The former Soviet Union began developing a successor to the Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft (which was its attempt to counter the US F-111) in the 1980’s. Thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union and budgetary and other constraints in Russia, which took over the development, the new Su-34 limped along slowly in development. The first production aircraft only entered service in the 2005-2007 time frame. A handful of the aircraft saw combat over Syria last year and earlier this year.
The Su-34 is based on the very successful Su-27/30/35 family of fighter aircraft, but with a two-seat side-by-side cockpit and significant structural modifications to suit it for the bomber/strike role. It can carry up to 13 tons of external stores and ordnance over a combat radius of 600-700 miles, and reach a maximum speed of about Mach 1.8 or thereabouts (Russia hasn’t been very forthcoming about its performance).
Here’s an interesting video from Russia of two Su-34’s tasked with bombing ice buildup along the Sukhona River last week, to break it up and enable the spring thaw to proceed more quickly. They aren’t carrying much ordnance, which allows us to get a good look at their lines. They certainly show a sprightly take-off performance. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.
Their Achilles heel is likely to be their engines, as always with Russian military planes – they’re unlikely to achieve more than a few hundred hours without needing a major (i.e. factory) overhaul. The Su-35, latest generation of the fighter family from which the Su-34 is derived, has a service lifetime of only some 4,000-5,000 flying hours, so I’d assume the Su-34 has a similar limitation. That’s not a lot in comparison to some Western airframes. Still, it’s likely to be a very good performer despite those limitations.
(I can’t help smiling at the sight of the Su-34’s nose and cockpit. For some reason it reminds me irresistibly of a duck-billed platypus!)
It is a neat looking plane.
But seriously, a lifetime of 5000 flight hours? Really? That seemed like so little… until I looked up the same thing for the F-15C. That one was designed around a 4000 hour lifetime, testing showed 16,000 hours might be more likely, and finally it appeared 8000 hours was probably the most realistic number.
The F-15E is rated at 16,000 hours.
So with the lower cost of the Su-34, maybe 5000 hours isn't too bad, but still not quite as economical over its life as a F-15E.
The Russian practice has always been to build aircraft with limited service lives. When the clock runs out, or if anything goes wrong that can't be fixed by a peasant with a screwdriver, the plane is rotated to a depot where it is rebuilt nose-to-tail and put in reserve. Meanwhile, an aircraft from the reserve is sent forward to fill the hole. Russian squadrons have very good availability numbers.
I expected it to look more like a B-1 than a fighter.
It's hard to get scale, though. Is it much bigger than a fighter?
SiGraybeard, the B-1 was designed as a strategic bomber with very long range. "Strike bombers" or "strike fighters" (same thing) are more like a beefed up (or sometimes not) fighter-bomber. See: F-15E Strike Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Is that fuselage extension a bomb bay similar to the one on the A-5 Vigilante?
LL, the wikipedia link that Peter included in his description describes the rear pod as "The rear warning radar system can warn of attack from behind and allow it to fire its R-73s against pursuers without needing to turn the aircraft."
And, that'll go into the "Sunday jet noise" queue.
LL I think that might be a sensor package/ IR / LLLTV array or "jammer pod". Knowing Russian weapons it may do all of them. With the huge power plants and tiny wing that thing looks like a modern F-105. Something built to come in just over the trees at just below "canopy melt" speed and deliver a Nuke.
Had to go with sound off (Pneumonia and can't tell if I'm crashing the wife's eardrums), so can't tell if at Last Chance or Preflight, but it looks like "Kick tire" is in the checklist even on this high tech bird.
I hate it when I go "Wow!" at a Soviet/Russian bird.
"Vitaly, kick tire! We fly!"
Huh, not much visibility from 4 to 8 o'clock – maybe the canopy top is clear?
I'm curious where the airframe service life number came from. It reminds me of an article from a few years ago (Air Classics, probably) about the importation of L-39s. American buyers were getting good deals on them because they were 'worn to limits' by Warsaw Pact standards, but merely 'broken in' to Western warbird enthusiasts..!