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Su-34 (Su-27IB) Fullback

A two-seat derivative of the Su-27 fighter, the Su-34 can carry a payload of up to eight tons of precision-guided weapons over 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles). The aircraft will eventually replace all of the ageing Su-24 strike aircraft in service with the Air Force and Navy.

The first aircraft was a Su-27UB, which featured a frontal section with new radar, bigger and widened nose. The new variant was called Su-27IB initially (Istrebityel-bombardirovshchik - fighter aircraft). The new section of the nose had a side by side cockpit. The leading edges were extended until the root of the cabin and had canards. The first prototype was not equipped with fire control systems and was used for aerodynamic tests and arrangement of cockpit. It had an improvement in the maneuverability and characteristics of landing and take-off. The air inlet lost variable geometry, since high speed at great altitude was not as important, as the bomber works most of the time at cruise speed or at low altitude.

Designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-34 will replace the Su-24 Fencer frontline bombers. Sukhoi says the new bomber has the potential to become the best plane in its class for years to come. In Russia one Su-34 costs about one billion rubles. The $36 million Su-34 fighter-bomber is a two-seat strike aircraft equipped with twin AL-31MF afterburning turbojet engines. It is designed to deliver high-precision strikes on heavily defended targets in any weather conditions, day or night, and fields weaponry that includes a 30mm GSh-301 cannon, up to 12 Alamo or Archer AAMs, ASMs, and bombs. The fighter carries a wide range of air-to-ground missiles. Including the Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L, and the S-25LD, these weapons can hit both ground and maritime targets.

The Su-32/34 will be one of the three high performance aircraft that are planned to form the core of the future Russian Air Force, along with the Yak-130 advanced trainer and a new multi-functional fighter (PAK-FA). The Strike Flanker was in competition with the Su-30 to replace the Su-24 and was successful due to the potential of growth of the avionics, since it had twice the space in relation to the other airplanes of the Flanker family.

Su-34 (Su-27IB - Istrebitel-Bombardirovshchik) is a two seat ("arm-to-arm") strike variant that first flew in 1990. It features frontal wings and a large flattened nose with sharp edges (like the SR-71) reduce radar cross-section. This new ship-borne fighter is fitted with two AL-31FP engines with vectored thrust. Using them allows either the take-off distance or maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of the aircraft to be increased by 10-15 per cent. In the nose is a new multi-mode phased-array radar with terrain-following and terrain-avoidance for low-level attack. The aircraft has a distinctive large "sting" in the rear which contains the NO-14 radiolocation system, a radioelectronic countermeasures system, and a fuel tank. The NIIP NO-12 rearward radar that monitors enemy fighter activity behind the aircraft, and as needed, direct R-73 short-range and R-77 medium-range AAMs at the targets.

The two members of the crew sit down side by side in a large cabin, with the pilot-commander to the left and navigator/operator of weapons to the right in a jettisonable Zvezda K-36dm seat [that has an inlaid system of massage]. The advantage of the side by side cockpit is not to need to duplicate instruments and controls of flight, which improves efficiency and comfort. As long missions require comfort, it has pressurization that it allows to operate up to 10,000 meters without oxygen masks, which are available for emergencies and combat situations. The members of the crew can leave the seats and be in vertical position and relax. The space between the seats allows that they can lie down in the corridor, if necessary.

A long-range surveillance radar, passive detection systems, system of communication for tactical and strategical voice and data in a single platform with long-range capacity with flight refuelling, transform it into a way of monitoring and recognition in real time and platform of command and control, forming a complete battle management system. The Sukhoi aircraft maker has signed a 1.5 billion ruble ($47 million) contract for the delivery of 184 friend-or-foe transponders for its Su-34 fighter-bombers, the equipment supplier said 19 August 2013. The transponders will be manufactured by the Kazan-based Radiopribor holding company and delivered by 2020, Radiopribor deputy general director Igor Nasenkov said.

The Su-34 will - with the appropriate avionic and weapons systems - provide the air force with a capable long range strike platform, with considerably more punch than the Su-24. Work continued to integrate modern air-to-surface weaponry now in development in Russia on the Su-34, with trials being carried out at the air force test center at Akhtubinsk. It is designed to deliver high-precision strikes on heavily-defended targets under any weather conditions, day or night, and is equipped with a 30-mm GSh-301 cannon, up to 12 Alamo or Archer AAMs, ASMs, and bombs.

Vladimir Voronov wrote in 2015 that "there was a scandal in late 2012 when, in the light of experience of the latest Russian frontline bomber, the Sukhoy Su-34, an evaluation was signed by Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, reporting complaints from aircrews about all 16 of the aircraft which had been delivered to the armed forces. They had significant defects preventing fully effective operational use. In particular, it was said the sighting and navigation system and radar locator constantly failed, and the factory assembly of the aircraft was not up to standard. Moreover, the aircraft, which had by then been being delivered to the armed forces for six years, had still not been standardized: each plane had “its own distinctive characteristics”. Defence industry representatives responded that everything was fine and these were just “teething problems”: the real trouble, they averred, was that the air force personnel were not properly trained and did not know how to program and operate the equipment."

For the first time since the operation's beginning Russian Su-34 bomber jets conducted sorties in Syria with air-to-air missiles on Monday, the Russian Aerospace Forces spokesman said 30 November 2015. "Today, for the first time Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft went on a mission carrying not only aerial bombs OFAB-500 and guided aerial bombs KAB-500, but with short and medium range air-to-air missiles," spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Forces, Col. Igor Klimov said, adding that the planes are equipped with missiles for protection.

Foreign buyers of Russian-made military equipment will now be able to take a good look at the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighters which have been actively engaged in the Russian-led aerial campaign targeting extremists in Syria and hailed as the best hardware Moscow can offer, military expert Igor Korotchenko told RIA Novosti 19 October 2015. Korotchenko named Vietnam, Algeria and Iraq as potential buyers but added that other countries, including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are increasingly interested in the Su-34 as well.

"Several countries in Africa, including Uganda and Nigeria, which is waging a war against Boko Haram, could buy the Su-34. Strike fighters could also strengthen Ethiopia's Air Force, which operates aging Sukhoi Su-27 fighters," Korotchenko noted.

Su-34 Upgrades

The Russian Defense Ministry announced plans in July 2016 to modernize the Sukhoi Su-34 multipurpose strike fighter, designated by NATO as Fullback [the source of the "Hellduck" nickname is uncertain]. Based on the Su-27 fighter, the Su-34 is a 4++ generation jet, which can accelerate to a maximum speed of 1,200 mph (1,931 km) and can fly 2,500 miles (4,023 km) without refueling. "Our plan is, after some time, to upgrade this aircraft to extend its life and increase the number of aircraft weapons. The plane is very popular in our armed forces, and it has a good future," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said, referring to the Su-34.

Russia’s latest Sukhoi Su-34 frontline bomber would soon be sporting advanced radio surveillance gear that will allow the crew to spot and destroy enemy headquarters, communications and drone control centers, the newspaper Izvestiya wrote 01 August 2016 citing a source at the Defense Ministry in Moscow. The new system, dubbed the UKR-RT, is placed inside a pod attached to the underside of the Su-34.

“Right now the UKR-RT system is undergoing field trials and will soon be supplied to the Air Force,” the an unnamed source told the newspaper. The UKR-RT is primarily designed to locate and “read” the technical signatures of communications systems, radar installations and UAV ground control stations.

Independent military expert Anton Lavrov said that the new system would turn the frontline bomber into a multirole machine able to fight and reconnoiter all at the same time. “With this specialized container on board, the Su-34 will save us the money that would otherwise be needed to develop a new AWACS-type aircraft.” During peacetime it can conduct reconnaissance without the use of dedicated spy planes, while in wartime it is less vulnerable compared to reconnaissance planes converted from transport and passenger aircraft,” Lavrov said.

According to another in dependent defense expert, Dmitry Boltenkov, the UKR-RT has at its heart the M-410 radio reconnaissance system. “The M0410 is a downsized version of the more sophisticated Fraktsiya system carried by Russia’s latest Ty-214R reconnaissance plane,” Boltenkov said.

During the Syrian campaign, the Su-34 made effective use of its onboard arsenal of a 30 mm cannon, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and KAB-500S laser-guided bombs, allowing it to destroy terrorist infrastructure facilities and command centers.

Installed on the wingtips of Su-34s, the Khibiny system provides the jets with electronic warfare capabilities and enables them to carry out effective electronic countermeasures against radar systems, anti-aircraft missile systems and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Additionally, the SU-34 is expected to be equipped with a modernized airborne radar with improved characteristics before the end of 2017. Work on the project is facilitated by the fact that the Su-34's electronic warfare systems can be modified, in line with specific purposes and concrete tasks.

Right now, the aircraft has a multi-target, electronically passive scanned array forward radar, enabling it to 'hunt' for enemy aircraft and equipment at a range of between 200-250 km. The plane is also equipped with rearward-facing radar, and can be equipped with M402 Pika side-looking radar. In addition, its L175V/KS418, Digital RF Memory-equipped jamming system allows it to be used as a battlefield jammer. The selection and continuous monitoring of targets is achieved using airborne radar and the Platan's electro-optical targeting system, mounted on the fuselage.

It is equipped with a laser target marker, which measures the distance to the target using laser telemetry. Plans to modernize the Platan system is also in the pipeline. KRET, which is upgrading the Su-34 electronic warfare plane, proceeded from the assumption that if necessary, any tactical aircraft can be upgraded to conduct electronic warfare, which is cheaper and which is very effective.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2017 19:54:15 ZULU