It’s been a while since I did a big speculative piece like this so take absolutely everything I say below with a great deal of skepticism. That said, the rumour mill has been going wild recently and a bunch of signs are currently pointing to Deka Ironwork Simulations next project being the Su-30MKK. Let’s explore the rumours, look at the evidence we have, and have a look at the potential that this aircraft offers to DCS World pilots.
The most concrete information we have
Let’s start with what we do know. Deka Ironwork Simulations is indeed working on their next aircraft project following successful release of the JF-17. Deka is single handedly responsible for turning the JF-17 from unknown to fan favourite in the DCS World community. The “Jeff” has been given high marks for its complete avionics, solid flight model, and has even scored a few kudos for Deka’s improving art design.
Word from the team was that they wanted to do something with less digital systems and more steam gauges for their next project. That said, a recent statement made sometime earlier in the day from Deka Ironwork’s suggested that the team has shortlisted the aircraft that they want to do down to just a handful and this is what they said:
I wasn’t able to track down the original message although some say it was posted on the Eagle Dynamics Discord early in the year. My search wasn’t able to turn up the same message. Still, I believe the capture to be genuine.
This is one reasonably solid piece of evidence that doesn’t need to be interpreted very much. LJQCN101 is a member of the Deka team stating quite plainly that the team is looking at four different aircraft options. Nearly any of the types on offer would offer a unique Chinese and/or Russian aircraft experience, however, more recently there does appear to be a shift towards the potential of the Su-30MKK.
Reading between the lines
When asked on the DCS World forums if the Su-30MKK was confirmed, we got this response from the same developer:
Just some preliminary EFM and multi-crew preparation, didn’t take much time.LJQCN101, Deka Ironwork Simulations developer
Though neither confirming nor denying that it is the next project, this appears to be more of a notice that they are exploring their options.
Looking closely at LJQCN101’s profile picture, we also see the fictional thunderbolt or thunderclap squadron logo as illustrated by this artist here on the side of a Su-30MKK.
This could also be in reference to the same logo painted on the J-11 also by Deka Ironwork Simulations as part of the China Asset Pack. So that may or may not be a connection.
This r/Hoggit post also spells out another Su-30MKK connection to the same Deka Ironwork team member. Just to throw a bit more fuel onto the fire.
These are all small connections and may be the interest of just a single team member to bring this aircraft to life rather than a company decision that has been made. Investigating and doing some base level programming of the EFM, the complex flight model that third party player flown aircraft in DCS World use, is at least some confirmation that it’s being taken seriously even if it didn’t take much time to do as was stated.
All of this leads me to believe that the Su-30MKK is a front runner for the next aircraft for Deka Ironworks to create though the Q-5, J-8, and H-6 are surely not off the table yet.
What does the Su-30MKK offer?
Now that we’re through all of that, there are a few other reasons why this aircraft is both interesting and potentially exciting. And I start first with the Sukhoi Flanker series being a generally popular aircraft .with DCS World fans.
Eagle Dynamics got their start doing simulations of the Su-27 as part of the Flanker and Flanker 2.0 series which are the predecessors to DCS World. There have been many calls for a developer to tackle a high fidelity Flanker for years and ED themselves did attempt to before halting progress because of changes in Russian laws (those laws, however, apparently do not prevent Deka from doing a Chinese variant Flanker for DCS World).
Second, the Su-30MKK would be a multi-crew aircraft as its a two seat setup with a weapon systems office in the back seat akin to a F-15E. Recent developments by Eagle Dynamics in companion AI may factor in here although the Su-30MKK is allegedly setup in a similar way to the F-15E again where the front seat can do everything but having the back seat improves workload and makes fighting the aircraft easier.
Third, the Su-30MKK would be the first credible option to be able to directly counter the other high fidelity aircraft currently available in DCS World. The F/A-18C, F-16C and F-14 are essentially unchallenged in their fidelity and capability and nothing on the ‘REDFOR’ side is close… save for the JF-17. But the JF-17 and Su-30MKK are two very different types with the Su-30 being a heavy multi-role strike fighter with range and weapons carriage that the JF-17 as a cheaper lightweight fighter simply doesn’t have.
In addition to the R-27 radar and IR and R-73 short range IR series of missiles, the Su-30MKK is capable of carrying the active radar R-77 for air-to-air fights. Some variants can also carry a much wider array of unguided and guided air to ground weapons than your average Flanker including the Kh-29, Kh-59E, and Kh-31P. Notably, the K-39P has an impressive anti-radiation capability that combines with the Su-30MKK’s RWR to pinpoint radar sources at long ranges similar to the RWR’s on the more advanced western fighters.
So, needless to say, the addition of this aircraft would be a good combination of popular and capable. Not bad at all!
Putting out the air brakes for a moment
That all sounds pretty good but there are definitely some challenges to making this all happen.
Documentation on modern aircraft is always a problem so there’s no guarantee that Deka has been able to secure everything they need to make this aircraft happen. In-fact, it’s possible that none of the aircraft on the list that Deka mentioned may have sufficient documentation. Even older aircraft are sometimes stuck in a perpetual state of being partially classified despite obsolescence and age.
I probably don’t need to mention either that until we have an official statement of some kind, every single thing that isn’t a direct quote is simply a matter of speculation. There are definitely signs pointing to this as a potential and if it does happen I will be very excited but it’s still very up in the air – pardon the pun.
I know many are prepared to throw some money at a pre-order on a project like this should it come to pass. I would!