Unknown obsolete Su-17 Fitter fighter-bomber appeared over Ukraine

A Su-17 Fitter fighter-bomber, a Soviet-made aircraft, has reportedly been sighted in the airspace over Ukraine, as disclosed by the pro-Ukrainian NMFTE account on its Telegram feed. An accompanying video was shared on the same platform. 

Unknown obsolete Su-17 Fitter fighter-bomber appeared over Ukraine
Video screenshot

The time stamp on the video remains ambiguous, as noted by NMFTE, despite assertions by the recording’s author indicating the footage was captured within the current year. The video showcases a Su-17 traversing the airspace above a Ukrainian serviceman nonchalantly standing by with his hands nestled in his trousers’ pockets. 

The ambiguity extends to the flag under which the captured Su-17 Fitter was operating. Despite the knowledge that the Ukrainian fleet includes one Su-17UM3 Fitter, raising the chances that this could be the aircraft in question, it’s not conclusive, NMFTE underscores. Zinc into the equation is the fact that Poland maintains possession of Su-22s, which are essentially export versions of the Su-17. The possibility thus looms that this aircraft might be from Polish origins.

Unknown obsolete Su-17 Fitter fighter-bomber appeared over Ukraine
Photo credit: Instagram

To clarify, this does not suggest the involvement of the Polish Air Force in Ukraine, but the notion that Warsaw could have donated Su-22s to Kyiv, and the filmed aircraft could be part of this theoretical gift. It’s important to note that this is merely a supposition with no concrete confirmation backing it.

Sukhoi Su-17

The Sukhoi Su-17, designated as [izdeliye S-32], is a ground-breaking fighter-bomber possessing a variable-sweep wing. This technologically advanced aircraft, known by its NATO moniker “Fitter”, was manufactured exclusively for the Soviet military.

Stemming from the Sukhoi Su-7 models’ robust design, the Su-17 marked its entry as the premier variable-sweep wing aircraft serving in Soviet ranks, boasting significantly enhanced avionics. An array of export variants was fashioned for non-Soviet states, most notably the Sukhoi Su-22 and the less favored Su-20. 

This extraordinary aircraft series, which includes Su-17/20/22, was in production between 1967 and 1990. It holds a distinguished service record, having been utilized by an extensive range of air forces. This includes the Russian Federation, onetime Soviet republics, the former Warsaw Pact nations, and Arab countries, along with Angola and Peru. The Russian Federation chose to retire its fleet in 1998. 

While the Su-17 held the capability to deploy nuclear weapons, it exhibited immense versatility across multiple roles. It served in capacities varying from providing close-air support to executing ground attacks.

Su-17UM3 version

The Su-17UM3, a revised avionics suite trainer, first soared the skies on September 21, 1978, under the control of Yu. A. Yegorov. This aircraft was manufactured from 1978 to 1982, and its export versions were labeled as Su-22UM3 and Su-22UM3K, incorporating the R-29 and AL-21 engines respectively. 

The Su-17M3 variant, along with its export versions, marked the apex in terms of quantity, with nearly 1,000 models fabricated. The M3 utilized the modified airframe of the Su-17UM, with an aeronautics bay and a second fuel tank taking the site of the rear cockpit. 

An expansion in the internal fuel capacity to 4850 L [1,280 US gal] was noted. The M3 came equipped with the Klen-P laser rangefinder/target designator, with the Doppler radar shifted internally and its corroborative fairing removed. 

An increase of 260kg in the fuel capacity was implemented. The distinct launch rail for the Vympel K-13 or Molniya R-60 air-to-air missiles was installed between the two pylons on each wing. From the 38th batch onwards, a radiotransparent guide was integrated into the tailfin, and a stabilizing fin was affixed underneath the tail. 

New elements like the KN-23-1 navigation system, the SAU-22M1 autopilot, and the RV-15 [A-031] radio altimeter were introduced. Some aircraft were upgraded later on with an RSDN-10 Skip-2 [A-720] long-range radio navigation system, its antenna mounted on the tailfin’s leading edge, and the SARPP-12GM flight recorder was updated to the Tester-UZ model. The SPO-10 radar warning receiver was replaced with the more advanced SPO-15A [izdeliye L006L] Beryoza. 

Enhancements such as Klyon-PS, a combined laser rangefinder/designator, together with the ASP-17BTs sight were integrated into the Su-17M3. It was also able to carry an SPS-141 [or the 142-143] Siren or an SPS-141MVG Gvozdika ECM pod. Infrared countermeasures could be launched via the KDS-23 launchers with the BSPPU fire-control system leading the gun pods on the wings to maintain accuracy up to a depression angle of 30°. 

Improvements continued with the addition of two hardpoints under the fuselage, fitted with S-52-8812-300 pylons. BDZ-57MT or MTA racks could thus carry APU-68UMs bearing Kh-23M or Kh-25 missiles. Furthermore, these hardpoints could accommodate Kh-25ML or MR missiles, as well as the Kh-29L, mounted on an AKU-58 ejector rack.

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