extra C-17s, I think that’s it), I really doubt it would look much different.

  • DB

    says:

    The politics here are a bit partisan. In reality the government spending cuts won’t be implemented in their entirety for years if ever. In fact Kevin Rudd was more hawkish than some on his liberal predecessors. Defence cuts come and go along with economic booms and busts. The US has all the toys they can buy but often stumbles when employing them.The ADF will never be big so we had better be good and that is quality not quantity. As for platforms, the Su-35 is the best 4th generation fighter/strike aircraft n the world when it comes to energy manoevreability. I doubt given equal pilots the SH would have a chance against it in a knife fight and in BVR the Russians also make better missiles. Hats off to them.

  • Ben

    says:

    It’s funny you guys think the Liberals will increase defence spending when Tony Abbott announced the other day that the Liberals won’t increase it at all.

  • Greg

    says:

    DB, what missiles are they? The mythical R-77M? When has that been anything but a glossy brochure dream?

  • Foo

    says:

    @Greg good line man like your work I might be wrong but all the labour govt decisions as far as long term decisions is concrened have been made by a liberal govenment which has been carried thru by this so called govt

  • Adrian Paddingtom

    says:

    The US, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand aircraft should be invited to Avalon next year as neighbours rather than enemies. Invite China a most important trading partner.

  • DB

    says:

    Greg don’t tell me you are someone who believes Russians can only make tractors?

    How about the K-100 anti AWACS and the Vympel R-37 and the K-37 for starters. It would make you think twice about how close you put tankers and AWACS to a strike package.

  • Greg

    says:

    Of course I don’t DB!

    I just want to see thof reports of successful OT&E, orders for, and IOC/FOC states of these brochure weapons!

  • Dan

    says:

    @Richard

    Where do you get such ridiculous notions from?

    The F 35 is the only aircraft that can stand up to the SU 30 series, RAAF should not get 100 F 35’s but they should look into getting at least 120 F 35’s to allow losses of the aircraft in combat, expand our Airforce across the country, and allow for possible accidents of the aircraft over time. Yes. The Government does lie and the ADF does get projects wrong

    I’m no APA fan either.

    The end.

  • Peter

    says:

    @ Dan

    Where do you get such ludicrous notions from?

    The F 35 is NOT the only aircraft that can stand up to the Su-27/30 series. The RAAF should never acquire 120 F 35′s to allow losses of the aircraft in combat, expand our Air Force across the country, the advanced F-15s are the prefered type instead of the lemon and failed F-35s. Yes. The Government certainly does lie and the ADF does get projects wrong.

    Again, the F-35 is totally incapable of facing high end environment threats. This has shown that the aircraft has a lot of limitations and it cannot do a lot of things as expected to show and promise that is a true fifth generation fighter, because it does not meet all the requirements of partner nations. Its fuselage is too overweight which has too much cross section; the wings are too small which lacks the extreme manoeuvrability. The wing planform is optimised for subsonic cruise and transonic manoeuvre which doesn’t provide enough lift and drag to defeat Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) air-to-air missiles (AAMs) from enemy fighters in the dogfight and stand-off ranges, advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and ground fire during top end threats. It also has inferior acceleration at Mach 1.6, short range with no loiter time and very limited weapons payload that is unsuited for bomber and cruise missile defence and totally unsuited for air superiority role when compared against Sukhoi family, upcoming J-20 and perhaps the J-60 of aircraft, particularly post 2010 configurations; definitely post 2015 evolved growth variants.

    55Zh6M Nebo M “Counter Stealth Radar”. If you want to find out more about this counter stealth radar, here’s a description.

    Development initiated late 1990s leveraging experience in Nebo SVU VHF-Band AESA radar;
    2012-2013 IOC intended;

    Designed from the outset to detect stealth fighters and provide early warning and track data to missile batteries and fighters;

    The VHF component will provide a significant detection and tracking capability against fighter and UCAV sized stealth targets;

    High off-road capability permits placement well away from built up areas, enabling concealment;

    Rapid deploy and stow times permit evasion of air attacks by frequent movement, defeats cruise missiles like JASSM;

    Initial Nebo M builds for Russian Air Defence Forces, but expected like other “counter-stealth” radars to be marketed for global export to arbitrary clientele.

    Plus, the F-35 will also be detected by the L-Band AESA. It is used for targetting which they’ll be able to track LO/VLO stealth planes such as the F-35.

    If the F-35 was to be able to meet its specifications, the aircraft will have the ability of going up against a 1980s Soviet air defence system of the type that we saw destroyed very effectively in Libya about 16 months ago, the F-35 would be reasonably be effective in that environment, because these older Soviet radars would not see it.

    But if you are putting F-35 up against the newer generation of much, much more powerful Russian radars and some of the newer Chinese radars, the aircraft is quite detectable, especially from behind, the upper side and from the lower sides as well.

    Again, the F-35 is stealthy only in the front fuselage area, a conservative estimate for the frontal RCS of the F-35 would be 0.0015 square metre which is only stealthy in the front, this is what I call “Partial Stealth” which the F-35 does have. Because if the situation arises, the Sukhoi family of fighters, upcoming J-20 or J-60 can out-run, out-climb and out-manoeuvre, and be able to track the F-35 using L-band AESA, IRST sensor (from the upper and lower sides and aft fuselage) and launch their AAMs from any altitude at speed etc.

    The bad news is, with the changed environment the F-35 will be obsolete when the aircraft arrives in 2018 or later, the US as well the allies are armed with this aircraft will make their air power totally ineffective in the next 30 to 40 years. I’m complaining about LM lying and misleading to the military and the public what they state their facts what the F-35 can do etc etc. And I don’t see any contradiction with the way I’ve promoted these new Russian/Chinese radars etc.

    Put it simply. Joining the junk F-35 program and buying this boondoggle is a really stupid, pathetic, dumb and unthinkable idea at the first place. It’ll be inadequate to deal with the changed threat environment, and if you have the F-35s that just aren’t capable of dealing with the high threat zones, it just doesn’t do you any good of going ahead with the lemon and sink the money, because if you do you’ll become a total loser and you have already ruined your own plan to shrink the size of the air force/navy/marine corps that certainly will show the air power will be totally ineffective in the coming years. Because the F-35 will be increasingly expensive aircraft that will fail the air defence program and there’s absolutely no point of sticking with the F-35 because some hostile nations could well be purchasing The Nebo M Mobile “Counter Stealth” Radars, advanced S-400 and S-500 SAM systems.

    This is why LM has made you got facinated to join their failed JSF program which is why you’re conned with their statements. You may not like the way I’m explaining to you, I’m sorry to say but this is true Dan. If it was up to me I’ll completely back away and run away from LM and F-35 program. I will kill the whole F-35 program if I had my own decision and my own way. Its a “5th generation failure”.

    If I hear about the F-35 got shot down by the Sukhoi family, J-20, J-60 or advanced SAMs. Who to blame and point the finger? That is the DoD bureaucrats, RAAF personals and indeed the pro-JSF advocates.

    So why should Australia deserve to be partners with Lockheed Martin to join the failed and a scandal JSF program that will never fulfil its mission requirements???

    The end.

  • Sam

    says:

    @Peter

    Your last name isnt Goon by any chance is it?

    With such an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the JSF project and the foreign technologies that Russia and China are producing, its a wonder you’re not more heavily involved with DMO to further Australias procurement options!

    Back ontopic: It’s great that Indonesia came over for Pitch Black, good opportunity to strengthen relations with them and gives our guys some exposure to the Russian fighters. I hope they get a lot out of the experience!

  • Peter

    says:

    There is another guy I agree with the statement, the WWW Submission: 4. Air Force/Air Power. Sent on Monday, 4th August 2008 to the Defence White Paper.

    I’m not sure who he is, which probably remains anonymous.

    I’ll put some of the description whats been sent.

    “Because of Australia’s land mass, a large twin engine fighter is the practical choice for Australia’s needs, and basing them in locations around Australia which would provide protection and cover for most or all of Australia’s coastline, with a practical 30 minute response to almost any location on our coast”.

    “This would mean a fighter capable of Mach 2.5, like the F-22 or the F-15. The F-15, even today, when Australia builds new Eagles on licence from Boeing, can provide a massive amount of capability compared to the lightweight Hornets. The F-15s can be based at 3 locations in Western Australia which currently has no fighters based here and can be based on average of 2 locations per state. With a requirement for around 200-210 airframes, and with around 1500 Air to air missiles and 2000 bombs, Australia will be comprehensively set up for a secure Air shield. Even the Sukhois which now outpace the Hornets will now be matched by the aquisition of the Eagle”.

    “The F-35 JSF is a single engine fighter but is not as practical as a large twin engine fighter. New Zealand, Singapore, Korea and Japan would be ideal locations for a single engine fighter. All of those countries have the F-15 except for New Zealand which chose to disregard its Air Force and now is unable to even shoot down airliners if terrorists gain control of the cockpit. Considering the countries in Asia who we are strong friends with have bought the F-15, says a lot for this superiority fighter aircraft”.

    If you want to find out more information go to Australian Government, Department of Defence search engine type in Submission: Air Force/Air Power PDF file and then you’ll get the idea.

    The new built “F-15AU” on licence from Boeing, can provide a massive amount of capability and should incorporate new upgrades for the advanced Eagles such as:

    1. APG-82 AESA fire control radar.

    2. 2D or 3D thrust vectoring supercruising F100-PW-232 or F110-GE-132 engines as a consideration.

    3. DEWS (Digital Electronic Warfare System) or defensible EWSP jammers.

    4. NG (Next Generation) 3-D touch screen cockpit display.

    5. Digital fly-by-wire flight control system.

    6. IRST sensor pod (either located next to the windshield or below the port air intake) and CFB (Conformal Weapons Bays) etc.

    Cheers

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