Russia has started implementing a contract on the delivery of a batch of its newest Su-30SM multirole fighter jets to Belarus, but some analysts raised concerns about costs over the entire life cycle of the aircraft, from fabrication to maintenance.
The publication Lenta.ru reported Friday that a wide range of renowned experts has expressed their concerns regarding Belarus selected Russian-made combat aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era MiG-29 fleet.
Andrey Porotnikov, BelarusSecurityBlog’s project leader, said that operating and support costs of Russian aircraft are more expensive than U.S.-made F-16 fighter aircraft.
Usually, the combat aircraft life-cycle cost for an estimated life of 35 years is 2-2.5 times its purchase price, as a result of which the total cost of maintenance of each Belarus’s Su-30SM will cost $100-125 million.
“And now, to sum up, the price of aircraft [about $ 50 million], the maintain of airworthiness and modernization. We get the amount from 185 to 210 million dollars for each (!) aircraft in the next 35 years. And the squadron [12 aircraft], respectively, from 2.22 billion to 2.52 billion dollars. The amount is not small, ”- Andrey Porotnikov stated.
Another disadvantage of the fighter manufactured in Russia is its AL-31FP engines, which six units “eat” during the Su-30SM life cycle (two of them are already installed and paid for at the time of purchase). This circumstance in the publication is explained by the fact that “Soviet (Russian) aircraft engines are traditionally inferior to Western ones not only in fuel efficiency but also in between-repairs and operating life cycles.”
“The Polish Air Force simultaneously operates the Soviet twin-engine fighter MiG-29 and the American single-engine F-16. It is assumed that the American fighter will fly off all 35 years with the same engine that was originally installed on it. Unfortunately, this does not work out with the MiG-29: eight engines will have to be replaced in the same period, ” explained analyst.
According to TASS, the Su-30SM is a generation 4++ serial-produced and upgraded two-seat super-maneuverable fighter jet. The Su-30SM is furnished with two AL-31FP thrust-vectoring reheated double-flow turbofan engines. The fighter has an operating range of 1,500 km and flight endurance of 3.5 hours without refueling.