Sukhoi SU-31

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The Sukhoi Su-31 has been a top-performing aerobatic plane since production of it began in 1994. Many pilots from countries around the world often fly it in competitions. The Su-31 can withstand tremendous G-forces and can handle repeated maneuvers that generate +12 or -10 Gs. Sukhoi intentionally designed the Su-31 to be less stable than earlier versions of the Su, which makes the airplane preferable for free-style competitions and for performing snap rolls.

Originally known as the Su-29T during its testing phase, the Su-31 was designed purely for aerobatic flying. What primarily set the plane apart from earlier models was the manufacturer’s extensive use of composite materials to increase the Su-31’s strength and durability while also minimizing the overall weight. The thrust-to-weight ratio was the same that enabled the pilot to perform some maneuvers similar to that of a helicopter. In addition, the cockpit incorporated an ergonomic design for ease of use by the pilot.

On June 22 1992, Russian aerobatic pilot Yurgis Kairis performed the plane’s first flight. That same year, he won the bronze medal during the World Championships in aerobatics while flying the Su-31. Several other pilots have gone on to win aerobatic competitions in the Su-31, including the Breitling championships, and the World as well as European championships in both the women’s and men’s categories.

In an emergency, the pilot can use the SKS-94M ejection system to bail out of the plane. Known as the Zvesda Pilot Extraction System, a pilot can be free of an unrecoverable aircraft in one quarter of a second. This is not an after-market option and is only available on factory versions of the Su-31. The system weighs 12 kilograms. An unusual feature for an aerobatic plane is that the Su-31 has three luggage areas.

The Su-31 remains in production at the Lukavitzy factory in Russia, but the number of planes of produced every year is very low.

Maximum speed: 450 km per hour
Range: 1,100 km
Length: 6.83 meters
Wingspan: 7.80 meters
Height: 2.76 meters
Maximum weight: 1,050 kg
Empty weight: 700 kg
Engine(s): 400 HP M-14PF
Rate of climb: 24 meters per second
G-limit: +12/-10
Roll rate: 7 seconds
Takeoff run: 110 meters
Landing run: 300 meters
Parachute: PNL-91
Crew: One

F16 Falcon

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Since its inception in 1975, more than 4,000 F-16 Fighting Falcons in 110 versions have been produced. In addition to the United States Air Force, 24 additional countries have chosen the fourth-generation fighter to serve in their military. Some countries have purchased used F-16s from those mothballed by the U.S. Air Force.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is capable of flying missions in total darkness and under difficult weather conditions. It was the first fighter plane to use fly-by-wire electronic flight controls with angle of attack and limiting Gs. These features enable the pilot to perform aggressive maneuvers without risk of structural failure or loss of control.

The F-16 has a solid reputation as a superior dogfighter. The frameless canopy enables improved pilot visibility and the side-mounted stick maximizes pilot control even when under tremendous G-forces. In fact, the F-16 Fighting Falcon can capably endure 9G turns!

Primarily, the F-16 has been deployed in Middle Eastern conflicts, more so than in most other conflicts situations. Israel has used F-16s against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon beginning in 1981. During the Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan used F-16s to destroy Afghan and Soviet aircraft.

The Fighting Falcon flew for the United States in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and again in 1998 when Operation Desert Fox required an extensive number of bombing sorties. From 2001 until present day, the Falcon has seen service in Afghanistan for the U.S. military. In 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom relied heavily on the F-14 when U.S. forces invaded Iraq.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon remains in production and modifications continue. Some of the more recent changes have involved replacing the older avionics with new technology as well as replacing some of the antiquated weaponry with more effective armament. Here are some basic specifications for the General Dynamics F-16:

Maximum speed: Mach 2+
Range: 3,200+ miles
Ceiling: 55,000+ ft
Length: 49 ft 5 in
Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in
Height: 16 ft
Maximum weight: 42,300 lb
Empty weight: 18,238 lb
Engine(s): one Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 or one General Electric F110-GE-100 afterburning turbofan
Rate of climb: 50,000 feet per minute
Crew: One
Armament: Combination of guns, missiles, rockets, and bombs
Contractor: General Dynamics

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