PARIS: Sukhoi Su-35 set to steal the show

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The star of this year's Le Bourget air show is undoubtedly set to be Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E, which is making its Paris debut. It is the first Russian-built fighter to appear at the Paris air show since the 1999 crash of an older-model Flanker.

Even before the show formally started, the powerful twin-engined fighter demonstrated a spectacular routine showcasing the manoeuverability afforded by its multi-axis thrust-vectoring Saturn 117S 14,500Kg (31,900lb) afterburning engines.

During a 12-minute routine the Su-35 performed a series of seemingly impossible manoeuvres that demonstrated remarkable low-speed handling characteristics. During one particular sequence, the Flanker appeared to hover before lowering its nose and accelerating smoothly away.

Maneuverability is not the only thing the Su-35 offers. The jet has enormous range and payload. The Flanker-E has a range of 3,600km (1,940nm) - more with external tanks and inflight refueling - and can carry 8,000kg (17,600lb) on 12 hard points. The jet, which is entering service with the Russian air force, also sports some of Moscow's most advanced avionics.

Sukhoi Su-35

The radar is a Tikhomirov NIIP Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array set, but in future the aircraft is likely to be equipped with a true active electronically scanned array radar. The current radar can track up to 30 aerial targets and engage eight simultaneously. The Flanker-E is also equipped with an OLS-35 infrared search and track system and a Khibiny-M electronic warfare suite.

One mystery is how well the jet's avionics have been integrated compared to Western-types. While the Su-35's cockpit appears to include advanced displays, historically sensors and cockpit ergonomics have been weak spots for Russian aircraft.

Nonetheless, the Su-35's sheer kinematic performance, combined with its potent array of sensors and air-to-air missiles, which include the Vympel R-77 and R-73, will make it a formidable adversary for all but the most advanced western fighters. Additionally, the Su-35 can carry an array of advanced air-to-surface weapons.

Perhaps what is most important about the Su-35 is not that it is the ultimate incarnation of the original Su-27 Flanker that first appeared in the late 1970s, but that many of its systems are being used to mature technologies for the Russia's next-generation T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter.

Check out the latest news and views from this year's Paris air show, including:

Finally, our new-look iFDN editions will contain exclusive footage from Paris 2013. Find out more