The Aerospace Forces [VKS] of the Russian Federation received the first batch of Su-34M Fullback front-line bombers for 2023. This was announced on June 1 by the state company Rostec. The delivered bombers were manufactured at the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant. V.P. United Aircraft Corporation [UAC] Chkalov.
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The newly delivered Su-34Ms have passed ground and flight tests. In the press release from Rostec, it is said that the planes have enhanced combat capabilities. This means the use of modern weaponry, Rostec says, which increases the range of hitting enemy targets.
The delivered Su-34Ms are reported to have a new, more powerful engine. This is the Saturn AL-41F1S model, which until now has been used as a power unit in the Sukhoi Su-35S and Sukhoi Su-57 fighters. Front-line bombers are generally powered by Saturn AL-31 engines.
About the Saturn AL-41F1S engine
The AL-41F1S engine is a derivative variant of the AL-41F1 engine that powers Russia’s latest stealth fighter, the Su-57 Felon. The AL-41F1S is actually the power unit of another Russian fighter – the Su-35 Flanker-E. This engine has exactly the same capabilities and specifications as the Su-57 engine but with a simpler structure.
The AL-41F1S can provide the Su-34 with 8.8 tonnes of thrust [86.30 kN; 19,400 lbf] dry thrust. However, this is not the case when we talk about afterburning during an emergency incident. I.e. in the afterburner, the force produced by the engine is 14 tons of force [137.3 kN; 30,860 lbf]. When we talk about an accident, then the power unit is capable of producing half a ton more than during afterburning.
With the new engine, the modernized Su-34M gets a 3% increased fan diameter. The AL-41F1S also has an increased life of up to 4,000 flight hours. However, the AL-41F1S differs from the AL-41F1 engine that powers the Su-57 in that it has a separate engine control system.
What will change?
The new engine will give the Su-34 increased thrust with an afterburner. Until now, the Su-34 had 132 kN [30,000 lbf] with an afterburner. Using the new AL-41F1S engine thrust is increased by 10kN [5kN each, Su-34 is a twin-engine fighter-bomber].
This means slightly greater maneuverability of the Su-34 than before. The Su-34 is generally not famous for great maneuverability compared to its “colleagues” from the Su-27, Su-30, Su-35, and Su-57 series. The main reason is that the Su-34 is capable of carrying a large number of weapons, as it is classified as a front-line bomber.
It is the presence of a new engine that will most likely allow the Su-34 to take off with a larger amount of armament than before. Rostec’s announcement does not mention what brand-new weapons the Su-34 will receive. But until now, the base version Su-34 has a maximum takeoff weight of 100,000 pounds. Also until now, the Su-34’s empty weight is 50,000 pounds.
The Role of Su-34 in Ukraine
The Su-34 plays an essential role in the combat capabilities of the Russian VKS in Ukraine. Yuriy Slyusar, general director of the United Aircraft Corporation, says that the new delivery of Su-34M front-line bombers “is a new, highly effective aviation system.” He added that this delivery was planned and was part of a previously signed contract between the Kremlin and the UAC.
The Su-34 carries various types of bombs and missiles as part of its armament. But since the beginning of 2023, this front-line bomber is increasingly used to drop aerial bombs. They have a relatively long-range: between 35 km to 45 km. They pose a serious problem for Ukraine’s air defenses, which it says it cannot deal with.
But it is the front-line bomber’s ability to bomb Ukrainian positions that also makes it vulnerable. Its weight does not allow the usual “Russian maneuverability”. Perhaps the time is not far when the Su-34 will have to face the American F-16. Then it is hard to believe that the Russian front-line bomber will be able to escape the F-16.
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