Kupol M400 Recce Pod
Few details are usually revealed about the reconnaissance capabilities of Russian reconnaissance systems. However, the Russian authorities have recognised that if they wish to attract export customers for their aerospace equipment, they have to allow details of the equipment and itís capabilities to be more freely available.
In Aug 03 at the MAKS airshow in Moscow, Sukhoi displayed their latest enhanced Su-30MKK2 multi-role fighter carrying a variety of equipment, including the new M400 reconnaissance suite developed by Kupol to a Sukhoi specification. The M400 reconnaissance suite is housed in a large pod capable carried on the centreline station and can carry a variety of sensors including a Sideways Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) with a range of 100km and a resolution of 2.0m, a high and low altitude TV/infra-red camera with a 30cm resolution or a long-range oblique camera with a range of 70km and capable of imaging down to 40cm.
Equipped with an M400 pod housing a SLAR, according to Sukhoi, a SU-30MKKK2 can act as an airborne command post tasking/controlling up to 10 other aircraft. In addition, Sukhoi stated that the SLAR would also enable the aircraft to conduct precision targeting against naval ships and other targets. However, when the SU-30MKKK2 was displayed with the M400 pod it was admitted by Sukhoi that the pod had not yet actually flown on the aircraft because of a number of hardware issues that remained to be resolved.
The SU-30MKKK2 has been developed by Sukhoi to meet a specification drawn up by the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The PLAAF has acquired two batches of 76 Su-30MKKs between 2000 and 2003. The third batch, which consisted of 24 examples of the upgraded Su-30MKK2 variant, was delivered to the PLA Naval Air Force in August 2004. The number of M400 pods ordered remain unclear and how effective they will be in service remains to be determined; nevertheless, if the PLAAF manage to develop, integrate and operate this system to its full potential, it will considerably enhance the capability of their Su-30MKK2 aircraft.