By azhar Masood
Russia’s rearmament program, approved in 2006 for a period until 2015, provides for supplying modern weapons to its armed forces. One of them is the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber, which will replace the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers. The process has begun, but some say the replacement is taking too long. The new fighter-bomber is said to be very good. An improvement on the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, it has cutting-edge equipment, including a modern crew and equipment protection system. The Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback is effective against personnel and military hardware on the battlefield and also against targets behind enemy lines, and can also be used for surveillance and against naval targets.
The Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback will replace the Sukhoi Su-24M Fencer aircraft — about 400 planes, the Sukhoi Su-24MR Fencer surveillance aircraft — over 100 planes, and the MiG-25RB aircraft — about 70 planes.
Russia will have to produce between 550 and 600 Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback to replace these obsolete aircraft within 10-15 years. However, the Russian Defense Ministry plans to buy only about 58 such planes by 2015 and a total of 300 by 2022. Many experts say that if the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and MiG-25RB aircraft are scrapped by 2020, Russia will be left without fighter-bombers and surveillance aircraft.
Others argue that this number will be enough for the Russian Air Force’s new concept. The concept is focused not so much on the combat characteristics of the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback, as on its long range, the ability to refuel in the air — including by other Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback aircraft with additional fuel tanks under their wings — and its comfortable cabin allowing the crew to make long-distance flights without becoming overtired.
The Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback aircraft can also fly without electronic warfare support planes, because it has electronic interference equipment. Units armed with such aircraft can be used in the so-called pendulum operations, when a Russian air force unit bombs a terrorist base in Central Asia today, delivers a strike at a missile base in Europe the next day, and three days later flies to the Indian Ocean to support a combined group of the Russian Northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleets, with the flights made from a base within the Russian Federation. The Su-34 aircraft has long-range precision weapons, can fly hugging the Earth and has a high level of protection, which should cut losses during lightning operations.
(Ilya Kramnik is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
with additional input from PENTAGON Press Release