57-year-old Su-22s are being upgraded to carry Yasin aerial bombs

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Reports are surfacing from Iranian media that suggest the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force [IRIAF] is on a mission to rejuvenate its long-neglected Sukhoi Su-22 attack aircraft. The refurbishment, it appears, includes the installation of new systems on the Su-22s. Amendments include empowering the aircraft to bear and launch Yasin aerial bombs, with a reach of up to 40 km, as well as Arman ballistic missiles.  

Let’s delve into these Yasin aerial bombs for a moment. These durable weapons weigh in at 320 kilograms, accompanied by a hefty 215-kilogram warhead. They were designed with retractable wings, and function in any weather conditions. Rumor has it, that these bombs can glide up to 40 kilometers when dispatched from an altitude of 27,000 feet, regardless of whether it’s by a drone or a fighter plane.  

Now, about the Arman missile. This was introduced to the public for the first time in 2023 at an aerospace exhibition held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]. It’s believed to be a spinoff of the Ababil [al-Fat’h] solid-propellant short-range ballistic missile. According to sources, Iran’s development of the Arman is their attempt at forging an air-launched weapon comparable to Russia’s Kinzhal missile.

Photo credit: Reddit

The update

The Iranian Su-22 fleet is under the control of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC-AF], easily recognized by their ’15-‘ prefixed military identification numbers. 

In 1991, Iran obtained 40 Su-20/22s from Iraq. However, these remained non-operational for several years until 2013 when Iran embarked on a comprehensive overhaul program. Intriguingly, around March 2015, there were signs that the IRGC-AF had transferred some of its Su-22s to the Syrian Arab Air Force for participation in the Syrian Civil War. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia

At present, Iran boasts of 30 operational Su-22s. A notable achievement came in July 2018 when they successfully updated and modernized 10 Su-22s. These improvements equipped the aircraft with state-of-the-art capabilities, including smart bomb carriage, precision-guided munitions, UAV data transfer, and the essential technology to employ air-launched cruise missiles with an impressive range of 1500 km.

What is Su-22?

Originating in the Soviet Union, the Sukhoi Su-22, codenamed Fitter by NATO, is a fighter-bomber aircraft. This model, an enhanced version of the Su-17 which first went into production in 1966, is seen as the immediate successor of the Su-20. Mainly an export aircraft, the Su-22 was also extensively operated by the air forces of nations that were part of the former Soviet Union. 

Specifically, the Su-22 is designed for high-speed flight at low altitudes. As is typical for most fighter-bomber aircraft, its capabilities for engaging other aircraft are limited. Positioned at the nose of the plane, it features a laser range and target illumination system [Klen-54] predominantly for ground targets, as opposed to a radar system for detecting aerial targets. 

Further enhancements to the Su-22 encompass advancements in location, control, and target acquisition electronics. The fighter bomber is also equipped with systems crafted to disrupt enemy targeting and locating mechanisms. Additionally, the Su-22 can accommodate extra sensor equipment for reconnaissance missions.

The Su-22 armament

The armory consists of eight to ten weapon holders, each designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of weapon systems. Depending on the weapon configuration you prefer, two or four weapon holders can be securely fastened under the hull. The armory’s standard features include a pair of NR-30 automatic cannons, situated in the left and right wing roots. Each cannon is equipped with 80 rounds. 

Out of the six weapon holders positioned underneath the wings, two can each be outfitted with an extra gun container. This specific gun container, known as the SPPU-22-01 [battle kit: 260 rounds], features a downward movable gun, the GSch-23L, that’s adjustable up to 30° vertically. Interestingly, it can also be installed under the fuselage counter to the flight direction. This unique feature enables you to hit ground or marine targets that you’ve passed over during takeoff.

The Swing-wing

The Soviet Union was home to a multi-purpose ground attack aircraft of Russian design. This robust machine served the Soviet air forces for an extended period and was one of the first to use the variable geometry feature, often referred to as the “swing wing”

Now, you might be wondering, what’s the purpose of variable geometry wings? They’re not just for show, trust me! These wings provide the aircraft with the ability to adjust its speed, lift, and maneuverability while in mid-air. Additionally, they enable the aircraft to take off from shorter airfields.

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