The Sukhoi Su-34 (Su-27IB)

In Soviet and Russian habit, bomber aircraft have been divided into two basic categories. Tactical, or so-called Frontal, bombers were tasked with attacking targets located in the operational-tactical depth of a Front, in other words at ranges beyond the reach of fighter- bombers. Strategic bombers, classed as long-range and, later, intercontinental, were designed to attack targets beyond the boundaries of one or more theatres of military operations. The ‘frontal’ bomber of the 1970s was the Su-24, whose nominated successor is the Su-34. As with ‘Ilya Muromets’, Su-34 betrays some peculiarly Russian characteristics. The robust undercarriage allows the use of unsurfaced runways. The elegant nose section contains a side-by-side cabin for the two crew members; the cabin is armoured, with up to 17mm of titanium to give protection against conventional antiaircraft fire at low levels. Similar armour protection is also disposed around the fuel tanks and engines. In a unique provision for long-range flight, the cabin is of such dimensions that the crew can walk about upright inside it; it is equipped with a toilet, and with a level of pressurisation that allows the crew to work unmasked.

The Su-34 long-range fighter-bomber (istrebitel bombardirovshchik) is a sophisticated derivative of the Su-27. Carrying an 8 tonne warload, it has a combat radius of 1,130km at low level and a maximum unrefuelled ferry range of 4,500km. Practical maximum range with one air-to-air refuelling is a staggering 7,000km. 

Due to its carefully shaped nose, which blends elegantly (and quite stealthily) into the canard foreplane and wing leading edge, the Su-34 has acquired the unofficial nickname of ‘Platypus’. Armament on 10 external stores pylons (under each intake duct, on each wingtip, three under each wing) can be Kh-31A/P (AS-17 ‘Krypton’) ASMs under ducts, R-73A (AA-11 ‘Archer’) AAMs on wingtips; a 500kg laser-guided bomb inboard, TV/laser-guided Kh-29 (AS-14 ‘Kedge’) ASM on central pylon and RVV-AE (R-77; AA-12 ‘Adder’) AAM outboard under each wing. 

The Su-34 was supposed to replace all in-service Su-24s by 2005, although this timetable now appears highly unlikely; reconnaissance and EW versions are reportedly under development. Its side-by-side cockpit has formed the basis of the proposed Su-30-2 long-range interceptor and the Su-33KUB carrier combat trainer. From 2005 it is intended to fit Su-34 with AL-41F engines equipped with thrust vectoring. 

Compared with the Su-27, the Su-34 possesses a completely new and wider front fuselage containing two seats side by side; wing extensions taken forward as chines to blend with the dielectric nose housing nav/attack and terrain-following/avoidance radar; deep fairing behind wide humped canopy; small foreplanes; louvres on engine air intake ducts reconfigured; new landing gear; broader-chord and thicker tailfins, containing fuel; no ventral fins; and a longer, larger diameter tailcone. This has been raised and now extends as a spine above the rear fuselage to blend into the rear of the cockpit fairing. It houses at its tip a rearward-facing radar to detect aircraft approaching from the rear. The landing gear is retractable tricycle type; strengthened twin nosewheel unit with KN-27 wheels, tyre size 680x260mm, farther forward than on Su-27 and retracting rearward; main units have small tandem KT-206 wheels with tyres size 950x400mm, carried on links fore and aft. Twin cruciform brake-chutes repositioned in spine to rear of spine/fairing juncture. 

The power plant is two Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F turbofans; each 74.5kN (16,755 lb st) dry and 122.6kN (27,557 lb st) with afterburning. Later, two AL-31FM or AL-35F turbofans, each 125.5-137.3kN (28,220-30,865 lb st) with afterburning. Additional fuel is housed in the tailfins. Retractable flight refuelling probe beneath port windscreen. 

Accommodation for the two crew is side by side on K-36DM zero/zero ejection seats. Access to the cockpit is via a built-in extending ladder to a door in the nosewheel bay. The area is protected with 17mm of titanium armour (the total weight of armour plating to protect the cabin, engine bays and fuel tank area is 1,480kg). The dual-control cabin is uniquely spacious for an aircraft in this class, and is designed to ensure maximum crew comfort and efficiency on extended missions. Cabin height and layout allows the crew to stand at full height and move around freely, to visit their toilet and galley installed inside the deep fuselage section aft of the cockpit. At altitudes up to 10,000m the cabin is pressurised to 2,400m, which allows the crew to operate unmasked. The avionic suite includes Leninetz multifunction phased-array radar with high resolution; and a rearward-facing radar in tailcone. Instrumentation is by MFDs. There is a self- defence internal ECM fit. Su-34’s armament consists of one 30mm GSh-301 gun, as in the Su-27. Twelve pylons for high-precision self- homing and guided ASMs and KAB-500 laser-guided bombs with ranges of 135 n miles (250km; 155 miles); R-73 (AA-11 ‘Archer’) and RVV-AE (R-77; AA-12 ‘Adder’) AAMs. Believed to be the principal platform for Vympel’s rearward-firing R-73.

Su-34M modernised version will feature a new electro-optical infrared targeting pod, a Kopyo-DL rearward facing radar that can warn the pilots if missiles are approaching, combined with automatic deployment of countermeasures and jamming.

The Russian Air Force Su-34 modernization program, also referred to as Su-34M, is aimed at making the Su-34 platform more survivable in the 2020s environment. So far, the development effort focuses on the Tarantul electronic warfare (EW) system that will render the aircraft or a group of aircraft immune to detection by hostile radars as well as improved performance avionics that could help improve flight qualities. Another item that may be integrated into the Su-34M is a laser jamming system to blind infrared guided missiles and electro-optical sighting systems. The Su-34M weapon system may include a new modification of the Kh-35 anti-ship missile (Kh-35UE) and a new generation of aero ballistic missiles. The modernization program is slated to begin before the end of 2018 with the Su-34M cleared out for operational deployment by 2020.

General characteristics

    Crew: 2

    Length: 23.34 m (76 ft 7 in)

    Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)

    Height: 6.09 m (20 ft 0 in)

    Wing area: 62.04 m2 (667.8 sq ft)

    Airfoil: 5%

    Empty weight: 22,500 kg (49,604 lb)

    Gross weight: 39,000 kg (85,980 lb)

    Max takeoff weight: 45,100 kg (99,428 lb)

    Fuel capacity: 12,100 kg (26,676 lb) internals

    Powerplant: 2 × Saturn AL-31FM1 afterburning turbofan engines, 132 kN (30,000 lbf) with afterburner


    Maximum speed: 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph, 1,100 kn) / M1.8 at high altitude

                1,400 km/h (870 mph; 760 kn) / M1.2 at low altitude

    Combat range: 1,100 km (680 mi, 590 nmi) (standard 8,000 kg weapons load), 1,000+ km (max 12,000 kg weapons load)

    Ferry range: 4,000 km (2,500 mi, 2,200 nmi)

    Service ceiling: 15,000 m (49,000 ft)

    g limits: +9

    Thrust/weight: 0.68


    Guns: 1 × 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 autocannon with 180 rounds

    Hardpoints: 12 × on wing and fuselage with a capacity of 10,000kg (21,600lb),with provisions to carry combinations of:


            B-8 rocket pods for 20 × S-8KOM/OM/BM

            B-13 rocket pods for 5 × S-13T/OF

            O-25 rocket pods for 1 × S-25OFM-PU



            Air-to-air missiles:

                2 × R-27R/ER/T/ET

                2 × R-73

                2 × R-77

            Air-to-surface missiles:






            Anti-ship missiles:



                P-800 Oniks 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.


            Anti-radiation missiles:




            Cruise missiles:





            KAB-500KR TV-guided bomb

            KAB-500L laser-guided bomb

            KAB-500OD guided bomb

            KAB-500S-E satellite-guided bomb

            KAB-1500KR TV-guided bomb

            KAB-1500L laser-guided bomb

            OFAB-250-270 bomb

            OFAB-100-120 bomb

            FAB-500T general-purpose bomb

            2 × BETAB-500SHP

            P-50T bomb

            ODAB-500PM bomb

            RBK-500 cluster bomb

            SPBE-D bomb


    V004 passive electronically scanned array radar

    Khibiny electronic countermeasures system

    SAP-14 electronic coutermeasures system

    SAP-518 electronic coutermeasures system

    UKR-RT SIGINT radio surveillance system

    L150 Pastel radar warning receiver