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Su-24 Operations

The Su-24 saw its share of combat in Afghanistan, the two Chechnya conflicts, and in South Ossetia in 2008. But in all cases it was operating in adverse conditions, with reduced effectiveness against small enemy forces moving in mountains and villages, rather than large concentrations of enemy (NATO) targets on flat terrain as originally anticipated. Unconfirmed reports say two of the aircraft were lost in South Ossetia.

The first combat test for the Su-24 was the sky of Afghanistan. In the spring of summer 1984, during the Panjshir operation, two regiments were thrown into battle on the Su-24 and Su-24M (143 BAP and 149 BAP). Airplanes bombarded the positions of mujahideen with FAB-500, FAB-250 bombs from heights of 5000 m (either four FAB-500 or 12 FAB-250 were suspended on a car). The bombing was "carpet" in nature. Powerful bombing attacks were carried out on defensive lines in the areas of Obdarak, Tavak, Guwat and others, as well as on mountain passages, caves and medieval fortresses - on those objects where partisans could hide, or their warehouses were located.

During combat operations, diving strikes were carried out on the enemy, which was not originally envisaged in the combat use of the Su-24 (This strike complex was created for the European theater of operations, with its more or less even terrain, and in Afghanistan, the crews of the sushki had to face a mountainous multi-profile terrain, where many standard systems of the complex lost their effectiveness).

In the summer of 1984, the Su-24 regiments returned to their bases at home and for several years did not participate in the hostilities in Afghanistan. For the second time, front-line aviation units on the Su-24 were sent to Afghanistan in the fall of 1988, when the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of this southern neighbor of the USSR began. By this time, Mujahideen appeared MANPADS and in combat had to take this into account. They flew for bombing at high altitudes (less than 4,500 m was not recommended to be lowered above the target, the approach height rose to 7,000-8,000 m), strikes were carried out in large groups, sometimes as part of a regiment (20-24 vehicles).

The bomb load consisted of bombs of caliber 250, 500 and 1500 kg, "ball" went into business the bombs. It was the latter which processed the neighborhood of Jalalabad and Kabul, from where constant shelling of these cities was carried out. Each ball bomb of RBC-500 covered the area 400 by 600 m with deadly rain with 5-6 mm balls, turning everything that was there into a sieve. Up to 250 tons of various types of ammunition rained down from the sky on the heads of the Basurman a day. Combat work of front-line aviation, including on the Su-24, allowed withdraw Soviet ground units from Afghanistan more or less in "comfortable" conditions with minimal losses, saving the lives of many soldiers and officers of the Group of Soviet Forces.

In the early 1990s, Su-24s, which went to the countries that formed on the ruins of the Soviet empire, were used more than once in military operations, on the Tajik-Afghan border, in Karabakh. In the first Iraq war, delivered to Iraq, the Su-24MK, did not take part in the battles. The Iraqi leadership, wishing to preserve these machines, transferred them to neighboring Iran, where they remained forever.

At the start of the conflict between Chechnya and Russia in 1994, Chechen president Dudayev had nearly 265 aircraft. According to Russian sources, Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft observed the active preparation of Dudayev's aircraft for imminent combat in November 1994. This caused Russia to preempt the Chechen preparations with attacks on airfields on the morning of 01 December 1994. The Russians initially gathered their forces at airfields in the North Caucasus Military District, with most of the aircraft provided by the Fourth Air Army. They employed aircraft from frontal (high-performance), army, and internal-forces aviation. Each had its own air corridor, figuratively speaking, and its own missions. Aircraft included 140 combat planes (Su-25, Su-22M, and Su-24).

The Su-24 seems to have been the fighter-bomber used most often. Even before the entry of federal ground forces into Chechnya, Su-24MR scouts began working on this mountain republic. Then, Su-24M bombers, working in difficult weather conditions, also joined in the fighting. Both conventional and adjustable bombs were used. In the last decade of December 1994, the Su-24M bombed the enemys position near Grozny, and in early January 1995, using the precision weapons for precision purposes, the Su-24M was used to isolate the combat area actions, striking at communications leading to the city, destroying Chechen transport and military equipment. On May 21, 1995, with the help of a KAB-500KR with a television guidance system, the Su-24M destroyed a building with militants in the Dachu-Borzoi region, on May 24, an ammunition depot in the cave under the Zones, then attacks were carried out on Vedeno, Vedensky and Argun gorges. Subsequently, after the occupation of the rebellious republic by Russian troops, the Su-24M was attracted to single point strikes against individual important targets of the militants.

By December 1995, Russian pilots had flown more than nine thousand sorties, with more than fifty-three hundred devoted to the conduct of bombing/ground-attack strikes and 672 to aerial reconnaissance (nearly 8 percent). Principal weapons included S-5, S-8, and S-24B rockets and FAB- 250 and FAB- 5000 high-explosive bombs. When weather permitted, the Russians employed Kh-25ML guided missiles, KAB-500L and KAB-500KR smart bombs, and KAB-1500L bombs. The main weapons used by front-line attack aircraft against militants in the First Chechen (1994-1996) were NURS (S-5, S-8 and S-24B) high-explosive bombs of caliber 250 and 500 kg, fragmentation and high-explosive fragmentation bombs, concrete-piercing bombs Betab-500. The use of precision weapons was limited by bad weather conditions, so their use was limited to only 3 percent of the total expenditure of aircraft weapons.

The Russian Air Force could not fly in adverse weather. As Russian military affairs expert Pavel Baev wrote in his assessment of Russian air operations in Chechnya, "on average, during December-February in Chechnya there are up to 95 percent of heavy cloud and fog days." The most capable aircraft over the Chechen battlefield was the Su-24, which, regardless, was hindered by the same readiness circumstances. Baev points out that these pilots held an average of only 20-40 flying hours within the previous year, undoubtedly due to vastly curtailed funding. Money was short, but so were supplies; Baev states that only around half the required fuel, lubricants, and spare parts were made available to Russian ground crews. "In order," he writes, "to maintain even this minimal level of supplies for a task force of roughly 140 combat aircraft, the Air Force Command had to strip the reserves of many units in other military districts."

Assets that ASV deployed in the Dagestan operation were especially the Mi-24 Hind combat helicopter and the Mi-8 Hip transport helicopter. ASV also employed the Mi-26 Halo heavy lift helicopter. VVS input consisted of the Su-25 Frogfoot fighter-bomber, Su-27 Flanker fighters, Su-24M/MR Fencer D/E fighter-bomber/reconnaissance (recce) aircraft. From Mozdok operated at least a squadron each of Fencers and Frogfoots.

The Russian Air Force conducted an exercise, which it called Voskhod 93, in an effort to validate its emerging power projection strategy. It involved a package of eight Su-24 Fencer fighter-bombers, plus a number of Tu-95 bombers with tanker support. General Deinekin was aboard an airborne command post for two days, and they generated that package all the way from the western part of Russia out to Lake Baikal. There were also six or eight Flanker escorts. They all went out and delivered simulated weapons at a range and came back.

The most plentiful fighter-bomber in the Russian Air Force inventory, the supersonic Su-24 Fencer, was widely used in the Second Chechen War that started in 1999. The upgraded Su-24M Fencer-D deployed for operations in Chechnya represented the second generation of this versatile strike aircraft. A new navigation and attack system, combined with a laser designator allowed the Fencer-D to deliver the most advanced precision guided weapons. The ability to fly in any weather condition and deliver precision-guided weapons made the Fencer-D a natural choice for operations in Chechnya.

During the Second Chechen War, Fencer crews used the jets advanced attack systems to deliver a wide variety of ordnance. The primary weapons employed by the Fencer in Chechnya included free-fall bombs, cluster bombs and air-delivered mines. The Fencer crews used precision munitions less often, including laser-guided bombs, guided missiles and datalink-guided bombs. A superb strike aircraft, the Fencer is poorly suited for close air support. High-speed level approaches and poor cockpit visibility make visual target identification and attack difficult for Fencer crews.

Front-line aviation crews attacked clusters of militants, their bases and positions in Achkhoy-Martan, Bamut, Rainbow, Vedeno, etc. In Dagestan, after a gang of 200 militants was found in caves in the villages of Kadar and Durgeli, front-line aviation carried out about 100 sorties on targets. On October 31 alone, over 100 separatists, 2 bridges, 3 communications centers, 8 strongholds, 2 fuel and lubricants depots, 3 depots with weapons and ammunition, up to 20 cars, 25 km of roads were mined and 5 blockages were created. And so almost every day during the active phase of the operation. On November 16, in order to prevent the entry of mercenaries into Chechnya from neighboring Su-24 territories, they created blockages in the southern mountainous regions of the republic using bombing attacks. On November 24, aviation flew 99 times. As a result of the strikes, 6 strongholds, a communications center, headquarters, anti-aircraft installation, 10 trucks were destroyed, 2 bridges were damaged, and a plant engaged in the repair of armored vehicles was disabled in Grozny.

In these attacks, as in many others, the Su-24M took part. During the active phase of the operation, the loss of two Su-24s was recorded: one bomber and one reconnaissance. As a result of the strikes, 6 strongholds, a communications center, headquarters, anti-aircraft installation, 10 trucks were destroyed, 2 bridges were damaged, and a plant engaged in the repair of armored vehicles was disabled in Grozny. In these attacks, as in many others, the Su-24M took part. During the active phase of the operation, the loss of two Su-24s was recorded: one bomber and one reconnaissance. As a result of the strikes, 6 strongholds, a communications center, headquarters, anti-aircraft installation, 10 trucks were destroyed, 2 bridges were damaged, and a plant engaged in the repair of armored vehicles was disabled in Grozny. In these attacks, as in many others, the Su-24M took part. During the active phase of the operation, the loss of two Su-24s was recorded: one bomber and one reconnaissance.

All Su-24s were grounded after a crash in the woods of the Kurgan region during a routine flight on 13 February 2012. Both pilots ejected safely. The crash was the third of a Su-24 in Russia over the last four months. The two previous crashes occurred in October and December 2011. It has been in service with the Russian Air Force since the mid-1970s. However, in recent years Russia has gradually been phasing out the planes, which had a patchy safety record.

Syria had been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad fighting a number of opposition factions and extremist groups. By late summer 2012, the Syrian Air Force likely had no more than 200 combat-capable aircraft approximately 150 jets and 50 helicopters of the 600 in its total pre-civil-war inventory, and even those had varying degrees of combat capability. Additionally, in light of historical maintenance shortcomings, combined with the pace of operations, the al-Assad regime probably can employ no more than 30 to 50 percent of its aircraft. The air force may have reserved its higher-end MiG-25s, -29s, and Su-24s in preparation for external interventionbut it may also have been unable to use these air-to-air designs in air-to-ground roles.

Russia began airstrikes in Syria on 31 September 2016, at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the first 100 days of the operation, Russian jets carried out 5,600 combat sorties, with a daily average of 50-60. During the same period, the US Air Force carried out nearly 3,500 sorties. The Russian task force was deployed to the Hmeymim air base, outside Latakia, close to theater of war. Nearly 4,000 servicemen and over 70 aircraft deployed to the base, including Su-30 and Su-35 four-generation fighters, Su-24 and Su-34 tactical bombers, and Su-25 ground support jets. Most of the Russian airstrikes in Syria were carried out by Su-24 and Su-34 bombers. A squadron of Su-24 tactical bombers, including 9-12 aircraft, was kept on duty in Syria. During the main stage of the campaign, those aircraft were responsible for the bulk of the airstrikes.

On 24 November 2015, a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft was downed by an air-to-air missile fired by a Turkish F-16 a while carrying out strikes against terrorists in northern Syria. The Russian General Staff and the Syrian Air Defense Command confirmed that Su-24 never crossed into Turkish airspace, in accordance to objective control precise data. According to the Russian general staff, radars at the Syrian Hmeimim air base, on the contrary, registered violation of Syrian airspace by Turkish fighter jet that attacked the Russian aircraft. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the Turkish attack as a stab in the back carried out by accomplices of terrorists.

The rescue operation of Russia's Su-24 navigator has been successefully completed with the pilot back at the Hmeymim airbase safe and sound. The other pilot was killed by fire from the ground after ejecting from the plane and a Russian naval infantry soldier was killed during the rescue operation. Vladimir Putin said that the commander killed in Syria will be awarded the Star of Hero of the Russian Federation posthumously. The rescued pilot was given state honors.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey acted in line with its sovereign right to respond to threats, claiming that the Russian jet had violated Turkish airspace.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, the Turkish ambassador gave his governments view of the incident. "This morning (24 November) 2 SU-24 planes, the nationality of which are unknown have approached Turkish national airspace in Yayladagi/Hatay region. The planes in question have been warned 10 times during a period of 5 minutes via 'Emergency' channel and asked to change their headings south immediately," the letter read. "Disregarding these warnings, both planes, at an altitude of 19,000 feet, violated Turkish national airspace to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles in length for 17 seconds from 9.24.05 local time."

In July 2016 The Syrian Air Force received its first two upgraded Sukhoi Su-24M2 all-weather attack aircraft from Russian armories. They are expected to improve the combat capabilities of Syrian air power in the fight against the terrorists. Syria expects to receive another eight aircraft in the near future. The planes are said to have been retrofitted with new equipment "to enhance their capabilities and improve their combat efficiency," including improved avionics, featuring both GPS and GLONASS, and a new heads-up display. The deliveries are said to be part of a defense order signed back in 2009.

Russia was preparing to withdraw an additional flight of Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft and personnel of a special-purpose medical team from the Hmeymim airbase in Syria after a successful conclusion of their duty, Col. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, commander of the Russian military contingent in Syria, said 17 January 2017. The Russian naval task force, led by air carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, and six Su-24 aircraft had already left the conflict zone in Syria.

A Russian Su-24 jet was downed over Syria on 23 May 2017 with two people aboard. The plane was most likely downed by a ground missile, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. According to initial ministry information, both pilots were able to eject from the airplane.

On 10 October 2017, a Su-24 strike aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces crashed during take-off at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria. The plane's crew did not manage to eject in time and died. A technical issue might have caused the crash, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

A victory over terrorists in Syria was declared in late 2017.

On 18 March 2018 Jaysh Tahrir al-Sham rebels shot down a regime warplane over the Eastern Qalamoon mountains after launching a new wave of attack, Free Syrian Army reported. The moment of Su-24 falling was filmed and posted on Twitter. The crashed plane has started to drop sharply, leaving behind a trace of black smoke as it fell to the ground. According to Al-Masdar News, the aircraft fell into territory controlled by Syrian government forces.

After the operation in Syria, they decided to upgrade the unloading vest of combat aviation pilots in case they were ejected, the director general of the Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise Sergey Pozdnyakov told RIA Novosti 13 august 2019. "In connection with the Syrian events, again, as in the days of Afghanistan, the issue of modernizing the unloading vest for combat aviation pilots, placing signal flare guns, medical supplies, food and water, grenades, a pistol and so on, became urgent. Helicopters have such vests but theyre not adapted for ejection from an airplane at high speeds, "said Pozdnyakov.




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