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Su-25SM FROGFOOT Grach (Rook)

The Su-25 aircraft has been in service with the Russian Air Force for more than 25 years. In 1999, Russia adopted a program to upgrade part of its aging Su-25 fleet. Starting in 2001, Design Bureau has been implementing a program to upgrade the Su-25 planes in service in the Air Forces of Russia (Su-25SM). The program's leading facility is the 121st ARP of the Defence Ministry (Kubinka), the work being performed under the leadership of, and in cooperation with, Sukhoi Design Bureau. The first upgraded plane, Su-25SM-1, was flown on 3rd March 2002 by the design bureau's test pilot I.Ye. Solovyov. The Russian Air Force received the first six modernized planes, Su-25SM, in December 2006.

The Su-25SM upgrade is aimed at expanding their combat capabilities, enhancing lethality and slashing operating and maintenance burden. The plane's navigational accuracy is improved by an order of magnitude while its ordnance's efficiency is increased two to three times. The upgrade increases combat payload on the new MBD3-U2T-1 bomb racks up to 5,000 kg and expands their ordnance list allowing R-73E air-to-air guided missiles and S-13T rockets.

The Su-25SM is a Mid-life refurbishing program for the original Su-25. Many of the old components are kept. The old engines are not replaced. The double barrel 30mm Cannon is left in the nose, which says that there are few improvements in this area. The Laser targeting system is replaced with a modernized version with a limited video camera channel, no Zoom or Night Vision Video features like those in the Su-39's Kair Fire Control based system. The old style Reflector Sight(with Telescopic Bomb Sight) is replaced with an LCD screen and an Electronic Heads Up Display. Of course, these features were standard on the late production Su-25T.

The first Su-25SM aircraft was upgraded in 1999. At least 2-3 were upgraded up to 2005, when 6 more aircraft were upgraded. But the problem is the original Su-25 was made in Tbilisi, Georgia. That factory is now out of Russia's control. The Aviation Repair Plant #121 doing the Su-25SM upgrades in Russia has less than 2,000 Sq. meters of factory floor space, and is actually just a Hangar with a Machine shop. It would be difficult for this facility to upgrade all 200 active Su-25 aircraft within a sensible period of time [that is, years not decades]. So Russia might have to either have to scrap many of them without replacement, or use the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant to build new Su-39 aircraft.

The first six Su-25SMs were accepted by the Russian Air Force in December 2006. The operation of the plant was far more transparent since it was privatised in May 2007, and its production dynamics can be traced by means of its annual reports. According to the reports, the company rolled out six more Su-25SMs in 2007, eight more in 2008 and 13 more in 2009. More Su-25s from line units are being converted to Su-25SM standard in the shops of the company. While the plant had overhauled three to four in-service Su-25UBs yearly, it was slated to begin to upgrade Su-25UB twin seaters to Su-25UBM standard starting from 2011.

Air Force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik said on 21 February 2012 that Russia will continue to upgrade its outdated Su-25 attack aircraft to Su-25SM version, which has a significantly better survivability and combat effectiveness. The Russian Air Force currently had over 30 Su-25SM planes in service and plans to modernize about 80 Su-25s by 2020, Drik said.




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