The Sukhoi SU-34 (Fullback) is
developed to address a Russian Air Force requirement to augment
and replace SU-24/24B Fencer. Designed for supersonic
penetration of enemy airspace at treetop level, SU-34 can carry
eight tons of ordnance, and strike from a standoff range of 250km.
Fitted with an armored cockpit, advanced countermeasures and
effective standoff weapons, it will be able to survive missile's
fragments as well as direct hits from small caliber weapons. With
external drop tanks, the aircraft has a combat radius of 1,500km,
which can be extended by additional drop tanks or aerial
refueling. At a gross takeoff weight of 45.1 tons, SU-34 can carry
eight tons of external loads, including subsonic and supersonic
air/ground missiles and unpowered weapons.
It is equipped with a digital
weapon delivery system enabling high precision weapon delivery
(accuracy within few meters) at all weather conditions. The
aircraft is designed to penetrate enemy airspace at tree-top level
using terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) capability, flying at
1,400 km/h. SU-34 has a top speed of Mach 1.8, slower than teh
SU-30MKI Flanker. It is powered by two Salyut AL-31FM1 engines
generating 13.5 tons of thrust.
Michail Simonov, chief designer of the aircraft, the sturdy,
maneuverable and armored Su-34 resembled a flying tank. The
aircraft has a spacious, armored cockpit, protected by 17mm steel
cage shielding the crew and avionics from bullets and shrapnel. It
is designed to comfortably seat the pilot and navigator side by
side. the pilot or the navigator/systems operator can stand up and
stretch their muscles or even take a nap in the aisle (while the
plane is on autopilot or is steered by one man). They can even eat
borsch from a vacuum flask or microwave meat. The plane also has
The aircraft design, highlighted by
the horizontal empennage, visible behind the cockpit ensures
in-flight stability and reduces buffeting at low altitude. It is
designed to have a small radar cross section, which, according to
simonov, is equivalent to that of a supersonic cruise missile.
The aircraft made its maiden flight in 1990 (called SU-27IB).
According to Simonov, the prototype was not designed for such
levels of comfort. "a prototype Su-27UB commanded by Nikolai
Sadovnikov had completed an experimental flight from Moscow to the
Okhotsk Sea and back during tests. The plane spent 16 hours in the
air and refueled four times from air-force tankers. "All systems
functioned without a hitch, but the gray-faced pilots looked very
tired after they climbed out of the cramped cockpit. They did not
look capable of engaging the enemy after such a long haul." said
According to Simonov the extended
range and crew comfort are of critical importance in Russia, as it
usually takes a warplane in the Russian Far East seven days to
reach Tajikistan because intermediate airfields are often closed
due to bad weather, fuel is not delivered promptly and pilots do
not have enough time to rest. But the crew-friendly Su-34 has
eliminated all these problems.
The engines are designed for 1,000 operational hours between
repairs. Unlike many of its counterparts, the Su-34 is not yet
offered on the international market.
The Russian Air Force is expected
to receive the first two SU-34 Fullback strike fighters this year.
Seven additional aircraft will be delivered in 2007 and ten in
2008. By 2010, the first Russian Air Force Regiment will receive
the full complement of 24 aircraft, thereby converting from SU-24
to the new plane. The Air Force currently operates 10 air
regiments flying SU-24, which are considered to convert to SU-34
in the future.