MOSCOW ($1=60.49 Russian Rubles) — Against the backdrop of ongoing economic sanctions from the West, the Russian Air and Space Force [VKS] continues to be supplied with weapons. We remind you: Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th and has been waging a war for nine months with a contradictory and unsatisfactory result, according to the Kremlin’s expectations.
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The expected air superiority does not materialize. The highly touted pre-war Su-30, Su-35, and Su-35 combat aircraft cannot cope with Ukraine’s available air defenses and western-supplied man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems.
Rich and powerful economies have imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow, limiting its access to modern technology. This seriously affects the country’s arms industry, halting several new weapons projects. The lack of semiconductors and integrated circuits and chips forces the Russians to look for other options and opportunities. The deliveries of North Korean ‘dump bombs’ and Iranian drones are proof of this. Russia’s “new generation” cruise missiles, despite inflicting damage on Ukrainian infrastructure, are half intercepted, which is too low an efficiency by any government standard in the world.
Expanded combat capabilities
Against the background of all this, Russia received a new delivery of combat aircraft – Su-34 Fullback bombers. The Russian media Izvestia, citing the website of the government of the Russian Federation, reported the delivery of the new batch, without specifying the exact number of Su-34s delivered. “Another batch of new Su-34 aircraft was produced at the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant. V. P. Chkalova <…> The plane passed a complex of ground and flight tests and flew to the place of duty,” the message says.
Izvestia writes that the newly delivered Su-34s have expanded combat capabilities, which allows the use of modern aviation weapons. However, neither the Russian media nor the Russian government website details exactly what improvements and upgrades have been made.
In 2020, BulgarianMilitary.com wrote about the modernization plans for this bomber. Although probably not everything from then to now has been done, we are obliged to mention what exactly they had planned at the Novosibirsk plant.
Russia calls this fighter jet a “super defender”. In 2020, Moscow announced that the Su-34 will receive modern ammunition, improved electronic warfare equipment, and unique reconnaissance containers. To the announced modernization then, Russia promised new avionics for the aircraft.
Also in 2020, Su-34 designers developed three containers with different reconnaissance payloads. The UKR-RT variant is designed for electronic reconnaissance, the UKR-OE for optoelectronic, and the UKR-RL for radar scanning. They all use a single data bus to interface with the aircraft and are therefore interchangeable.
Interestingly, then this modernization was compiled and designed based on the combat operations of the Su-34 in Syria. There, however, Russia does not meet resistance from the Syrian opposition forces of the government of Bashar Assad. There, Russia leads the so-called guerilla warfare, where the most advanced weaponry of the opposition forces is Russian anti-aircraft man-portable rocket systems of the RPG type.
Su-34 in Ukraine
The Su-34 can be said to be performing shakily in the war with Ukraine. Despite bombing Ukrainian territory, the aircraft fell victim to man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems while flying at high altitudes. This is what this aircraft is bound to do, as, in the medium and high altitude range, Ukrainian forces skillfully use the refurbished radars and air defense systems of the Soviet-made S-300s.
There are even opinions and comments about “friendly fire” downing a Russian Su-35 bomber during a mission in Ukraine. This happened on July 17, when the Su-35 was shot down over Lugansk. Although the Russians did not give a precise explanation for the incident, trying to “silently” attribute it to the Ukrainians, the American expert Rob Lee, a former US Marine and current senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute claim that a friendly air defense system of the armed forces of Luhansk intercepted and shot down the Russian Su-34, mistaking it for a Ukrainian aircraft.
On May 18, the Ukrainians shot down another Su-34 in Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region. Ukrainian intelligence than even intercepted communications between the first and second pilots, with the leader (the first pilot) asking his colleague where they would eject and whether they would fall into enemy hands.
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