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In early 1974, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff US Armed Forces, Admiral Thomas Moorer, made a sensational statement about the appearance of Soviet attack aircraft of the new generation of Class F-111, which NATO experts gave the name "Fencer" and identified as Su 19. Thus the world learned, four years late, about the new Soviet frontline bomber. Later, Western intelligence agencies established the true mark of this machine - the Su-24.

Designed from the outset as an all-weather, low-level attack aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-24 'Fencer' bears a resemblance to the American F-111, altough the Soviet jet is somewhat smaller. Entering service after the F-111, but before the Tornado, the 'Fencer is comparable in performance with the two premier Western interdictors, being somewhat faster and with better rough field capability, but having less advanced avionics and attack systems. The Su-24 Fencer has a combat radius only 300 km less than that of the F 111E/F and equal to the Mirage IV A. The Su-24 is equipped with in-flight refueling, to reduce the landing run it is equipped with a brake parachute.

At least 500 attack 'Fencers' were built. The type is also used for maritime strike/ reconnaissance and for electronic jamming/Sigint/ reconnaissance. The eight weapons pylons beneath the Su-24's fuselage, wing gloves and outer wing panels can carry a wide variety of weaponry, ranging from tactical and defence-suppression bombs and missiles through to nuclear weapons.

The wings are high-mounted, variable, swept-back, and tapered. There are twin turbofan engines. The air intakes are tapered away from the body, rectangular-shaped, and mounted on the body forward of the wings' leading edges. There are twin exhausts. The fuselage is long, slender, with pointed, solid nose, and rectangular-shaped body from the air intakes to the exhausts. There are two belly fins and four pylons. There is a bubble canopy. The dorsal spine extends from the cockpit to the tail. The tail fin is swept-back and tapered with square tip. The flats are high-mounted on the fuselage, swept-back, and tapered with angular tips. On the outside the Su-24 could carry three tanks of 8000 liters of fuel. The range of the SU-24 at air bases in East Germany, the Baltic countries and Ukraine was almost the entire territory of Europe. The Su-24M / MP / MP / M2 are equipped for in-flight refueling.

Russian designers have repeatedly stated after the Cold War that it took a development in the West to spark a comparable development in the former Soviet Union. There really was an almost pure action - reaction phenomenon at work. The Su-24 was an answer to the F-111, and the Su-25 was a reaction to the A-9/A-10 development. Itís interesting that they would react to an aircraft type rather than to a mission need, but thatís the way their requirements have been generated.

The USSR's Frontal Aviation forces have generally not undertaken deep interdiction missions and that the service's aircraft were primarily designed for air superiority or ground attack. They are also more mission-specific than the major U.S. fighters. The MiG-21 and -27 were designed for air superiority; the Su-7 and -17 for close support; and the Su-24 for penetrating ground attack against hardened targets.

As the capabilities of the R&D community improved, Soviet designs became more complex. This trend can already be observed in the recent, growing emphasis among the Frontal Aviation forces on deep interdiction missions, particularly with the deployment of the Su-24 and MiG-27. It can also be seen in the latest prototypes of Soviet tactical aircraft currently being tested at Ramenskoye Airfield.

In the talks on arms reduction NATO experts repeatedly tried to present the Su-24 / 24M analog tactical fighter-bomber F-111. The Soviet side at the same time proved that these machines of different classes and combat capabilities of US aircraft was much higher.

Since the FB-111 and F-111 were excluded from SALT, it was only logical that they were appropriate candidates for the INF negotiations. This rough balance, however, was dramatically upset when the Su-24. Fencer, which has a combat radius only 300 km less than that of the F 111E/F and equal to the Mirage IVA, was added. If the Fencer was excluded, then some form of compensation should be granted to the United States in another area of the agreement such as land- or sea-based forces.

The main stream of failures fell on the avionics and sighting and navigation equipment. These failures came so often that sometimes for days after scheduled flights rendreed the whole squadron not combat ready. Due to the high degree of automation and piloting piloting Su-24, failure of the navigation system in the air puts the crew in a very difficult position. Often pilots for a long time are not even aware of the malfunction of the navigation equipment and continue to "do the job". That drops bombs anywhere: on the flock of sheep, the building of a small power plant, in the field during harvest.

Nevertheless, pilots generally expressed positive evaluations about the bomber. They liked the automation of many modes of flight, good visibility, well thought-out cabin. Piloting the Su-24 is not complicated, though it takes some rigor at the time of the approach: the inconsistent landing gear and flaps makes possible spontaneous short-term access to the critical angles of attack. The flying and maneuvering characteristics of the Su-24 reached a level sufficient to maintain a defensive air combat.

By the early 1980s the latest innovation in air force organization in the USSR revealed a reassessment of the assignment of air forces and their organization by fronts, military districts, and so on. New aircraft such as the Su-25 Frogfoot close-air-support fighter and the Su-24 Fencer interdiction fighter-bomber promise new flexibility across the battle front and extending to the enemyís rear.

The flying and fighting qualities of the aircraft were appreciated in other countries. "The Su-24 is potentially the greatest threat to the European states of all combat aircraft in service with front-line aviation Soviet Air Force, - wrote the British magazine Air international. "It has excellent characteristics in terms of combat payload / range and is able to carry out the invasion mode following terrain."

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