Su-34 Flying Cruiser

Su-34 Flying Cruiser

Photo: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Su-34 frontline bombers currently form the Russian frontline air striking power. Designers were able to combine in this aircraft contradictory properties such as high speed and maneuverability with high payload and impressive combat radius. The aircraft embodies the specifications of many preceding aircraft and those that are currently in service. Such approach made the Su-34 a multirole aircraft – a kind of a flying cruiser capable of performing a wide range of missions.

The aircraft was able to demonstrate its skills during the conflict in Syria and is extensively used today during the special military operation. Read below about the aircraft that is virtually unparalleled throughout the world.


The Su-27 – the apex of evolution

The concept of a striking aircraft version on the basis of the Su-27 appeared as early as in 1980. The Su-27UB twin-seat training and combat aircraft was used as the basis, because a striking aircraft crew, apart from a pilot, shall include a navigator. But actually it was decided to make a new aircraft, because the 27’s modification would not achieve the set targets. Rollan Martirosov was the Chief Designer of the future Su-34.

At the beginning of 1990, the T-10B-1 development version was assembled and was substantially different from the Su-27. On 13 April 1990, it made its maiden flight. The first prototype was fabricated in 1993 by Novosibirsk Aircraft Factory named after Chkalov. The the aircraft was called Su-34.


Not an ugly duckling

A new forebody was the key difference of the Su-27. A cockpit with shoulder to shoulder crew station arrangement was provided. This arrangement improved the interaction between the pilot and navigator. In addition, crew members can stand upright in the cockpit in order to, for example, stretch after long-term sitting, because the bomber is capable of flying for hours, in particular, if refueling is provided. The cockpit entrance is also unusual – through a door in the rear sealed wall of the cockpit via the integral airstairs.

The cockpit is made as a titanium armored capsule, other critical aircraft components are also armored, which is more common to strike aircraft. The canard layout has provided improved maneuverability and more stable flight at any speeds. The broadened forebody is able to accommodate a more powerful radar. By the way, the Su-34 came to be known as a “duckling” for its distinguishable flat and wide nose.

Compared with the Su-27, the 34 has put on considerable weight resulting in the airframe modification and new landing gear. The maximum takeoff weight has grown from the Su-27’s 30t to 45t, while the mission load has been up to 8.5t. The maximum speed is Mach 1.45. The maximum fuel range is about 4000km. The service ceiling is up to 15,000m.

The Su-34 propulsion includes two AL-31F turbojet engines. This turbofan is still one of the world's best for front-line aviation


High potential and multirole capability

The work for the Su-34 refinement fell on the difficult 1990s and was carried out to a great extent thanks to the enthusiasm of Sukhoi Design Bureau personnel and faith in the future of the aircraft. In 1995 and 1997, the Su-34 was demonstrated at the Le Bourget International Air Show. In 1999, eight world records were set using this aircraft.

In the 2000s, the Su-34 became one of the preferred aircraft for military aviation upgrading. Commercial manufacturing was started in Novosibirsk 2005.

This aircraft can protect itself against the potential enemy’s air defence weapons. Su-34’s Khibiny airborne system ensures radio-direction finding of the enemy’s radar and hinders the aircraft detection. The Khibiny turns the fighter into a full-fledged EW aircraft that is able to protect not only itself, but also a full air group.

The Su-34 is still being upgraded and improved. The aircraft was initially designed with open configuration that ensures low-cost replacement of individual systems and addition of new equipment and new weapons. The modified aircraft version is being already fielded now. High potential and multirole capability of the Su-34 have ensured high demand in the aircraft for years to come.