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Fighter-Bombers on the Run; Zhukovskiy, August 10 - 12, 2012

100 Years VVS, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Russian attack planes play an important role within the VVS. The attack planes are deployed in the offensive role. The Russian assault fleet was also represented with all operational types during the flight pass at Zhukovskiy. These types, are; the Su-24 Fencer, the Su-25 Frogfoot and the Su-34 Fullback.

The group of attack aircraft is called in Russian Shturmoviki (Штурмовики). The word Shturmoviki means fighter-bomber or attack plane. The primary role of the Russian fighter-bombers is attacking ground targets. The fighter-bombers are used for preci- sion attacks on tactical ground targets. This group of aircraft will operate in most situations at low levels. These aircraft are during the first hours of conflicts used to destroy enemy radar stations and anti-aircraft installations. The Russian VVS has various types of fighter-bombers in use for tactical attacks. The attack fleet currently consists of 3 types, namely; the Su-24 Fencer for tactical bombing at low altitude, the Su-25 Frogfoot for close air support operations and the Su-34 Fullback for tactical bombing at low and high altitudes. Most of the attack aircraft are stationed at airfields close at the borders of Russia. Many attack aircraft are especially stationed at the European side of Russia. This has everything to do with the Cold War. The fleet of attack aircraft will drastically shrink in the upcoming years. The VVS can perform its offensive tasks with less aircraft due to the modernization of the existing fleet and newly developed planes.

The Sukhoi Su-24 (Сухой Су-24) is a supersonic all-waether attack fighter of the Russian Air Force. This aircraft is by NATO designated as the Fencer. The aircraft is equipped with swing-wings and the 2 pilots sit next to each other. The American counterpart of this attack aircraft is the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The existence of the Fencer was first announced in 1965 when the prototype flew under the name T-6. The first production model of the Su-24 made its first flight on December 31, 1971. The Fencer is able to reach a speed of more than Mach 2.2. The armament of the Fencer consists of an internally mounted gun of the type GSh-6-23. This weapon is a 23mm cannon with a maximum stock of 500 patterns. The aircraft has 8 hardpoints on which weapons can be attached. The aircraft has 4 hardpoints under-

neath its fuselage which can be used to carry various air-to-ground weapons with a maximum weight of 8,000 kg. Also, nuclear weapons can be mounted under the fuselage. The two inner hardpoints on the wings are attached to the non-moving part of the wing and is suitable to carry 2 external fuel tanks. The last to hardpoints are attached to the moving part of the wings and are suitable to carry light air-to-ground weapons. Also air-to-air weapons like the R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) can be attached here. The Russian VVS has an estimated fleet of over 600 Fencers in operational service of the type Su-24M and Su-24M2. Besides this fleet, the Russian VVS also has 79 Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft in service. The Fencers will all be replaced by the modern Su-34 Fullback before 2020. It is not clear if also the photo reconnaissance variants will be replaced by the Su-34.

The Sukhoi Su-25 (Сухой Су-25) is an airplane which is used for close support operations by the VVS. The Su-25 is by NATO designated as the Frogfoot. The prototype of this heavily armed aircraft made its first flight in 1975. The Frogfoot is the Russian counterpart to the American Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt. The Su-25 is actually derived from the Northrop YA-9 which was the competitor of the American A-10 during the American close air support fighter competition. In 1978, the Su-25 was taken into production in Tbilisi in the Soviet Republic of Georgia. The aircraft was quickly nicknamed Грач by the Russian ground troops; this nickname means smoke. The Su-25 has a straight wing construction and the aircraft is therefore able to fly at extreme slow speeds. The plane is ruggedly built and the survivability of the aircraft is a real benefit. The vital parts of the Frogfoot are reinforced with titanium alloys. The unit has 1 internal gun of the type GSh-30-2 30mm with a capacity of 250 patterns. The Frogfoot has 5 external hardpoints for weapons under each wing and one on the center line under the fuselage. In total, 4,400 kg of external load can be carried under the Frogfoot. Some examples of weapons which can be carried by the aircraft, are; conven- tional bombs, cluster bombs, gun pods, laser-guided bombs and air-to-surface missiles such as the Kh-25ML and Kh-29L. The Russian VVS has an estimated fleet of 241 Su-25s in service. The role of the Su-25 is far from over within the VVS; there are even plans to replace the existing fleet by newly built Su-25 Frogfoots.

The Sukhoi Su-34 (Сухой Су-34) is a fighter-bomber which is operated by the VVS. The aircraft will replace the Su-24 Fencer. The NATO designation for the Su-34 is Fullback. The design of the Su-34 is based on the design of the Su-27 Flanker. The existence of the Fullback was admitted by the Russian President Boris Jetsin in 1992. The prototype of the Fullback was shown to the public at MAKS. The Fullback has a wide cockpit where both crew members sit next to each other. The aircraft is designed as a supersonic fighter-bomber. The Su-34 is like the Su-27 and Su-30 equipped with a 30mm cannon of the type GSh-30-1. In total, the Su-34 Fullback has 12 suspension points under the wings and the fuselage. The Fullback is able to carry more than 8,000 kg of external payloads on those hardpoints. Various types of rockets, conven- tional bombs and laser guided bombs can be carried by the Su-34. The Su-34 was used for the first time in a conflict during the war in South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008. The Fullbacks were involved in several bombing runs on Georgian targets. The Russian VVS has ordered a batch of 124 aircraft to replace the aging Su-24 Fencer. The delivery of these aircraft should be completed near 2020. The Russian Air Force is at this moment the only user of the Fullback. A possible export variant of this type will be referred to as the Su-32. There are no potential customers been found who showed interests in this aircraft. Considerations are made at this moment to replace the Tu-22 Backfire fleet as well with this fighter-bomber.

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