30 years have passed since the very first flight of the Russian front-line bomber Su-34 which by now forms the core of the striking power of Russian tactical aviation. It is a worthy successor to the all-weather, day and night, Su-24M tactical bomber. Development and production of the Su-34 tactical bomber is among Sukhoi’s priority programs.
The first contract for the delivery of 32 Su-34 planes to the Defence Ministry was signed in 2008. Currently, the Novosibirsk Aviation Enterprise (a branch of the Sukhoi Aircraft Company) is completing the production of Su-34 bombers under the contract signed with the Defence Ministry in 2012 for the delivery of 92 planes to the troops. Today Russia’s Aerospace Force operates from 110 to 130 Su-34 frontline bombers, according to various estimates. Here are some excerpts on the world-renowned fighter from our previous publications:
[...T]he Su-34 fighter bomber has been produced not only without delay, but also ahead of schedule – 18 aircraft were put into service in 2015 instead of 16 aircraft as per schedule. Last year, the total amount of the Su-34 aircraft, including prototypes, reached 83 aircraft. Moreover, in 2013 the first large-series procurement contract for 32 aircraft was completed, plus 50 % of the second contract for 92 aircraft to be put into service by 2020. Two wings have already been refitted with new aircraft. In spite of known economic problems, the importance of the Su-34 is so high that we should not expect that plans to continue its acquisition program may be abandoned. The next contract for the period until 2025 is likely to be related to the procurement of modified Su-34M aircraft. No doubt, the future advanced version of the Su-34 fighter would be in many ways based on the experience of the aircraft’s combat employment in Syria. The Su-34 fighter bombers were both the “scalpel” and the “hammer” of the Russian expeditionary force in Syria as these aircraft were responsible for striking the most complicated targets with precision-guided weapons, including satellite-guided bombs. Besides, these aircraft carried the heaviest combat load.
It was initially developed as a frontline fighter bomber to replace the Su-24/24М based on the T-10 (the factory name for the Su-27 series) before the collapse of the USSR. The prototype designated as the Т-10В-1 made its maiden flight on April 13, 1990, but it took two decades for testing and mastering new methods of production in that difficult historical period. No doubt, the Su-34 aircraft is critically important for the Russian Air Force, because this aircraft is the most powerful model of series-produced (and promising) tactical assault aircraft. In comparison to its predecessor, the Su-34 features better flight range and combat load that allow to substitute at lower attitudes even the Tu-22M3 long-range bomber aircraft, which are subject to discard in the foreseeable future.
A Growing Interest in the Sukhoi Su-34 Fighter-Bomber Due to Its Success in Syria
According to recent reports, Algeria has ordered 12 Su-32 fighter-bombers (it’s not a mistake: the Su-32 is an export version of the Su-34) to be supplied by Rosoboronexport. The contact has already been signed, local sources say. The purchase sum is rumored to be about $500 million while up to additional 40 aircraft may be ordered until 2022, including the electronic warfare (EW) aircraft modification. This deal may become a hallmark and the first step to win popularity in the world arms market. Moreover, sources say that Nigeria and, probably, Uganda show an intense interest in the Su-32. Anyway, the aircraft’s effective performance demonstration and its first experience under fire in Syria rewarded the efforts – the aircraft has captured headlines in the world’s media and shows its high combat effectiveness when using precision-guided munitions to hit ground targets. Besides, another advantage of the Su-34 aircraft that it is able to ensure the fighter functions (such features are vital for countries that are not the richest ones) because it is also based on the Su-27 fighter. Therefore, the Su-34 may take rightful place in the export portfolio in the years ahead. The main target markets are African and Asian countries and, perhaps, our CSTO partners (for instance, Kazakhstan that has already purchased Su-30SM fighters).
There have been unofficial reports published by TASS that Russia’s Defence Ministry plans to sign a new contract in the summer for the delivery of several dozen Sukhoi Su-34 frontline bombers to the Aerospace Force with their combat capabilities expanded under the Sych experimental design work, a source in the defence industry.