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Su-34 Fullback – Russian fighter-bomber/strike aircraft [review]

The Sukhoi Su-34, as an export version under the designation Su-32, is a two-seater fighter-bomber developed in the Soviet Union by the Sukhoi design office, whose series production started in April 2006. Official delivery to the Russian Air Force began on July 31, 2007.

Development and history

Pre-history

In the early 1980s, the Soviet front-line aviation forces had three types of fighter-bomb aircraft: the Su-17, the MiG-27 and the heavy front-end bomber Su-24. Above all, a changed battle management and increasing inflation rates made the development of multi-purpose combat aircraft necessary. Aircraft were required that could be used both as interceptors and as fighter-bombers. In Europe the Panavia Tornado flew in the meantime and the Americans transformed the combat trainer F-15B into the multi-purpose fighter F-15E Strike Eagle.

Although the light front fighter MiG-29 and the heavy air superiority fighter Su-27P and Su-27S, respectively, which were on a par with the F-15E in aerial combat, none of the above-mentioned models was capable of heavy blows against ground targets to lead in the hinterland of the enemy or against sea targets such as carrier groups. The Su-27P was designed purely for air combat and the Su-27S could fire only unguided short-range air-to-surface missiles in addition to air-to-air guided missiles.

Development

On January 21, 1983, under the orders of the Minister of Aviation Industry, the OKB Sukhoi began developing a heavy fighter-bomber. The demands of the air force were high maneuverability, high weapon loading, high speed and a wide operational radius. The Su-27 served as a template. The special shape of the fuselage and the wings made extreme air combat maneuvers possible. The weapons load was also extensive with six tons and large internal tanks enabled combat radii of more than 2000 kilometers.

Russia's Su-34s destroyed three Turkish multiple launch rocket system
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The powerful Al-31F engines brought the machine to Mach 2.35. Based on the Su-27 and its modifications under development, the successor for the front bomber Su-24 was planned. However, the new machine should also replace the Tupolev Tu-22M medium-range bomber. Sukhoi chief designer Rolan Martirossow initially gave the project the factory designation T-10W, later the designation Su-27IB (IB = Istrebitel Bombardirowschtschik = fighter-bomber) was announced.

The Leninez Association in Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) was commissioned to develop a radio-electronic complex for weapon control. The engine was again developed by NPO Saturn. The air-to-air missiles were to be from Wympel, the air-to-surface missiles from Raduga. The construction office for equipment construction Totschnost in Tula received the order for the on-board cannon.

The concrete starting point for the T-10W was the unfinished prototype of the on-board combat trainer T-10KM-2 with seats arranged side by side. Originally, only upgrading the Su-27UB was considered, but the strain on the crew would have become too high on long-haul flights in the narrow cockpit.

In Novosibirsk, a new front part of the fuselage with an armored cabin was finally made and attached to the T-10KM-2. Due to the adjacent seats, the front part of the fuselage was not given a round, but a flat elliptical cross-section with sharp side edges that merged into the front wing consoles.

Access to the cockpit is via the nose gear shaft. Since the weight of the aircraft was mainly shifted to the front, the nose landing gear was fitted with double tires and the main landing gear was designed as a tandem. The air intake ducts, which could no longer be regulated, were also significantly changed. This was possible because the aircraft was to be used as a fighter-bomber, especially in low-level flight close to the ground, and thus the maximum speed at great heights became less important.

Testing and series production

On April 13, 1990, the first prototype of the Su-27IB (Blue 42) took off for its maiden flight. In contrast to the later prototypes and series models, the machine did not yet have the tandem main landing gear. The machine was flown by Yevgeny Alexejewitsch Ivanov over the Research Institute of the Russian Air Force in Akhtubinsk.

The public first saw the new aircraft on February 13, 1992 at a meeting of the CIS countries in Matschulistsche near Minsk. The organizers of the show apparently expected that with the presentation of the machine, state funds would be granted to continue testing the Su-27IB. Information about the new aircraft had become public earlier, because in the summer of 1990 the aircraft was briefly at the Novofyodorovka airfield near the city of Saki on the Black Sea, where the test center of the Soviet naval aviators was located.

The background to this was the visit of the then President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to the aircraft carrier Tbilisi, today Admiral Kuznetsov, who was on a factory trip after deck tests of the Su-27K, MiG-29K and Su-25UTG and subsequent modifications. The OKB Sukhoi took this opportunity to present the new multi-purpose combat aircraft. The test pilot carried out a landing approach to the Tbilisi with the Su-27IB, but intercepted the machine shortly before touchdown. The machine could not touch down because of the missing catch hook and it was much too heavy for the jump start. The pictures went around the world and it was assumed that the machine had landed on the carrier. In the West, for example, they first spoke of the new airborne combat trainer Su-27KU.

On December 18, 1992, the first pre-series machine T-10W-2 (Blue 43) started, now with a tandem main landing gear. It was the second prototype in series configuration. The fighter-bomber was designed in such a way that it could effectively attack strongly secured ground targets in all weather conditions, day and night. The tail cone has also been enlarged to make room for two brake screens and additional decoys. In March 1994 a Su-27IB was transferred non-stop from Novosibirsk to Zhukovsky and presented there as the Su-34. T-10W-3 was a break test cell. It was followed by the T-10W-4 (White 44, first flight December 26, 1996), T-10W-5 (White 45, first flight on December 28, 1996) and T-10W-6 (White 46, first flight on December 27, 1996). December 1997).

Su-34 Fullback - Russian fighter-bomber/strike aircraft [review]
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Weapon system testing began with the T-10W-4, the T-10W-5 had the Sch141 Chishchnik mission system for the first time, which was tested from 1996. T-10W-4 was also flown with it from the end of 1996. In 1999 this machine was given the Platan optical system. Equipped in this way, it escorted Su-24M front-bomb aircraft to exercises near Aschuluk in April 2000. The EloKa system L-175W Chibiny was tested above all. In 2000 and 2002 two machines were used on a trial basis over Chechnya. In 1999 the T-10W-6 was equipped with new computers of the BtsWM-386 series, which replaced the old argon. Leninez also used a converted Tu-134Sch as a test carrier for the W004 radar. Two further pre-series machines – T-10W-7 (White 47) and T-10W-8 (White 48) – flew on December 22, 2000 and December 20, 2003.

The tests had dragged on very slowly in between. However, when General Vladimir Mikhailov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force in April 2002, he urged the program to be accelerated, or else threatened to cancel it. After 150 test flights in 2002, around 130 missions were flown in the first half of 2003 alone. The Air Force, however, wanted further improvements even though the first phase of state testing was over. NAPO brought these improvements to the T-10W-8. On September 30, 2006, the repetition of the state experiments was completed. For the first time in this phase, GLONASS-controlled bombs of the KAB-500 series were dropped.

However, the designation Su-32FN was just a new name for one and the same aircraft. It was not until the last visit by the chief of the air force to the manufacturer in Novosibirsk that it was decided that the machine would be included in the Russian air force as a Su-34. However, the manufacturer designates the planned export models as Su-32NF and Su-32M.

The Su-34 completed state testing in 2005 and was placed in the service of the Russian Air Force. The first supply contract for the Russian air force was signed in March 2006 with the NAPO manufacturing plant in Novosibirsk. Finally, the first production aircraft, the Rote 01, flew on October 12 and was handed over to the air forces together with the 02 on December 15, 2006. The Red 01 went to Lipetsk for the 4th ZBP i PLS, the Red 02 stayed in Novosibirsk until July 2007 because it was not yet fully equipped. In the meantime, the ground staff has also been trained on it. Then she took part in weapons system tests in Akhtubinsk. In 2008 one machine was delivered, in 2009 two Su-34s. On December 28, 2010, the first four machines followed a contract concluded in 2008 for 32 fighter-bombers for around 27.7 million euros each. The official commissioning took place on December 9, 2011 at the Voronezh base. In 2012, another contract was signed for 92 Su-34s, which should be delivered by 2020. The unit price was a little over a billion rubles, around $ 15 million, with a total volume of 1,000 billion rubles. In the long-term plans up to 2020 and beyond, at least 140 Su-34s were originally planned by the Russian Air Force. In 2019 the signing of a contract for the production of 48 pieces was foreseeable, which should be carried out in the years 2019 to 2027. According to older information, those interested in export should be Algeria, Libya, Syria and possibly Iran. The F-15E Strike Eagle can be viewed as an analog weapon system.

The Su-34 is to replace the Su-17, Su-24, MiG-27, Tu-22M and Tu-142 models, but in significantly fewer numbers than their predecessors. A reconnaissance version of the Su-34 was also planned, but since the fighter-bomber version already has a good reconnaissance potential and can be equipped with appropriate containers, a new development was dispensed with.

After the commissioning of the first two machines, the Su-34 was given the NATO code name Fullback by NATO. The unusual front hull of the machine led to the nickname ducklings or platypus.

Mission history

Suchoi Su-34s of the Russian Air Force have been used against ground targets as part of the military operation in Syria since September 30, 2015. The deployment takes place in the context of the Syrian civil war.

Construction and technology

Aerodynamic design

The Su-34 is aerodynamically designed similar to the Su-27 and Su-35. Although it is conventionally equipped with an elevator, it also has duck wings, which are supposed to increase maneuverability. Further changes to the shape of the fuselage were the already mentioned wider fuselage bow and the enlarged tail boom between the engines. The shape of the bow of the fuselage, the elimination of the stabilizing fins under the vertical stabilizers, the installation of radar-absorbing materials and a radar protective coating have significantly reduced the radar signature. Like the Su-27K, Su-30 and Su-35, the Su-34 now also has an air refueling system that gives it a practically global range with three to four air refueling. The only limits here are the resilience of the crew.

Su-34 Fullback - Russian fighter-bomber/strike aircraft [review]
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The wider fuselage bow enables the crew members to be arranged side by side on Zvezda K-36DM ejection seats. In order to counteract the fatigue of the crew on long-distance missions (ten hours and more with air refueling), increased emphasis was placed on comfort. The relatively large back of the fuselage behind the cockpit has a small on-board kitchen and a steel cylinder with a lockable funnel end as a toilet replacement. It should even give the crew members enough space to stand upright and rest. In addition, the adjustable seats allow a crew member to rest in a lying position. The pressure ventilation makes it possible to dispense with oxygen masks. In order to be able to hermetically seal the pressurized cabin more easily, the crew members climb the cockpit like a strategic bomber via a ladder in the nose gear shaft. The cockpit is provided with a 17 millimeter thick and 1.48 ton heavy titanium armor.

Avionics

Weapon system testing had started with the T-10W-4. The Sch-141 Chishchnik (Russian Хищник, predator) mission system of the machine includes the Leninez W004 radar with passive electronic beam control (PESA), the L-175W Chibiny system for electronic warfare (radar and missile warning receiver, active jammers, chaff / torch throwers) ), the Platan target search system with video camera and laser target illuminator as well as a navigation, display and communication complex. The K102 system from RPKB from Ramenskoje is used for electronic control. An electro-optical navigation and target container is also planned.

The W004 Chishchnik radar device from OKB Leninez is used as the radar. The radar uses a passive phase-guided radar antenna (PESA). It works in the centimeter range with a wavelength of 3 cm, with a maximum transmission power of 15 kilowatts. The swivel angle of the antenna is ± 60 degrees in azimuth and elevation. The W004 radar can acquire both air and ground targets. An air target the size of a combat aircraft can be detected within 90 km. A ground target the size of a battle tank can be detected up to a distance of 30 km. The radar can also be used to create high-resolution radar maps up to a distance of 150 km. The radar can also be used as a terrain follower radar.

The navigation is taken over by a receiver in combination with an inertial platform, which is compatible with both GLONASS and GPS and enables an accuracy of up to one meter. In order to achieve this accuracy under GPS, Russia would have to acquire a license for the military GPS in order to obtain the necessary keys. Without these keys, only the public inaccurate GPS channel is available. A radar warning receiver, an infrared sensor and a laser warner secure the warning against attacks. The crew can also activate a jammer and the usual IR flares.

Technical data

CharacteristicData
TypeHeavy tactical fighter-bomber type
Crew2
Length23.34 m
Span14.70 m
Height6.09 m
Wing area62.04 m²
Wing loadingminimum (empty weight): 363 kg / m²
nominal (normal take-off weight): 616 kg / m²
maximum (max. takeoff weight): 715 kg / m²
Empty weightapprox. 22,500 kg
Normal takeoff weight38,240 kg
Max. Takeoff weight44,360 kg
Top speedMach 1.8 (at optimal height)
Mach 1.17 (at sea level)
Service ceiling14,400 m
Use radius1100 km (without additional tanks)
1355 km (with external additional tanks)
approx. 600 km (at sea level)
Transfer rangeapprox. 4000 km (without additional tanks)
approx. 7000 km (with external additional tanks)
Max. Gun load8,200 kg
Enginestwo turbofan engines Saturn / Ljulka AL-35F
Thrust per enginewith afterburner: 2 × 137.21 kN
without afterburner: 2 × 79.43 kN
Thrust-to-weight ratiomaximum (empty weight): 1.24
nominal (normal takeoff mass): 0.73
minimum (max.start mass): 0.63

Armament

Fixed armament in the bow

1 × 30-mm automatic cannon Grjasew-Schipunow GSch-301 (9A-4071K) with 150 rounds of ammunition

Gun loading of 8200 kg (overload 9000 kg) at twelve external load stations

Air-to-air guided missile

6 × AKU / APU-470 starting rails for one R-27R each (AA-10 “Alamo-A / C”) ​​- semi-active radar-guided for medium-haul routes [7]
6 × AKU / APU-470 starting rails for one R-27T each (AA-10 “Alamo-B / D”) – infrared controlled for medium distances
8 × AKU-170 starting rails for one R-77 (AA-12 “Adder”) each – radar-guided for long distances
8 × P-72-1D starting rails for one R-73M2 each (AA-11 “Archer”) – infrared controlled for short distances [8]

Cruise missiles

2 × AKU-58 starting rails for a Ch-59 “Owod” (AS-13 “Kingbolt”) – TV-controlled
2 × AKU-58 launch rails for a Ch-59M “Owod-M” (AS-18 “Kazoo”) – radar-guided against sea targets
3 × launch rails for one “calibr” rocket each, e.g. B. 3M54A1, 3M14A
2 × launch rails for one Ch-101 each – strategic cruise missile with stealth capability, conventional 400 kg warhead, Ch-102 thermonuclear warhead

Air-to-surface guided missile

6 × launch rails for 1 × Ch-35 “Uran” (3M24 or AS-20 “Kayak”) each – radar-guided anti-ship missile
6 × AKU-58M starter rails for 1 × GosMKB Raduga Ch-38ML / MA / MT / MK each – laser / radar / infrared or GLONASS guided
6 × AKU-58M launch rails for 1 × Ch-31P (AS-17 “Krypton”) each – passive anti-radar guided missile
6 × AKU-58M launch rails for 1 × Ch-31A (AS-17 “Krypton”) each – radar-guided anti-ship missile
6 × AKU-58M starter rails for 1 × Ch-29L (AS-14 “Kedge”) each – laser-guided
6 × AKU-58M starting rails for each 1 × Ch-29T (AS-14 “Kedge”) – TV-controlled
6 × APU-68UM3 starting rails for 1 × Ch-25MT (AS-10 “Karen”) each – TV-controlled
6 × APU-68UM3 starting rails for 1 × Ch-25ML (AS-10 “Karen”) each – laser-guided
6 × PU-O-25 rocket launch containers for 1 × KB Totschmasch S-25LD each – laser-guided, caliber 340 mm

Unguided air-to-surface missiles

6 × B8M1 missile launch containers for 20 × unguided KB Totschmasch S-8 air-to-surface missiles each; Caliber 80 mm
6 × B13L rocket launch containers for 5 × unguided KB Totschmasch S-13 air-to-surface missiles each; Caliber 122 mm
6 × PU-O-25 rocket launch containers for an unguided KB Totschmasch S-25OFM air-to-surface missile; 340 mm caliber

Guided bombs

3 × BD-4 suspension for 1 × region JSC KAB-1500L-F (laser-guided 1500 kg bomb) [9]
3 × BD-4 suspension for each 1 × region JSC KAB-1500S (satellite navigation-guided 1500 kg bomb)
6 × BD-3U suspension for 1 × region JSC KAB-500L (laser-guided 500 kg bomb)
6 × BD-3U suspension for 1 × region JSC KAB-500Kr (television-controlled 500 kg bomb)
6 × BD-3U suspension for each 1 × region JSC KAB-500S (satellite navigation-guided 500 kg bomb)

Free falling bombs

3 × FAB-1500M-46 (1500 kg high explosive bomb)
8 × FAB-500T (500 kg high explosive bomb)
8 × ODAB-500PM (500 kg aerosol bomb)
8 × RBK-500 (500 kg cluster bomb)
12 × BetAB-500SchP (500-kg anti-slope bomb)
16 × OFZAB-500 (500 kg incendiary bomb)
16 × FAB-500M-62 (500 kg high explosive bomb)
6 × multiple bomb carriers MBD3-U6-68 with 3–4 × RBK-250-275AO-1SCh each (280 kg cluster bomb with AO-10 bomblets, max. 22 bombs)
6 × multiple bomb carriers MBD3-U6-68 with 3–4 × basalt FAB-250M-62 each (250 kg free-fall bomb, max. 22 bombs)
6 × multiple bomb carriers MBD3-U6-68, each with 6 × basalt FAB-250 (250 kg high explosive bomb, max. 36 bombs)
8 × multiple bomb carriers MBD3-U6-68 each with 6 × basalt FAB-100 (100 kg high-explosive bomb, max. 48 bombs)
6 × multiple bomb carriers MBD3-U6-68, each with 6 × basalt OFAB-100-120TB (100 kg fragmentation bomb, max. 36 bombs)

Nuclear weapons

1 × TN-1000 (30 kT tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × 6U-57 (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × 8U-49 (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × 8U-63 (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × RN-28 (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × 244N (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)
1 × RN-24 (tactical free-fall nuclear bomb)

External container

7 × Basalt KMGU-2 (270 kg submunition container for small bombs and mines)
3 × drop-off additional tanks PTB-3000 for each 3000 liters of kerosene (only for transfer flights)
1 × Tekon / Elektron APK-9 radio data transmission container as a relay for the steering signals for the Ch-29, Ch-59 and KAB-500Kr
1 × UOMZ Sapsan (electro-optical target lighting container)
1 × jamming container KNIRTI SAP-14
1 × air refueling tank UPAS-1A with hose reel and basket

Self-defense systems

Seven APP-50A decoy launchers for 14 × 50 mm decoys cartridges each are installed in a block in the tail boom. There are a total of 98 decoy cartridges.

Incidents

On June 4, 2015, a Russian Air Force Su-34 rolled over the runway and overturned while landing at Buturlinovka Air Force Base due to a defective braking parachute and excessive speed. The two crew members were uninjured.

On January 18, 2019, at 8:07 a.m. Moscow time, two Su-34s of the Russian Air Force collided during a training flight over the Sea of ​​Japan around 35 km from Sakhalin. This led to the crash of the two unarmed machines, and the crews catapulted themselves. One co-pilot was found alive and rescued, while two other crew members could only be recovered dead. The fourth was still being searched for. The probable cause is human error, as the interrogation of the surviving crew member revealed. The planes were flying in a line formation and visibility was poor due to heavy cloud cover. The aircraft behind lost the aircraft in front of it and collided with the rear of the aircraft while catching up.

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