KYIV, UKRAINE — Reports of a downed Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber/strike aircraft in the skies over Enakievo, Donetsk region have been confirmed by both warring parties – Ukraine and Russia. Dozens of videos of the downed strike aircraft have already appeared on the web.
According to reports from the Russian side, the Su-34 pilot managed to eject. Sources claim that the plane was shot down by a missile fired from an anti-aircraft missile complex.
Who shot down the Su-34?
This raises questions, as the Telegram account Conflict Zone writes. According to the author, it is not clear who exactly shot down the plane. He may have been shot down by the friendly fire. In the Donetsk region, Russia has a network of air defense systems. At the same time, the Ukrainian armed forces were quick to announce that the Su-34 had been shot down by their anti-aircraft missile system.
“Anti-aircraft fighters of the Air Force have not enjoyed such a downed target for a long time,” says the press service of the Air Force of Ukraine. According to Ukrainian sources, the fighter was shot down after lunch on March 3 at around 1:30 p.m. Anti-aircraft units were responsible for its downing. from the Nikopol anti-aircraft missile regiment, they claim in Ukraine.
M or M2 modification?
The question remains what modification of the Su-34 was shot down over Donetsk. It is possible that this was the base version of the Russian strike aircraft. But it is quite possible that an aircraft of the latest modification was shot down. I.e. version M or version M2. Therefore, the second statement is highly probable.
In early January, the manufacturer of the Su-34 UAK confirmed that it was sending modified M and M2 versions to the 227th Bombardment Aviation Regiment of the 303rd Mixed Aviation Division of the 11th Red Banner Army of the Air Force and Air Defense of the Eastern Military District. It is these forces of the Russian Air Force that are heavily involved in military operations in Ukraine.
The Su-34 was sent in January for testing. In the coming years, it is expected that the M and M2 versions will replace the entire Russian fleet of basic Su-34s. The new variants will come with a dedicated interface for three different types of sensors to achieve maximum situational awareness. These include the UKR-RT pod, which carries electronic search measures, the UKR-OE is a camera, and the UKR-RL, which integrates a synthetic aperture radar.
Versions M and M2 increase the range of armaments. The strike aircraft is already armed with Kh-101 and Kh-102 radar-evading cruise missiles with a strike range estimated between 3,500 and 5,500 km. The air-to-air potential of the Su-34M has also been increased through additional armament with R-27ER and R-77 missiles.
Availability of Su-34
According to the Oryx site, this is the 20th downed Su-34 since the start of the war and the first for 2023. Only the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] is the operator of the Su-34 in the world. Their inventory includes 153 Su-34 units in various modifications. Of these, seven are test prototypes and 146 are operationally ready. With the loss of 20 aircraft, the Su-34 fleet is down to 126 operationally ready.
The Su-34 is based on the Soviet version of the Su-27. Sukhoi has developed three versions of the model – the basic Su-34, the export version Su-32, and the upgraded version Su-34M / Su-34 NVO. The export version was developed for the Algerian Air Force, but the aircraft was never sold to the African country.
The Su-34 can carry a large payload. It has 12 hardpoints on the wing and fuselage with a capacity of 12,000–14,000 kilograms [26,000–31,000 lb]. It can be armed with cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and anti-radiation missiles. The Su-34 also carries laser-guided, TV-guided, and cluster bombs.
Su-34 pilots must be among the most trained in the Russian Air Force. The G limits they can possibly reach equals +9. The maximum flight speed reaches up to 1,900 km/h, while the cruise speed is around 1,300 km/h. The aircraft is powered by two Saturn AL-31FM1 afterburning turbofan engines providing a thrust of 132 kN [30,000 lbf] with an afterburner.
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
On 21 February 2022, Russia claimed that Ukrainian shelling had destroyed an FSB border facility. Russia claimed that it had killed 5 Ukrainian soldiers. They tried to cross into Russian territory. Ukraine denied being involved in both incidents and called them a false flag.
On the same day, the Russian government formally recognized the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR. According to Putin not only in their de-facto controlled areas, but the Ukrainian Oblasts as a whole. Putin ordered Russian troops, including tanks, to enter the regions.
On 24 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine by Russian Armed Forces previously concentrated along the border. The invasion followed by targeted airstrikes of military buildings in the country, as well as tanks entering via the Belarus border.
Russia has so far not recognized the invasion of Ukraine as a “war”, although that is exactly what it is, claiming that it is a “special military operation”. According to the UN, a “special military operation” can only take place after a UN resolution. There is no such resolution. So this is an invasion and war against Ukraine.
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