The Russian Defense Ministry has just signed a contract for 92 Sukhoi Su-34 attack aircraft (designed by NATO as the “Fullback”), which will add to the ten already delivered under a five-year contract executed in 2008 for 32 units. A 4+ generation aircraft, it is capable of all-weather, all-visibility operations and has the capacity to employ precision-guided munitions.

The Su-34 falls in terms of size and capacity between the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-111 Aardvark, the last variants of which were retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1998 to be replaced by the F-15E and B-1B Lancer. It was developed from the Su-24 “Fencer” and Su-27 “Flanker” beginning in the second half of the 1990s.

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The aircraft has the capability to carry up to 17,600 lbs. of ordnance, and can employ a mixture of air-to-air missiles (AAMs) and ground-attack munitions. Defensive AAMs available include the R-27 “Alamo,” the R-73 “Archer,” the R-77 “Adder,” and the Su-34’s multimode radar system can track up to ten targets simultaneously and manage four concurrent engagements.

As for ground attack, a wide range of munitions can be fitted to the Fullback, including a variety of unguided and precision-guided gravity bombs, air-to-surface missiles, land attack cruise missiles, and in the naval aviation variant (Su-34FN) anti-ship and both supersonic and subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles, along with anti-submarine torpedoes.

The Fullback has a crew of two, who sit side-by-side in an armored cockpit. It employs the same “glass” multifunction configurable displays used in U.S. combat aircraft. Since it is designed like the F-111 was for low-level penetration missions, it has a ground-following radar capability plus an extensive electronic warfare (EW) suite that includes a threat receiver, jammer, infrared attack warning system, and countermeasures. In addition, the Su-34 can mount the KNIRTI SAP-14 Support Jammer ECM pod, which gives the aircraft EW capabilities similar to the U.S. EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler.

It is likely that the Russians will use this advanced aircraft to gradually replace their fleet of over 400 Su-24 Fencers.

Daniel is a 15-year veteran of infantry units of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He has deployed to Iraq twice (2004-05 and 2010) and currently serves as first sergeant of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Daniel currently competes in combat shooting matches for both rifle and pistol with the National Guard.