Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers on the front line

At one time, Ukraine operated the second-largest Su-27 fleet in the world. Vladimir Trendafilovski looks at the career of the supermanoeuvrable fighter that remains the backbone of the country’s air defences.

The oldest Ukrainian ‘Flanker’ – Su-27S ‘15 Blue’ of the 831 brTA – deploys its brake ’chute after landing at Myrhorod last May. Note the early tail ‘stinger’ with only eight APP- 50 chaff/fl are launchers carrying a total of 24 cartridges. It wears the typical paint scheme applied at the 831 brTA maintenance facility on all aircraft restored to active service since 2014.

When the former USSR collapsed in the late summer of 1991, Ukraine was one of only four newly formed independent republics that would inherit a portion of the Soviet fleet of Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO codename Flanker) twin-engine longrange interceptor/air superiority fighter aircraft. In early 1992, the recently established Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny (ZSU, Ukrainian Armed Forces) had a total of 68 operational Su-27 aircraft of all sub-variants. At that time, Ukraine’s Su-27 fleet size was second only to the Russian Federation that had inherited the largest portion of ex-Soviet Su-27s.

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