The Sukhoi Su-34 (Russian: Сухой Су-34) (NATO reporting name: Fullback) is a Russian twin-engined, twin-seat strike fighter.
It is intended to replace the Sukhoi Su-24.
Based on the Sukhoi Su-27 ‘Flanker’, the two-seat Su-34 is designed primarily for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets (tactical bombing/attack/interdiction roles, including against small and mobile targets) on solo and group missions in daytime and at night, under favourable and adverse weather conditions and in a hostile environment with counter-fire and EW counter-measures deployed, as well as for aerial reconnaissance.
The Su-34 had a muddied and protracted beginning. In the mid-1980s, Sukhoi began developing a new tactical multirole combat aircraft to replace theswing-wing Su-24, which would incorporate a host of conflicting requirements. The bureau thus selected the Su-27, which excelled in maneuverability and range, and could carry a large payload, as the basis for the new fighter-bomber. More specifically, the aircraft was developed from T10KM-2, the naval trainer derivative of the Sukhoi Su-27K. The development, known internally as T-10V, was shelved at the end of the 1980s sharing the fate of Soviet aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk; this was the result of the political upheaval in the Soviet Union and its subsequent disintegration.
In August 1990, a photograph taken by a TASS officer showed an aircraft making a dummy approach towards the aircraft carrier Tbilisi.
The aircraft, subsequently and erroneously labelled Su-27KU by Western intelligence, made its maiden flight on 13 April 1990 with Anatoliy Ivanov at the controls.
Converted from an Su-27UB with the new distinctive nose, while retaining the main undercarriage of previous Su-27s, it was a prototype for the Su-27IB (Istrebitel Bombardirovshchik, or “fighter bomber”).
It was developed in parallel with the two-seat naval trainer, the Su-27KUB. However, contrary to earlier reports, the two aircraft are not directly related.Flight tests continued throughout 1990 and into 1991.
In 1992, the Su-27IB was displayed to the public at the MosAeroshow (later renamed “MAKS Airshow”), where it demonstrated aerial refuelling with an Il-78, and performed an aerobatic display. The aircraft was officially unveiled on 13 February 1992 at Machulishi, where Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the CIS leaders were holding a summit. The following year the Su-27IB was again displayed at the MAKS Airshow.
The next prototype, and first pre-production aircraft, T10V-2, first flew on 18 December 1993, with Igor Votintsev and Yevgeniy Revoonov at the controls. Built at Novosibirsk, where Su-24s were constructed, this aircraft was visibly different from the original prototype; it had modified vertical stabilizers, twin tandem main undercarriage and a longer “stinger”, which houses a rearward-facing warning radar. The first aircraft built to production standard made its first flight on 28 December 1994. It was fitted with a fire-control system, at the heart of which was the Leninets OKB-designed V004 passive electronically scanned array radar. It was different enough from the earlier versions that it was re-designated the “Su-34”. However, at the 1995 Paris Air Show, the Su-34 was allocated the “Su-32FN” designation, signalling the aircraft’s potential role as a shore-based naval aircraft for the Russian Naval Aviation. Sukhoi also promoted the Su-34 as the “Su-32MF” (MnogoFunksionalniy, “multi-function”).
Budget restrictions caused the programme to stall repeatedly. Nevertheless, flight testing continued, albeit at a slow pace. The third pre-production aircraft first flew in late 1996.
Orders and deliveries
An initial batch of eight aircraft was completed by the Novosibirsk factory in 2004.
In March 2006, Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov announced that the purchase of the first 5 pre-production Su-34s for the Russian Air Force. In late 2008, a second contract was signed for delivery of 32 aircraft by 2015. A total of 70 aircraft were to be purchased by 2015 to replace some 300 Russian Su-24s, which were then undergoing a modernization program.Ivanov claimed that as it is “many times more effective on all critical parameters”, fewer of these newer bombers are required than the old Su-24 it replaces. In December 2006, Ivanov revealed that approximately 200 Su-34s were expected to be in service by 2020; and was confirmed by Air Force chief Vladimir Mikhaylov on 6 March 2007.
Two Su-34s were delivered in 2006-2007, and three more were delivered by the end of 2009.
On 9 January 2008, Sukhoi reported that the Su-34 had begun full-rate production.
The final stage of the state tests were completed on 19 September 2011.
The Russian Air Force received another four Su-34s on 28 December 2010, as combat units in airbases first received six Su-34s in 2011. Delivery came in the form of two contracts, the first in 2008 for 32 aircraft and the second in 2012 for a further 92 aircraft, totaling 124 to be delivered by 2020. In December 2012, Sukhoi reportedly delivered five aircraft under the 2012 State Defense Order. In January 2013, Sukhoi delivered a batch of 5 Su-34s, flying directly from the Novosibirsk aircraft plant to an air base in Voronezh, Russia. On 6 May 2013, the first Su-34s under the 2013 defence procurement plan were delivered.
On 9 July 2013, three more Su-34s were delivered in an official acceptance ceremony held at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant. These three aircraft were already in the new Russian Air Force camouflage scheme. By the end of 2013, Sukhoi completed the 2008 contract and started deliveries on 2012 contract.
In August 2013, Sukhoi signed a contract with the Kazan-based Radiopribor holding company for 184 “friend-or-foe” transponders for the Su-34 to be delivered by 2020.
On 10 June 2014, Russia1 TV reported a further delivery of Su-34s was made to the 559th Regiment at Morozovsk. Another three aircraft were delivered on 18 July 2014. Six more were delivered on 15 October 2014. 18 aircraft were delivered in 2014,and 20 planned to be delivered in 2015.
Sukhoi has delivered the first batch of Su-34s to the Russian Ministry of Defense under the 2015 order on 21 May 2015. On 16 July 2015, the Sukhoi Company handed over another batch of Su-34 frontline bombers to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The transfer took place in the framework of the Unified Military Hardware Acceptance Day in the Sukhoi Company’s branch — V.P.Chkalov Novosibirsk aviation plant.
After eight years of negotiations, Rosoboronexport received requests to supply the Su-34 to Algeria, for the Algerian Air Force.
The aircraft shares most of its wing structure, tail, and engine nacelles with the Su-27/Su-30, with canards like the Su-30MKI, Su-33, and Su-27M/35 to increase static instability(higher manoeuvrability) and to reduce trim drag. The aircraft has an entirely new nose and forward fuselage with a cockpit providing side-by-side seating for a crew of two. The Su-34 is powered by a pair of Saturn AL-31FM1 turbofan engines, the same engines used on the Su-27SM; giving the aircraft a maximum speed of Mach 1.8+ when fully loaded. When equipped with a full weapons load, the Su-34 has a maximum range of 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) without refuelling, this can be extended further via aerial refueling.When operating at its operational maximum, the airframe can withstand an ‘overload’ of up to +9G.
The Su-34 is a three-surface design having both a conventional horizontal tailplane at the rear and a canard foreplane in front of the main wings. The foreplane provides both additional lift (force) and greater manoeuvrability. It has twin tail fins like those of Su-27 from which it is derived. The Su-34 has 12 hardpoints for up to 12,000 kilograms ofordnance,intended to include the latest Russian precision-guided weapons. It retains the Su-27/Su-30’s 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon, and the ability to carry R-77 air-to-air missiles (6 pcs) and R-73 (also 6). The maximum weight of any single munition carried is 4000 kg, with a maximum munitions load the maximum attack range is 250 kilometres (160 mi).
A Khibiny Electronic countermeasures (ECM) system is fitted as standard.
The Su-34’s most distinctive feature is the unusually large flight deck. Much of the design work went into crew comfort. The two crew members sit side by side in a large cabin, with the pilot-commander to the left and navigator/operator of weapons to the right in NPP Zvezda K-36dm ejection seats. An advantage of the side by side cockpit is that duplicate instruments are not required for each pilot. Since long missions require comfort, the pressurization system allows operation up to 10,000 metres (32,800 ft) without oxygen masks, which are available for emergencies and combat situations.
The crew members have room to stand and move about the cabin during long missions.
The space between the seats allows them to lie down in the corridor, if necessary. A galley and toilet are located behind the crew seats. A ladder attached to the nose landing gear and a hatch in the cockpit floor is used to enter the cockpit. The cockpit is a continuous capsule of armour (17 mm).
The Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) acts as a command center: precision target designation of all onboard weapons is tied to the movement of the pilot’s head and eyes.
Maximum detection range for the passive electronically scanned array forward radar is 200–250 km, to cover the rear a second aft-facing radar is mounted.The main radar can simultaneously attack four targets (in the air, on land or on the water). The rear warning radar system can warn of attack from behind and allow it to fire its R-73sagainst pursuers without needing to turn the aircraft. The rear radar is unofficially called the N-012.
The Su-34 reportedly has a frontal radar cross-section that is an order of magnitude smaller than prior generation fighters.
The Su-34’s long range was shown in a July 2010 exercise when Su-34s and Su-24Ms were moved from Russian bases in Europe to one on the Pacific coast, 6,000 kilometres away, which requires in-flight refuelling. The exercise included aircraft carrying weapons at full load, simulated delivering them on a target before arriving at the Pacific coast base. Su-24Ms were refuelled three times, while the Su-34 was refuelled twice.
The Russian Air Force completed the final stage of the state tests on 19 September 2011. The aircraft entered service in early 2014. The Su-34 was rumoured to have been used by Russian command during the 2008 South Ossetia war.Russia plans to have 124 in use to 2020. This total is planned to increase to 200 later.
On 4 June 2015, a Su-34 had an accident in Russia’s Voronezh region while conducting a routine training mission. The airplane’s parachute failed to open after landing and the Su-34 slid off the runway and flipped over. Nobody was killed.
2015 Russian military intervention in Syria
In September 2015, six Su-34s arrived at Latakia airport in Syria, for attacks against rebel and ISIL forces. Russian air attacks in Syria started on the 30 September, in the Homs region. On 1 October, the Su-34 was used to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria.The Russian Air Force Su-34 fighter-bombers destroyed an Islamic State command center and training camp south-west of the city of Raqqa.
These included precision strikes from an altitude of over 5,000 m (16,400 ft). Russian Su-34 and Su-25 attack aircraft carried out air strikes the next day against Islamic State targets in Syria’s Hama province using precision bombs. According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Su-34s hit an ISIL fortified bunker in the Hama province with guided bombs. Fortifications, ammunition depots, seven units of the military equipment near Syria’s Maarrat al-Numan were also destroyed by the Russian Air Force. An ISIL command center and underground depot were also destroyed with explosives near Raqqa. Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on 3 October, “Accurate delivery of a concrete-piercing bomb BETAB-500 launched from a Su-34 aircraft near Raqqa destroyed a hardened command centre of one of the illegal armed groups as well as an underground bunker with explosives and ammunition depot.”
A Russian Air Force representative stated Su-34s acquire targets using the GLONASS satellite system for bombing. Recent Russian news footage shows a Su-34 carrying what appears to be a KAB-500S precision guided munition (PGM). On 14 October, an Su-34 reportedly used a KAB-500S to destroy a 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile launcher system controlled by ISIL. With six Su-34s in Syria maintaining a 70 percent availability rate, about four are likely available at any one time for sorties. Eight more Su-34s arrived in Syria on 20 November 2015. Following the shooting down of an Su-24 by Turkey, Russia announced on 30 November 2015 that Su-34s in Syria had begun flying combat missions while armed with air-to-air missiles.
Algerian Air Force – Novosibirsk Aircraft announced that Algeria ordered 12 aircraft in January 2016.
Russian Air Force – 87 aircraft as of January 2016
Lipetsk Air Base – 14
Akhtubinsk Air base – 6
Voronezh Malshevo Air Base – 24
Morozovsk Air Base – 36
Latakia Air base, Syria – (12)
Fighter-bomber, strike fighter
13 April 1990
20 March 2014
Russian Air Force
95 as of February 2016
Length: 23.34 m (72 ft 2 in)
Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
Height: 6.09 m (19 ft 5 in)
Wing area: 62.04 m² (667.8 ft²)
Empty weight: 22,500 kg (49,608 lb)
Loaded weight: 39,000 kg (85,980 lb)
Useful load: 12,000 kg  (26,455 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 45,100 kg (99,425 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × 13,500 kgf (132 kN, 29,762 lbf) afterburning thrust Lyulka AL-31FM1 turbofans
Internal fuel: 12,100 kg (15,400 l)
High altitude: Mach 1.8+ (≈2,000 km/h, 1,200 mph)
Low altitude: Mach 1.2 (1,400 km/h, 870 mph) at sea level
Cruise speed: unknown
Range: 1,100 km (680 mi) at low level altitude
Combat radius: 1,000+ km (about 680 mi)
Ferry range: 4,000 km (2,490 mi)
Service ceiling: 15,000 m (49,200 ft)
Maximum g-load: 9g
Guns: 1× 30 mm GSh-30-1 (9A-4071K) cannon, 150–180 rounds
Hardpoints: 12× wing and fuselage stations with a capacity of 8,000–12,000 kg and provisions to carry combinations of:Rockets:
S-8, S-13, S-25 rocket pods
R-27 (AA-10) air-to-air missile
R-73 (AA-11) air-to-air missile
R-77 (AA-12) air-to-air missile
Kh-29L/T (AS-14) air-to-ground missile
Kh-38 new generation air-to-ground missile with a range of 40 km
Kh-25MT/ML/MP (AS-10) air-to-ground missile or anti-radiation missile
Kh-59M (AS-18) air-to-ground missile
Kh-58 (AS-11) anti-radiation missile
Kh-31 (AS-17) anti-radiation or anti-ship missile
Kh-35 (AS-20) anti-ship missile
P-800 Oniks missile (SS-N-26 Strobile) anti-ship missile (version for the Air Force). Version named “Alpha”, weight of 1500 kg with a range of up to 300 km and a speed in the range of numbers M = 2.2-3.0. Officially not in service.
Kh-65SE or Kh-SD cruise missile
KAB-500L, KAB-500KR, KAB-500S and KAB-1500L/KR guided bombs
OFAB-250-270, OFAB-100-120, FAB-500T, BETAB-500SHP, P-50T, ODAB-500PM unguided bombs, RBK-500 and SPBE-D cluster bombs, tactical nuclear bombs
3,000 litres PTB-3000 Suspended Fuel Tanks, EW and reconnaissance pods.
Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback
Russia’s New Heavy Strike Fighter
Technical Report APA-TR-2007-0108
|by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng
Updated October, 2008
Updated January, 2011
Updated April, 2012
Text, Line Art © 2004 – 2012 Carlo Kopp
Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback Demonstrator
While the region was seen the deployment and manufacture of hundreds of Flankers since the early 1990s, all of these have been incremental developments of the baseline Su-27S and Su-27UB tandem seat airframes. Since the late 1980s the Sukhoi bureau has been developing a family of derivative airframes, which utilise side by side seating. With the now increasing likelihood of regional buys of these aircraft, this analysis will explore the features, capabilities and growth potential of these Flanker derivatives.
This analysis is an updated and expanded version of the original 2004 analysis.
Comparison of Su-34 and Su-30MK. The Su-32/34 series is a new design, despite its reuse of a large number of existing Flanker components. The fuselage is largely new sharing only the aft engine nacelles with the Su-27/30 (Author)
During the latter years of the Cold War Soviet Frontal Aviation units employed a mixed fleet of battlefield interdiction and theatre strike aircraft. The most potent of these was the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer, conceptually similar to a smaller F-111, supplemented by the even smaller Su-17 Fitter, a variable geometry derivative of the Su-7 Fitters, and the MiG-23BM and MiG-27, both derivatives of the variable geometry MiG-23 interceptor.
Soviet doctrine during that period was being seriously challenged by large numbers of US and NATO teen series fighters, especially the F-15 and F-16. While Frontal Aviation MiG-29 and Su-27S fighters were to win the air battle, allowing the less agile Su-24, Su-17, MiG-23BM and MiG-27 to survive and attack their targets, it was evident to Soviet planners that replacements for these strike aircraft would need to be capable of surviving close contact with the F-16 and especially the F-15.
The Sukhoi bureau was intimately familiar with the problem to be solved, as designers of the earlier Su-7, and later Su-17/22 and Su-24, they had first hand exposure to the often conflicting design requirements of these roles.
Early Sukhoi thinking concentrated on adaptations of the baseline Su-27UB tandem seat trainer, a model since then implemented in the F-15E-like Su-30MK series exported to China and India. Frontal Aviation thinking was however that the crew station approach used in the Su-24 worked better for the high workload and potentially long endurance strike roles. Conceptual design of the Su-27IB as an Su-24 replacement began in 1983.
Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer A (© 2011, Jeroen Oude Wolbers).
The Su-27IB (Istrebityel Bombardirovshchik – Fighter Bomber) concept solidified during this period, with a much enlarged side-by-side cockpit area more akin to a flight deck in a larger bomber, in a substantially enlarged and reshaped forward fuselage. Specific aims of the new design were to provide better ergonomics for long range / long endurance / high workload profiles, better sanitary conditions for the crew, facilities for the crew to eat meals on long duration profiles, and saving the cost of duplicated cockpit displays and instrumentation. The flight deck was to be fully pressurised, obviating the need for the crew to wear masks through the whole flight. The whole flight deck was surrounded by a welded titanium tub to protect the crew from ground fire.
Crew access was via a ladder in the nosewheel well, the dual nosewheel being relocated forward and retracting aft, opposite to production Su-27s. The crew sat on K-36DM zero-zero seats. The much enlarged chined and blended forward fuselage was attached to what was essentially a modified Su-27UB dual trainer airframe, with the production main undercarriage, wing and aft fuselage sting. The ventral stabiliser surfaces were removed.
Designed as a deep strike fighter the T-10V-1 prototype included Su-35 canards for low altitude ride improvement and load alleviation, the Su-35 wing and revised fixed inlets devoid of the FOD suppression hardware used on the Su-27S and UB, and limiting supersonic dash speed to around Mach 1.6. The Su-27 stabilators and tails were retained. Internally the centre-section was strengthened to accommodate a 45 tonne maximum gross weight, increased over the baseline 28 tonne Su-27S. Internal volume was increased by about 30% over the Su-27.
Other design features were to include a phased array multimode attack radar, internal forward looking IRST/TV/laser targeting system, external podded FLIR/laser targeting system, aft fire control and tail warning radar, and internal defensive jammers. Development was authorised in 1986 with the baseline configuration set in 1987. Leninetz, designers of the Backfire’s Down Beat and Bear’s Clam Pipe attack radars, and the Foxhound’s Zaslon phased array, were contracted to develop the radar, with Ural and Geofyzika contracted to develop the electro-optical systems.
The Su-27IB was to be fitted with a heavily integrated digital weapon system, using glass cockpit components, thus emulating the first seen in the US with the digital F-111D two decades earlier.
Weapons planned included the Kh-29 and S-25LD Maverick analogues, the KAB-500Kr electro-optically precision guided bomb, the KAB-500L laser guided bomb, and the electro-optical/datalink guided KAB-1500TK GBU-15 analogue. Three of the Kh-59 stand-off weapons, analogous to the AGM-142, were to be carried, or up to six Kh-31 and Kh-35 Kharpunski anti-shipping missiles. For defence suppression, up to six Kh-31R anti-radiation missiles were to be carried. Defensive weapons were to include the GSh-301 30 mm gun, up to eight R-73 Archer WVR AAMs and up to six R-27 BVR AAMs. A total payload of up to 8 tonnes of dumb bombs were to be lifted, including payload of 36 x FAB-250 500 lb bombs. Six B-8M1 rocket pods for up to 120 S-8 rockets, or six B-13L pods for up to 30 S-13 rockets could be carried for close air support tasks.
The first prototype T-10V-1 flew in April, 1990, and within months flew aerial refuelling trials and simulated carrier landing approaches on the Tbilisi, in the Black Sea. The aircraft was first publicly exhibited in 1992.
The second prototype, the T-10V-2 was built in 1993, adopting the Su-35 wing with additional stations, enlarged internal fuel tanks, enlarged spine and lengthened tail stinger, the production reinforced centre section design, and the representative production configuration of the tandem dual wheel main undercarriage. The first Low Rate Initial Production airframe, the T-10V5 was flown in early 1994 and renamed the Su-34, clearly a play on the aircraft’s Frontal Aviation predecessor, the Su-24 Fencer.
This prototype was painted in an unusual blue/green camouflage, labelled the ‘Su-32FN’ and presented at the 1995 Paris airshow as a maritime patrol and strike fighter. Two more SU-34s were built in 1996 and 1997, and presented at the Paris airshow in 1997, again as the ‘Su-32FN’. Russian sources claim this nomenclature was further changed with a new designation of ‘Su-32MF’, presumably standing for Mnogofunktsioniy Frontoviy (Multirole Tactical).
While the Su-32FN and Su-32MF/34 are essentially identical T-10V-5 derivative airframes, there are important differences in their intended roles and avionics, and both will be discussed separately.
In comparing the basic Su-32/34 airframe against Western types, the design with 12.1 tonnes (26.7 klb) of internal fuel sits in between the Boeing F-15E and F-111 in combat radius and weapon payload capabilities. It will provide at lower gross weights lower agility than the F-15E, but higher agility than the F-111. Its top end supersonic performance is inferior to both US types. Like both US types, the aircraft is intended to perform low altitude penetration using terrain following radar (TFR) functions. Unlike the F-15E with a podded LANTIRN TFR and the F-111 with a dedicated redundant APQ-171 TFR, the Su-32/34 uses a phased array which interleaves TFR and other modes, a concept used previously only the in B-1B’s APQ-164 phased array.
Su-34 Fullback (NAPO images)
The basic configuration of the intended production Su-32MF/Su-34 aircraft is a multirole deep strike fighter, intended to perform the battlefield interdiction, close air support and deep strike roles now performed by the Su-24 in Russia, the F-15E in the US and the F-111 in Australia. In addition the Russians envisage a long endurance / range air combat role for the aircraft, with the intent to use it to attack ISR platforms with stand off missiles; in this respect its tasking reflects early US Air Force thinking on the F-111 series.
The manufacturer’s website states that the Su-34 is designed to defeat the F-15, F/A-18 and Eurofighter Typhoon in air combat engagements.
EU reports claim that production Su-32MF/34 will be fitted with the newer AL-41F engines, rated at 35 klb wet/SL/static thrust, rather than the AL-35F used in the demonstrators. However, Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft are being delivered with late models of the Al-31F engine, the Al-21MF. The aircraft has an aerial refuelling probe, plumbing for three drop tanks, and can carry the Sakhalin UPAZ-1A aerial refuelling pod performing as a buddy tanker.
The primary aircraft sensor is the large Leninets B-004 multimode phased array radar, which uses like all current Russian designs passive phase shifter technology with a Travelling Wave Tube (TWT) transmitter. The radar is claimed to be highly modular with redundant components, reflecting the APQ-164 model to achieve very high mission reliability on long endurance sorties. The X-band design is claimed to achieve a 15 kW peak power rating, although production radars could see the use of higher rating TWT transmitters since developed for the NIIP BARS series.
The radar is claimed to provide a range of 200 to 250 km (108 to 135 NMI) against large surface targets, ground mapping capability to 150 km (81 NMI), Doppler beam sharpened ground mapping to 75 km (40 NMI) and GMTI target tracking to 30 km (16 NMI), the latter similar to contemporary Western attack radars like the APG-76. Detection performance against fighter sized aerial targets is claimed to be 90 km (48.6 NMI), comparable to the N-001 series. A Synthetic Aperture Radar high resolution groundmapping mode was planned, and given its existence in the evolved N-001/N-011M series, does not present difficulties. The radar provides a low altitude terrain avoidance mode, and automatic terrain following capability.
An inertial navigation system supplemented by a GNSS receiver (Glonass and likely GPS C/A) is employed.
The planned internal electro-optical suite appears to have vanished in more recent reports, with claims that the Sapsan-E thermal imaging and laser targeting pod will be carried externally, probably on the No 9 ventral inlet station.
Development Su-32/34 are fitted with a large circular dielectric panel on the upper fuselage, which can only be a satellite communications antenna given its size and placement. No equipment type has not been disclosed.
A didgital datalink is fitted but no disclosures have been made on the type as yet – for situational awareness and air-air combat the latest TKS-2 standard on the Su-30/35 is the most likely type fitted.
The cockpit uses a single dual combiner Head Up Display, and AMLCD displays. The widely photographed prototype cockpits are unlikely to represent a production configuration, given the layout of the more recent Su-30MK and Su-27SKM/SKU glass cockpits. The crew sit on K36DM ejection seats.
Defensive systems include a Radar Warning Receiver, most likely the current variant of the SPO-32 / L150 Pastel digital receiver carried by the Su-27/30. The podded wingtip mounted KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S H/I band defensive jammer has been reported, this system being an evolution of a jammer developed for the Backfire C. The Sorbtsiya-S, unlike most Western jamming pods, is designed to operate in pairs and uses forward and aft looking steerable wideband phased arrays to maximise jamming effect. It is worth observing that the Sorbtsiya is clearly built to provide cross-eye jamming modes against monopulse threats, and the wideband mainlobe steering capability provided by the phased array permits best possible utilisation of available jamming power. A graded dielectric lens is employed (refer image below).
The KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S H/I band ECM pods are paired on the aircraft wingtips.
Azovskiy L-082 MAK-UL (above) and L-136 MAK-F (below) infrared threat warning sensors (images © Miroslav Gyűrösi).
It is likely that a later generation variant of the Azovsky MAK series IR/UV Missile Approach Warning System will be used, such as the L-136 MAK-UFM – the L-082 MAK-UL was carried by the Su-24M in the same role. The APP-50 countermeasures dispenser common to the Su-27/30 is likely to be used. Like some Su-30/35 configurations, the aircraft is to carry the Phazotron/Rassvet N012 tail warning radar, in the after ‘stinger’.
For air combat the aircraft will be equipped to carry the same R-27 (AA-10 Alamo), R-73 (AA-11 Archer), and R-77 (AA-12 Adder) AAMs now carried by the Su-27/30. This will provide a credible BVR capability against closing fighters, and allows the Su-32MF/34 to be retasked as an air defence interceptor. The radar’s GMTI capability is likely to be exploited for cruise missile defence tasks.
Like the Su-24 Fencer, the Su-32MF/34 is expected to be used for derivative roles. For tactical reconnaissance, the likely candidate pod is the recently revealed M400 centreline pod. It is equipped with a Raduga multi-band) IR imaging system, AP-403 and AP-404 panoramic cameras, and optional modules with the M402 Pika SLAR radar and AK-108FM oblique camera.
There has been ongoing speculation about the development of a dedicated electronic attack / support jammer variant of the Fullback, filling the niche occupied by the EA-6B Prowler, EA-18G Growler and EF-111A Raven. The Fullback has the size to perform this role better than both the EA-6B and EA-18G, but would not compete with the EF-111A (Author).
Of more interest in the longer term is the proposed support jamming variant, discussed in the Indian and Russian trade press. This aircraft is a Russian analogue to the EF-111A or EF-18G Growler, designed as a fast support jammer for escort and standoff jamming. The podded L175V / KS418 high power jammer is being developed for this purpose, it being an analogue to the US ALQ-99 jamming pods on the EA-6B and EF-18G. The KS418 is believed to be related closely to the TsNIRTI MSP-418K support jamming pod, claimed to be designed around a DRFM (Digital RF Memory) jamming techniques generator.
Air to ground weapon payloads for the Su-32MF/34 will include all of the stores currently cleared on the Su-35, Su-30MK and Su-27SKM. Beyond the weapons envisaged during the early development of the aircraft, the Kh-65 cruise missile has been discussed in EU reports – three could be carried. It is likely the satellite aided inertially guided KAB-500/1500S-E will be included in any production configuration. Russian reports claim the aircraft was trialled in Chechnya.
In perspective, the Su-32MF/34 will provide an incrementally better penetration and strike capability over the top tier production Su-30MKI and Su-30MKK/MK2 configurations, by virtue of more internal fuel, higher gross weights, strike optimised avionics, terrain following capability, better crew comfort and larger weapons payloads. The Su-32MF/34 will with three 3,000 litre external drop tanks match the radius performance of the F-111, but with less disposable weapon payload. In the long term the Su-32MF/34 is important since it provides for a non-US sourced persistent battlefield strike fighter with the large weapon payload and sensor package to be effective. Datalinking to remote ISR platforms with SAR/GMTI is only a matter of time, in technology terms.
The Su-34 Fullback entered LRIP last year and the first two production aircraft were delivered to the Russian Air Force on the 15th December, 2006. Russian sources claim a requirement for 58 aircraft by 2015, primarily to replace older Su-24 Fencers.
Leninets B005 Multimode Attack Radar phased array. The B004 multimode phased array attack radar is the most advanced strike radar ever designed for a Russian combat aircraft. Unlike the N011M/BARS, the B004 is an optimised bomber radar, similar in many capabilities to the APQ-164 in the B-1B, and sharing the same generation of antenna technology. This image shows a prototype radar, and also exposes the fixed geometry intakes unique to the Su-32/34 series (Sukhoi).
Access to the cockpit (below) is via the nosewheel well (above). The demonstrator cockpit shows the spacious flight deck, pressured to permit flight up to 30,000 ft without masks. A production cockpit is likely to see the conventional instruments replaced with AMLCDs. Crew access in the Su-27KUB, Su-32MF/FN and Su-34 is via a ladder in the nosewheel well, a feature unique to these fighters. This facilitates forward deployment of these aircraft (Sukhoi)
Development configuration – pilot station (Russian internet image).
Development configuration – pilot station (Russian internet image).
Development configuration – centre console (Russian internet image).
Development configuration – Weapons System Officer station (Russian internet image).
Development Su-32/34 aircraft have been displayed with the full suite of current Russian precision guided munitions. The maritime Su-32FN also also been displayed with the Kh-41 Sunburn, and early mockups of the 3M-54 family (Author).
GNPP KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs (Author)
The Su-32FN Fullback Maritime Patrol/Strike Fighter
The Su-32FN is a unique maritime patrol, Anti-Submarine Warfare and maritime strike derivative of the T-10V design, designed to perform littoral and coastal maritime roles. The inclusion of an ASW capability in this aircraft created much debate during the 1990s, as this role in the West has traditionally fallen on specialised airliner derived airframes. The Soviet LRMP fleet comprised variants of the Tu-142M Bear F and Il-38 May, derived from the Il-18 Coot airliner.
To understand the reasoning behind an ASW equipped strike fighter it is necessary to explore latter Cold War Soviet maritime doctrine, and the concurrent US Navy maritime strategy. During this period the Soviets envisaged their ballistic missile armed SSBN fleet operating in bastions near to Murmansk/Polyarnyy and Vladivostok, and other fleet elements defending the Baltic and Black Sea ports. In the event of a full scale war with the West, the bastions, Baltic and Black Sea would be the hunting ground for US Navy and Royal Navy SSNs, while the airspace would be actively contested by F-14s from US CVBGs and land based US Air Force F-15 sweeps. This is an environment which is not conducive to the longevity of LRMP turboprops like the Bear and May. This presented the Soviets with genuine issues in performing maritime patrol and ASW tasks and a highly survivable airframe was a must. As the bastions and approaches to Baltic and Black Sea ports were close to existing land bases, a large strike fighter could provide credible on station endurance, where the station was perhaps 30 minutes of flying time from a runway. While a four hour on station endurance may be modest compared to a turboprop LRMP airframe, proximity to relief aircraft waiting to launch still makes this a viable concept.
The result of these pressures was the Su-32FN, devised for the AV-MF to absorb the roles of the AV-MF Su-24 Fencer regiments, and include the ‘new’ ASW role. It is essentially a supersonic, highly survivable land based equivalent to the Lockheed S-3 Viking.
The principal deviation from the baseline Su-32MF/34 was to be the addition of the ‘Morskaya Zmyeya’ (Sea Snake) maritime patrol avionic suite, since then to be fitted in the reported to be collapsed Indian Navy Bear F avionic upgrade, and a suite of maritime strike and ASW weapons. The suite is claimed to include an Electronic Support Measures receiver and Magnetic Anomaly Detector.
For ‘classical’ maritime strike roles, the Su-32FN is to be armed with up to six Kh-31A or Kh-31R ASMs, six Kh-35U ASMs, up to three Kh-59M/D stand-off missiles, the potent supersonic Kh-41 Moskit (Sunburn) and 3M-54 Alfa supersonic ASMs.
Photographs indicate that the centreline adaptor for the Kh-41, developed for the Su-33, would be reused, although one mid 1990s report claimed carriage of two rounds on wing stations. Original Alfa missile mockups were also photographed on the inboard wing stations, this missile has since evolved into the 3M-54/3M-14E (SS-N-27) Club series.
The more interesting stores are lightweight ASW torpedoes, carried in pairs on stations 8 and 9, for a total of 4 rounds, and a conformal centreline pod which can be loaded with up to 72 sonobuoys of various types. An ASW patrol weapons mix would probably involve a mix of these stores, drop tanks and depth charges.
Unlike the conventional Su-34 strike variants, the Su-32FN has yet to enter production.
Su-34 Fullback (NAPO images)
Rollout of LRIP Su-34 Fullback Airframe No.2 at NAPO Plant (MilitaryPhotos.net)
Su-32MF/34 and Su-32FN vs the Region
The funding shortfalls suffered by the Russian Air Force and Naval Air Arm have seen the plan to replace the 400+ Su-24 Fencer inventory, and remaining examples of the Su-17/22 and MiG-27 postponed repeatedly. Sukhoi and Rosoboronexport have understandably been actively marketing the aircraft for export – a export production run would see the non-recurring expenses in tooling up and completing avionics integration absorbed by an export client, reducing the cost to the Russian Air Force and other export clients.
While there has been some speculation about the Indian Air Force signing up, it has a big enough challenge in fielding its 180 aircraft run of Su-30MKIs, an aircraft which provides a large fraction of the Su-32MF/34’s capabilities.
The more probable client in the forseeable future is China. Russian media reports indicate that a cabinet level PRC delegation visited the NAPO plant in Novosibirsk to inspect the Fullback production line. Unlike PLA-AF Badgers which have the option of launching long range land attack cruise missiles from outside the footprint of interceptor and SAM defences, the same is not true for PLA-AF and PLA-N maritime strike operations against surface warships, especially in the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea. In a time of confrontation, this would be airspace contested by RoCAF fighters and likely US Navy F/A-18s, yet the Badgers must close to a radar line of sight with their targets before they can launch their missiles. Anti-submarine patrol sorties also present a genuine challenge, with a real strategic need for the PLA-N due to Taiwan’s SSK fleet planning and the prospect of US Navy SSNs blockading Chinese ports. The PRC faces a strategic problem not unlike the AV-MF did in defending its maritime bastions – turboprop LRMP aircraft stand little chance of surviving to perform their role.
We should not be surprised if the PLA-N air arm does order the Su-34, the Su-32FN, or some mix or hybrid of these types. The aircraft is a much better fit for the role than the current batch of several dozen Su-30MK2, and can absorb the littoral maritime patrol/ASW role. This would permit remaining PLA-N H-6D Badgers to be converted into tankers to support the Sukhois.
The regional deployment of production Su-32/34 derivatives will present yet another incremental step in regional capability growth – again at the expense of Australia’s strategic position in the region.
Since the Fullback entered Low Rate Initial Production some further details have emerged on the configuration of the production aircraft. Polish analyst Piotr Butowski publishing in the German FlugRevue journal, detailed the following configuration for the Sch-141 Kishchnikavionic suite:
Weapon payloads comprise a mix of up to eight tonnes of stores. Defensive weapons include the R-27 Alamo, R-73 Archer and R-77 Adder series, with the PESA providing the capability to track ten targets and concurrently engage four with BVR missile shots. The full gamut of Russian air-ground munitions are to be supported, with marketing material including carriage of a pair of Kh-41 Moskit / Sunburn or three Kh-61 Yakhont / Stallion supersonic cruise missiles.
Long term planning is to see higher thrust engines, evolution of the mission avionics, an AESA radar and future munitions integrated.
The cockpit shows the most prominent changes against the developmental design, and now includes a full ‘glass’ configuration with an array of multifunction displays for the pilot and WSO.
Production Su-34 pilot station (Russian internet images).
Production Su-34 WSO station (Russian internet images).
Production Su-34 centre panel with standby AH and other instruments (Russian internet images).
Production MFD in navigation mode (Russian internet images).
Production MFD in moving map display mode (Russian internet images).
The ventral electro-optical targeting system provides a limited capability and is only suitable for medium/high level deliveries, due to its limited field of regard. It is likely to be soon supplemented by a licence built Thales Damocles thermal imaging and laser targeting pod. Russian sources claim that the Russian MoD licenced the pod design, expected to be built by the Ural Optical Mechanical Plant (UOMZ), after exposure to the design during the integration of the pod on the Malaysian Su-30MKM Flanker H. Future candidates for the pod, other than the Su-34, are the Su-35-1/35BM Flanker F, the Su-27SM/SMK Flanker B+ and upgraded Su-24M2 Fencer. The pylon installation, given hardware commonality between the SU-30MK and Su-34, is likely to be identical for both types.
It is not known whether the Su-34 will use the Shchel series helmet mounted display, or theThales Topsight which has been integrated on the MiG-29K Fulcrum.
Electro-optical system ventral aperture. Note the GNPP KAB-1500L 3,000 lb laser guided bomb on the centreline station (Russian internet images).
Thales Damocles electro-optical targeting pod (Wikipedia image).
Thales Damocles pod during integration trials on Su-30MK.
Thales Damocles pod pylon on Su-30MKM right inlet station.
The UOMZ Sapsan E Electro-Optical Targeting System pod is likely to be offered as an alternative to the licenced French Thales Damocles targeting pod (© 2009 Vitaliy V. Kuzmin).
Su-34 Fullback (NAPO image)
An Su-34 Fullback demonstrator photographed at Kubinka in September, 2009, equipped with new wingtip mounted KNIRTI SAP-518 self-protection ECM pods, and a large centreline KNIRTI SAP-14 “Escort Jammer” support jamming pod. The new SAP-14 is analogous to the US ALQ-99E series pods, but employs a fundamentally different antenna arrangement optimised to suppress emitters in the forward and aft hemispheres of the escort jamming aircraft. The pod has been cleared for carriage on the Su-30MK Flanker G/H airframes and the Su-34 Fullback (T5 Studio image – click to download hi res copy).
The heavyweight high power KNIRTI SAP-14 Support Jammer ECM pod is a Russian analogue to the US ALQ-99E pod carried on the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler. It was developed for Flanker family aircraft and is carried on a large centreline pylon. To date little has been disclosed about this design, but it has been observed on the Su-30MK Flanker G/H and Su-34 Fullback. It operates between 1 GHz and 4 GHz (© 2009 Vitaliy V. Kuzmin).
The KNIRTI SAP-518 ECM pod is a new technology replacement for the established L005 Sorbstiya series wingtip ECM pods. It operates between 5 GHz and 18 GHz (© 2009 Vitaliy V. Kuzmin).
Imagery Sources: MAKS, NAPO, Sukhoi, Rosoboronexport; Russkaya Sila; Vestnik PVO; MilitaryPhotos.net
Line Artwork: © 2003, 2007 Carlo Kopp