The Russian Air Force is expected to induct an all new variant of the Su-30 heavyweight fighter into service in 2021, with the aircraft based on the Su-30SM design and currently in production.

The fighters are the first Su-30 variants classified as ‘4++ generation’ fighters by Russian sources, and will be the first to benefit from three dimensional thrust vectoring capabilities and to integrate new AL-41 engines - specifically the AL-41F-1S. The AL-41 has been used by the Russian Air Force for over six years, and currently powers the service's Su-35 fighters which are its only ‘4++ generation’ heavyweight fighters that are operational. The Su-30 and Su-35 are notably both based on the Su-27 Flanker airframe and have the same dimensions, although the former is considerably cheaper and has a number of disadvantages including lower use of composite materials, a higher radar cross section, weaker engines and a less powerful sensor suite. Equipping the Su-30 with the AL-41 engine is reportedly part of a broader effort to merge the two fighter programs - possibly in preparation for manufacturing under a single production line after 2027 under Russia’s next State Armaments Plan.
AL-41 Engine

It is expected that all Flanker aircraft in the Russian Air Force and Navy, with the exception of the Su-34 strike platform which is considerably heavier, will eventually use the AL-41 engine including the Su-30, Su-27 and possibly even the Navy’s small fleet of Su-33 carrier based jets. The engine will not only considerably increase their range, but will also improve their flight performance providing a higher thrust/weight ratio, climb rate and manoeuvrability due to its grater efficiency and power relative to its predecessor the AL-31. Use of a single class of standardised engine will also significantly reduce the maintenance burden for the Russian Air Force. The press office of Russia’s Western Military District reported regarding plans to upgrade the Su-30: "The fighter regiment of the Western Military District will get a batch of Su-30SM fighters under the state defence procurement plan with the upgraded engine. The first batch is planned for delivery in 2021. The new fighters are set to be outfitted with the latest AL-41F-1S engines.” 

The upgraded Su-30 fighters will be delivered by the Irkut Aircraft Corporation, and a similar upgrade package has reportedly been offered to foreign clients for the Su-30 which has been Russia’s most widely exported fighter over the past decade. The Indian Air Force in particular, which is the Su-30’s largest foreign operator, is expected to seek to upgrade its own fleet with the AL-41 engine to counter the growing capabilities of heavyweight fighters in neighbouring China, and could also acquire the Su-35’s more modern Irbis-E radar for its fighters. Russia has offered the AL-41 in large numbers at a very low cost as part of a possible deal for the license manufacture of over 100 Su-35 fighters in India - with the contract also including upgrades to the Su-30 fleet using Su-35 technologies.

Military Watch Magazine