All eyes are on Su-34 – it’ll give impetus to coming Russian strikes

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The Su-34 Fullback, an important fighter bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS], is recognized for its attacks on Ukrainian positions, posing a serious challenge for the Ukrainian forces. 

Photo by Alex Beltyukov

The VKS use their advanced aircraft for both air combat and ground attacks on Ukraine, with the successes largely due to Russian types like the Su-35, Su-34, and MiG-31. The Su-35 specifically has been termed as the “greatest adversary” by Ukrainian pilots. 

The MiG-31K aircraft has gained attention for launching the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, promoted by Russia as unbeatable. Despite Ukrainian forces’ interception efforts, many missiles have allegedly hit their targets. The MiG-31 Foxhounds, equipped with powerful Vympel R-37M air-to-air missiles, are celebrated for their high-altitude patrols and several downing of Ukrainian fighter jets.

Su-34 is gained attention

Recently, Su-34 bombers have gained attention in Russia’s military arsenal. These twin-engine jets play a crucial role in the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operations, including air-to-ground assaults against Ukrainian forces.  

These bombers have successfully targeted Ukrainian command posts and combat vehicles in the Krasnolimansk sector, during Russia’s Central Military District operations.  

The increased use of Su-34 bombers has sparked global interest. Song Bo, a columnist, indicated that Ukraine might face increased pressure due to these bombers carrying long-range cruise missiles.  

According to Bo, the Su-34 bombers equipped with cruise missiles enhance Russia’s long-range attack capabilities. Military observer Shao Yongling suggested that these bombers could enhance the precision of the targeting process.  

More significant threat

Yonglin suggests that these strategic moves by Russia could apply more pressure on Ukraine, particularly its air defenses. The use of these bombers to fire long-range missiles could worsen Ukraine’s security situation, especially during winter.  

Photo credit: Yandex

Last winter, Russia launched a missile and drone offensive against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, resulting in severe deficiencies in heating and water, thereby affecting Kyiv’s war capabilities.

The Su-34, often observed on the frontlines and prominently armed by Moscow, is showcasing an increasing presence in the ongoing 19-month dispute. The growing evidence suggests a potential rise in the aircraft’s role. Known as ‘Fullback’, the jet seems to pose a more significant threat to Ukraine than its counterparts, the MiG-31 and Su-35 fighters. Indeed, the spotlight is currently centered on the Fullback due to its growing arsenal. 

Growing military strength 

In light of this, it’s worth noting recent comments in a Chinese publication that lend context to this narrative. These articles followed reports of the advanced Su-34M Fullback being equipped with Long-Range Cruise Missiles [LRCMs]. It came to light earlier this month that these powerful missiles had already seen action within the Ukrainian military’s ‘special operation zone’. 

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NATO countries neighboring Ukraine are increasingly alarmed by this development. There’s a mounting fear that the conflict may spill over Ukraine’s borders, drawing these nations into the struggle. As one anonymous source disclosed to Russian media, “In the event of a NATO conflict, the Su-34’s newfound role as a cruise missile platform could prove tactically significant.” 

Meanwhile, this escalating scenario is also presenting enhanced risks for Ukraine, especially given the substantial energy infrastructure that could be targeted by Russian cruise missile attacks. 

Missile strikes could still secure success

A subject matter specialist in Russian military affairs, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared a next perspective, “Ukraine has bolstered its Western air defenses since the previous winter, yet these measures remain inadequate and intermittent. Therefore, missile strikes could still secure a level of success.” Neither the Russian Ministry of Defense nor the state media have unveiled which type of cruise missiles are integrated into the Su-34 model. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Adding fuel to these escalating tensions, reports have emerged claiming that the Su-34 Fullback is now armed with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile. Moreover, there are suggestions that its deployment on a target within Ukraine has already occurred, a development that has evoked a fair amount of astonishment.

The MiG-31K aircraft’s unique use of a hypersonic missile has caused a stir in the West due to an apparent increase in usage in Ukraine. 

According to Indian Air Force veteran Vijainder K. Thakur, the addition of this capability to the Su-34 Kinzhal will greatly benefit Russia. 

More weapons

The Russian Ministry of Defense has showcased a Su-34 equipped with FAB500M62 glide bombs for an assault mission, indicating that hypersonic weapons and cruise missiles are in high use. 

The Su-34 Fullback has reportedly tested its initial FAB-1500 M54 fragmentation bombs sufficiently accurately. There are rumors that the fighter could increase its capacity to carry more weapons. Each device can hit different targets. 

Photo by Kirill Borisenko

New protective devices against foreign electronic warfare are being added to the aircraft, rendering them immune to enemy radar. Despite difficulties, the Fullback remains a heavily used aircraft in Russia’s arsenal, with 130 Su-34Ms reported in the fleet as of February 2022. 

About 20 Fullbacks have purportedly been lost since the start of the conflict. However, actual losses may be higher as shown by the Dutch firm Oryx. Operations’ high intensity and sanctions have reportedly affected the fleet’s readiness. Hence, the VKS arms the aircraft with powerful weapons, reducing exposure to Ukrainian air defenses.


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