The Kfir Block 60 versus the SU-30MKK Flanker-G

A Kfir C12. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Peterman thru Airliners.net
A Kfir C12. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Peterman thru Airliners.net

I have already discussed my reservations about the Kfir Block 60 aircraft in a previous blog,1 but the Kfir will always be a darkhorse for any plans for the Philippines to buy a main combat aircraft because of its low price, a huge consideration for a budget-conscious air force like ours. This blog will focus more on how it matches up with the main threat that it would be facing in our air force as of now, the SU-30MKK, if we do end up buying the Kfir in the near future.

‘Aircraft Background’
The Kfir is based on the Mirage III/5 delta-winged aircraft whose blueprints were stolen by the Mossad (as is now detailed in various spy books and articles2), and is described as an all-weather, Multi-Role Fighter aircraft. It was made by the Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI) and first entered service in 1975, seeing extensive combat duty with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) before finally being retired in 1996.

A total of 220 Kfirs were built, and currently the air forces of Colombia, Equador and Sri Lanka are still operating the aircraft. All Kfirs being sold now are taken from the mothballed stocks of the IAF, but are refurbished and upgraded with advanced avionics plus a 40-year manufacturer’s guarantee. The latest version in the market is the “Block 60″ equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the EL/M-2052.3

The SU-30 is an improved version of the SU-27 Flanker made by the Russian Federation’s “Sukhoi Company” and entered service with the Russian Air Force in 1996. It is described as a heavy, long-range, all-weather strike fighter and around 400+ aircrafts have been built so far in service with 9 countries around the world. The SU-30MKK is the special export version to China of the SU-30 which went into the Chinese Air Force service in 2000. China ordered 76 aircraft which were delivered between 2000 to 2003, and in case of any war, it will be China’s main frontline aircraft as it is its most capable combat aircraft right now. The official NATO code name for the SU-30MKK is the “Flanker-G”.4

‘Evaluation Notes’
For the “Maneuverability” and “Payload and Range” sections, the following considerations were made:
– Weights with 100% internal fuel was used to try to simulate the aircraft going into combat with full internal fuel after dropping their External Fuel Tanks.
– The weights of the armaments were not included as the RATIOS and DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH AIRCRAFT will remain the same if they will be armed with the same type and same number of armaments.
– Fuel density of 0.81 kg/l was used to convert fuel capacity to kilograms
– Data for each aircraft was derived from various websites at 5 6 7.

‘Manueverability’
For both aircraft’s maneuvering capability, I am looking at their LIMIT LOAD FACTOR*, WING LOADING* and POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO.* I would’ve wanted to take a look at more aspects like Stall Speed, Maximum Alpha, etc., but those data are hard to come by for both aircraft. Hence, these should suffice for now. Remember that a lower Wing Loading means the aircraft can turn tighter and vice-versa, and a higher Thrust-to-Weight Ratio means the aircraft can go faster going straight up or straight down and vice-versa.
Kfir-FlankerG_Maneuverability

SUMMARY
– POSITIVE LIMIT LOAD FACTOR: Favors the Flanker-G by 20% as it is rated up to 9G at all flight envelopes while the Kfir is only limited to 7.5G in most flight regimes
– WING LOADING: Favors the Kfir with a huge 50% lower wing loading compared to the Flanker-G
– THRUST TO WEIGHT RATIO: 9% advantage for the Flanker-G in terms of TTWR

+++ Typical of pre-F-15/F-16 fighter designs, the Kfir has maximum G-Limit of 7.5Gs, 20% lower than the Flanker-G. However, its large delta-wing design gives it a huge 50% advantage in wing loading over the Flanker-G. Even if you factor in the Kfir’s 9% deficiency in TTWR, it will still be ahead by 21% in terms of overall maneuverability compared to the Flanker-G.

‘Payload and Range’
For Range, I am using INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION (INTFF)* as a rough indicator how far each aircraft can go based on the internal fuel available to them.

An SU-30MKK. Photo courtesy of Notting HIll thru Flickr
An SU-30MKK. Photo courtesy of Notting HIll thru Flickr

The Kfir’s IntFF value was multiplied by 0.87 to reflect the estimated 13% more fuel consumption of its J79 Turbojet Engines as compared to the FA-50’s more efficient F404 Turbofan Engines. For more explanation of this, refer to a special section at the bottom page**
Kfir-FlankerG_Payload

SUMMARY
– INTFF: Favors the Flanker-G by a huge 71%, indicating it can travel 71% farther for the same engine fuel efficiency.
– PAYLOAD: Also favors the Flanker-G as it can carry a commanding 21% (1,412 kg) more load than the Kfir.

+++ Here the Flanker-G’s ability as an OFFENSIVE aircraft shines as it shows it can carry more load and carry it much farther than the Kfir, making it an ideal strike aircraft to complement its air superiority role.

‘Air Combat-related Avionics and Weapons’
Here I am comparing the capability of both aircrafts in terms of Within Visual Range (WVR) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air combat thru their Avionics and Weapons available to them. Just some notes, though:
– RCS data are for “clean” aircraft, with no armaments or fuel tanks
– No solid references for the RCS and detection ranges for the Kfir B60. RCS is taken from an obscure internet reference, while detection range is just estimated to be 25% higher than the detection range of the EL/M-2032 Radar
– Tracking range is assumed to be 85% of the Detection Range
– Closing velocity of 3,000 kph (equally divided to each aircraft) used to compute for First Look, First Shot advantage
– Other data were taken from this website:8 9
Kfir-FlankerG_Avionics

SUMMARY
– WVR COMBAT: Advantage for the Flanker-G because of its Fly By Wire (FBW) system
– BVR COMBAT: Overwhelming BVR (both radar and missile) advantage for the Flanker-G as it can track the Kfir 76 km sooner than the Kfir can track the Flanker-G, and allowing also for maximum BVR missile range it will give the Flanker-G a First Look, First Shot advantage of 52 seconds over the Kfir. The Flanker-G also has the advantage of an IRST sensor which is useful in certain tactical situations.

+++ The Flanker-G’s FBW system means its control reactions are faster which will be more pronounced during successive maneuvers, and it also makes the plane safer as it will be more resistant to stalls and over stressing of the airframe. This will enable the Flanker-G to fly closer to its maximum flight envelopes without exceeding them, while the same thing can’t be said of the Kfir with its mechanical flight control system.

+++ The Flanker-G’s IRST is useful in a limited number of situations as it will enable the Flanker-G to sneak up on its opponents without using its radar (whose emissions can be detected) and fire the first shot if necessary. However it does have limitations, it has a much shorter range than the Flanker-G’s radar at only around 35 km for head on targets,10 which can be further reduced under certain atmospheric conditions.

‘Price, Availability and Other Options’
The Kfir’s main advantage really is its price of only USD 20 million per airframe,11 which is a LOT cheaper than most fighter aircraft available in the world right now with at least similar capability. In terms of AVAILABILITY, IAI commits to be able to ship the first Kfir Block 60 aircraft within a year of an order12 which may be lower than the 1 1/2 year delivery schedule of the FA-50 Golden Eagle, but still not soon enough for me in case we do go into some sort of armed conflict with China.

If we are going to get second hand aircraft from the Israelis, I feel the F-16A Netz will be the better alternative for the Philipppine Air Force (PAF) as at least it will be SUPERIOR to the Flanker-G in WVR combat, but there are also doubts about their ability to carry BVR missiles, their condition and their possible cost.

‘Parting Shot’
The Kfir Block 60 can turn tighter than the Flanker-G, but is hampered by its mechanical Fly by Wire system, and IMHO losing that advantage and making it only roughly equal to the Flanker-G in WVR combat. In BVR combat, it is severely deficient against the Flanker-G. It may be possible to negate the Flanker-G’s BVR capability using jammers (which, as it turns out, the Israelis themselves are some of the best in world at making) and force the Flanker-G into WVR combat where the Kfir can have around a 50-50% chance against it.

I think that IF the Philippines does go into conflict with China within the next 5 years, the Kfir will be one of our main options because of its affordability. It may not be the best aircraft to face China’s SU-30MKK, but if you look at the glass half full, the Flanker-G does represent the most capable fighter aircraft available to China as of this writing, meaning MAJORITY of China’s aircraft are LESS capable than the Flanker-G and thus the Kfir can match up better with MOST, if not the REST of them.

But then there is, of course, the LCA Tejas which is similar or at the same level of capability and pricing to the Kfir Block 60. It would be interesting to compare it with the Kfir Block 60 and how it fares with the Flanker-G, which is what I plan to do soon …

Another Kfir C12. Photo courtesy of Noam Menashe thru Airliners.net
Another Kfir C12. Photo courtesy of Noam Menashe thru Airliners.net

GLOSSARY

** The F404 engine was developed from the J79 engine. They have the same thrust rating and specific fuel consumption, but the F404 Turbofan engine is 1,470 lbs. lighter than the J79 Turbojet engine, hence the F404 is more efficient as it will need less thrust for the same amount of weight to fly in the air. To reflect this efficiency, the weight savings is divided by the dry thrust or non-afterburning thrust rating (10,900 lbs) of the engine as the aircraft operates most of the time in dry thrust. Values were taken from the book, “An Introduction to Aircraft Performance” by Mario Asselin p. 51, http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=kaqvC4e_EKcC&pg=PA51&lpg=PA51&dq=f404+compared+to+j79&source=bl&ots=BJI4siX03v&sig=Xj2mtSqwqJFCDEZQUIXxVvf9UCU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=km1iUoG-H-6eiAfHnYHoDg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=f404%20compared%20to%20j79&f=false

SOURCES:


  1. Kfir Block 60 for the Philippine Air Force?,
    (https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/kfir-block-60-for-the-philippine-air-force/
  2. Israelis Have No Comment on Report That Stolen Mirage Iii Plans Were Bought,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20161230011336/http://www.jta.org/1969/09/29/archive/israelis-have-no-comment-on-report-that-stolen-mirage-iii-plans-were-bought
  3. IAI Kfir,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20140321003351/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IAI_Kfir
  4. SU-30MKK,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20130614194948/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-30MKK
  5. Sukhoi Flanker Program Dossier,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20150402101322/http://aviationweek.com/site-files/aviationweek.com/files/uploads/2014/11/asd_11_14_2014_Flanker6.pdf
  6. Kfir,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20160322224649/http://mil.aviations.tripod.com/asia/israel/kfir/info.html
  7. F-21 Kfir, IAI,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20150628011326/http://www.fighter-planes.com/info/kfir.htm
  8. Zhuk-MSE,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20130131114320/http://www.deagel.com/Aircraft-Warners-and-Sensors/Zhuk-MSE_a001457003.aspx
  9. Fighter Mig-21 Fishbed,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20140624072432/http://www.enemyforces.net/aircraft/mig21.htm
  10. OLS-35 IRST option for Su-30 family,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20150216085625/http://igorrgroup.blogspot.com/2009/10/ols-35-irst-option-for-su-30-family.html
  11. Israel Aerospace Industries Marketing ‘Pre-Owned’ Kfir Fighter Jets to Eastern Europe, Latin America,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20130826164018/http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/07/israel-aerospace-industries-marketing-pre-owned-kfir-fighter-jets-to-eastern-europe-latin-america/
  12. At 40 Years of age, Kfir Turns into a “Networked Fighter”,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20140925103537/http://defense-update.com/20131006_at-40-years-of-age-kfir-turns-into-a-networked-fighter.html#.WGWxl1zOXSY
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36 thoughts on “The Kfir Block 60 versus the SU-30MKK Flanker-G”

  1. i think the philippines can afford any brand new MRF in a price ceiling in between 20m to 40m dollars per aircraft in a limited purchase. just like thailand and malaysia have done, we can will afford to buy 6 MRF in a yearly basis or in three years span we could have 18 MRFs. so, in any year we can be assured to have at least MRFs in our bases.
    unlike now, since we want to buy immediately 12 FA-50s if we start our orders now it will take us up to 2016 to have the 12 FA-50s but in 2014 and 2015 our air force will have no sort of fighter cover.
    at present the big question mark, no contracts have been signed therefore it will take us to 2017 or 2018 to have the goods or it will never will.
    thank God columbia, ecuador and sri lanka and other countries economically not as fortunate as ours have already legitimate MRFs and missile capable naval assets.
    i think the issue here is no longer about affordability or what kind of MRF we will purchase. lot in government want to make a show specially if the issue is about billion of dollars that make difficult to release the funds needed to modernize our armed forces.
    again, Pnoy cannot do it alone it needs congress and senate to have a common goal to achieve the modernization plan for the armed forces rather involving inquiry about PDAF scam and other so called scams (let the prosecutor do their work) that waste time but only increase expense by millions to congress and senate for so called investigations and honorarium paid to congressmen and senators.

    1. The problem with these advanced Fighter aircraft is not just about affordability, but also maintainability. They are expensive to buy, and they are expensive to maintain. To me, the cost of maintaining the aircraft is just as important as buying them.

      If we don’t spend for maintenance, we will again see what happened to our AS-211s: We bought 24 in 1988 and 2002, and now only 4 are in flying condition.

      Thailand spent around USD 90 million per aircraft for their Gripens, which probably includes spare parts and maintenance for around 2 decades, maybe more. If we spend less for maintenance, it means we will only be able to keep our aircraft flying for a couple of years …

      1. we were blinded by the koreans. i assume that we agreed to get their fa50’s because they would bundle it along with new frigates. the only problem is when when when? We know for a fact that indonesians are already training in korea for their ta50’s. China already is planning a 2nd carrier.

      2. The FA-50s will have their time, if PNoy decides to buy them. If not, I am sure the government will just buy some other Advanced Jet Trainer …

  2. the sad thing Pnoy knows that he has also limited authority in regards to purchase of modern equipments…have you notice congress and senate are very silent on the needs of our armed forces. this is the reason Pnoy is also reserving his authority to purchase because he knows some buayas in congress and senate is waiting that he will commit a mistake.
    i might be speculating but i think that is one of the major hurdles. Pnoy is really thinking over about signing a contract for the FA-50s without first getting the legal implications of the contract. without congress and senate behind Pnoy, i think our need for jet fighters and missile frigates is not that feasible even in a near future.

    1. You are right about that, Politicians and Writers have been publicly trying to shoot down the FA-50 Fighting Eagle purchase, and this is making PNoy extra cautious about making “special” accommodations for it like the 52% downpayment as he now knows it will be used against him.

      I actually wanted to write about all this mudslinging against the FA-50, but I decided to just keep writing positive blogs than break down into a rant again. I might still do it, though, depending on developments …

    2. It looks like defense hawks are not vogue in the Philippines. It could be partially attributed to the fallout of Martial Law.

      The conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is a useful program to a certain extent. Unfortunately CCT is not going to help when our fishermen are not able ply our seas anymore and carry out their livelihood. Neither it would help lower our energy costs for there may be potential reserves under our seas.

  3. sir rhk: sorry this to say to you………but I recommend you to be one of the consultant of our afp. how I wish sir you you would be the one to advise those generals on how to handle the military arsenal and future acquisition that our government is planning of.

    1. Actually, I think our generals have a better view on how things really are in our AFP because they are privy to some information we may not have, information that has not been released to the public. But thanks for the kind words, anyway.

      As for consultants, this is just a hobby for me, I am sure if the AFP looks hard enough, there are many individuals around the world who have better experience and qualifications. Scientists, or other Engineers who have worked with defense companies or with governments in defense-related positions.

      1. i agree. this is also a hobby for me going through defense websites. it is just so frustrating. i never felt the afp secured us as a nation (was born in the 80’s) both internally or externally. i just hope within my lifetime i could be proud of them as compared to when we were the envy of all the air forces and navies in asia. that wish list includes frigates, air superiority fighters, lhd’s with hovercrafts, c130’s, a400’s, leopard tanks, multirole fighters, patrol boats, uh-60’s and finally a diesel sub. maybe when im 60…maybe…hope so…

      2. We need another good President like PNoy. If we get one, I am sure that we will have a relatively strong AFP against external aggressors by 2022 …

      3. Yes Sir Im agree with Lem1. I think your not having just a hobby for this one and of course you have already done a lot of research which in turn the info and updates you are looking for, the more you have the knowledge to check all related issues we have to the armed forces

  4. Based on the spec sheet the lca tejas is quite impressive. Limited stealth daw? At almost the same price as the kfir but is brand new!? Top speed of 1.6 mach. That puts the fa50 to shame! The only thing that isnt going for it is looks. If the dnd is really into ultra tipid tactics this is it! We will just have to put up with made in India idea which is relatively new. Maybe a fa50 and lca tejas comparison?

    1. The Tejas is a Light Combat Aircraft, while the FA-50 is more of a Trainer with secondary combat capabilities. Besides, it will be no contest, the Tejas is much better as a combat aircraft, but the FA-50 will be better as a Trainer because of some of its systems.

      The Tejas is also SUPERIOR to the Kfir in almost all aspects. The only problem is that it is so new, no service record anywhere, set to enter service in 2015. Plus not sure if HAL can deliver enough aircraft in 2-3 years.

      1. If the price is right why not skip the fa50 altogether? or split orders to 6 tejas and 6 geagles’ or 6 tejas and 6 masters or 6 tejas and 6 ta50 instead of fa50. Does the AFP or DND know this blog exists? Just wondering. A tejas and geagle comparison please:)

      2. If the T/A-50 is cheaper, then it would make more sense to just go with it rather than the FA-50. The problem with the F/A-50 is that it doesn’t have BVR capability and a Helmet-Mounted Sight/High Off Boresight Missiles, making it weak when it comes to any sort of Air Combat situation. But the F/A-50 or T/A-50 does have ground mapping/surface search radars, giving them good capability in the ground/surface attack role. Yes, I will go with an F/A-50 and Tejas comparison later if only to stress the above conclusion in a blog …

  5. Good informative post. If all (or most) facts are true, then the Kfir is totally outclassed.

    Looks like we should go with the Gripen if we want a relatively affordable fighter than can match the Chinese planes…

    1. There are ways to offset the SU-30MKK’s BVR advantage, like using other radars thru Data Link, and using electronic jammers. They just need a little bit more work …

      1. Yes there are some ways to offset but that’s clearly an uphill (losing) battle if we begin with an inferior platform like the Kfir.

        We need a superior platform that is realistically within our budget. Only the Gripen fits this.

        Imagine by 2020, our country having 48 gripens with excellent BVR capability supported by 2-3 awacs. That should make the Chinese pause

      2. Not sure if the Gripens are within our budget, it cost the Thais USD 90+ million (with logistics support) per aircraft to get theirs, while these Kfirs are only USD 20 million (aircraft only) per aircraft.

      3. By 2020 (or even earlier), we can easily afford the Gripen. By then, we will have a $400B economy, assuming 6% yearly growth.

        Even if we just increase our defense spending to world average of 1.5% of GNP, we are looking at an amount of $6B. If the govt make it 2%, we have a $8B/year defense budget.

        Then add maybe another $1B coming from the modernization fund, we have $7B-$9B.

        This yearly budget is already enough to develop a credible defense for our nation.

  6. Don’t bet on the HAL Tejas. They have a bad reputation for delays and quality work. Even the Indians are fed up on HAL and are considering getting an IJT outside instead of relying on their own IJT passing certification on time. The Tejas is supposed to be a more sophisticated plane since it’s light MRF/LCA instead of just a trainer. If they have a hard time on their IJT what more for the Tejas? The Tejas was delayed for decades. Not years but decades. It makes the long-delayed F-35 fast in relative comparison and we all know how delayed the F-35 is.

    Now the IAF says they have ordered there first batch but that is just the Mark I and that is even if they have only achieved IOC-2 and FOC is yet to done (they say late this year) they are only manufacturing it to jumpstart the programe. There is still a possibility they might see problems and delay FOC late this year.

    In short, the Tejas as good it is made to appear on paper is largely unproven made by a relatively unproven manufacturer. Don’t forget that the Tejas airframe and design is 100% indigenous with no partners from more proven and experienced manufacturers like from US, Europe and even from their ally Russia. At least the FA-50 was co-developed with Lockheed Martin.

    1. Yeah, I read about HAL’s IJT, and Tejas development actually lasted 3 decades, they started out in the early 1980s. But based on what I’ve seen so far, the Tejas Mk1 is one hell of an aircraft, as good as the F-16A Netz, but brand new and with confirmed BVR capability. The only issue with it is availability and lack of a service record.

      I feel that once it proves itself POSITIVELY in military service, the Tejas will be a sought after aircraft because of its low price and excellent performance. For the Philippines NOW, it sort of like a High Risk, High Reward scenario. The Kfir is more of a sure thing, proven service record and availability, but not as good as the Tejas. Its a bit of a conundrum, but it is better to go with a sure thing than a risky thing …

    2. The Tejas reportedly borrowed heavily from the Mirage, I read somewhere they got some French Aircraft Design consultants before, probably from Dassault. The FA-50 is based on the proven F-16 design, and of course as you’ve said they had Lockheed Martin as partner.

      1. How about we meet at the middle. Can IAI upgrade the kfir more and make it fly by wire and carry bvr ordnance and change the turbojet engine to turbofan. Or we upgrade the fa50 to carry a more powerful radar. In any case we still don’t have a proper adversary to the SU30. One solution is 2 two seat gripens and 2 single seat gripens instead of 12 geagles and revive our 20 mothballed s211’s (wikipedia said we received 24) for jet training. How about a gripen vs su30 comparison as well. By the way South Africa has unused Gripens since they can’t fly all of them because of budget cuts.

      2. We only have around 13 AS-211 airframes, the rest of them (around 11) have crashed over the years, which really highlights the need for a Advanced Jet Trainers before handing out to our pilots more expensive aircraft.

        As for the South African Gripens, IF the South Africans are willing to sell them, then those would be great options.

    3. who says tejas was delayed for decades?? india was under u.s sanctions till 2006. hal got funds in 1990s. how can scientists build aircraft without funds? hal is more than capable. ever hears of light combat helicopter made by hal? it broke all altitude records. its better than even apache in many terms. you think india can send mission to mars, can make ballistic missiles, scramjet engine, launch satellites but cant make a fighter aircraft??? the biggest reason behind delay of tejas is that airforce was satisfied by rssian migs and sukhois, it was never interested in tejas. it never gave proper feedback to scientists who were developing the aircraft. meetings and discussions between scientists and airforce were almost nil. second congress party of india never wanted to buy indigenous aircraft coz they were getting good kickbacks. if tejas succeed then how will they get money?
      recently airforce rejected f-16s and saab. they like tejas more.

  7. By the way i heard there is also a lease to own option for gripens by the czech air force. And a gripen top gun school is being built at thailand. Apparently Thailand is gonna buy a whole lot of them.

      1. i think there was a proposal before by an american admiral to lease to the philippines a squadron of f-16s and frigates but i think was not able to reach U.S. congress.

    1. Well, Thailand is more “well-off” compared to the Philippines. Their Poverty Rate is only around 8%, while ours is at 26%. And their GNP Per Capita Income is around USD 5,000 or twice that of ours which is only around USD 2,500. Hence they can better afford to pay for these more expensive military toys. Sad to say but most of South East Asia are way ahead of the Philippines economically …

      1. we loss billion of pesos because of corruption..and many of them will not be discovered. the PDAF is only one issue an amount of P10 billion, after its discovery a lot of maneuvering will be made that other scam will be difficult or no longer be discovered. the P10 billion alone is enough to buy 3 to 4 F16 block 50 for a $60m per jet.

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