Russia’s Defense Ministry has ordered some 20 Sukhoi Su-34 long range fighter-bombers from Sukhoi Company-known in Russia as ‘duckling’ for their unique nose design.
The contract involves standard Su-34 aircraft with “certain alterations” based on the experience of the operation of several dozen aircraft in exercises and in combat over Syria, TASS said quoting sources from Sukhoi. Another contract for the purchase of upgraded Su-34M planes is expected to be signed in 2021, the source added.
The Russian Aerospace Forces (RAeF) has some 100 of these unique aircraft inducted since the early part of 2010 decade.
The aircraft features side-by-side pilot and weapons operator seating arrangement much like in a commercial airliner. It has enough internal space to stand up and stretch on a long flight that can last some 8-10 hours over a 4000 km operating range. The pilot ingress is via a step ladder from below the fuselage.
Offering the maneuverability and speed of a fighter jet with the functions of a long range bomber, it has 10 hard-points to carry a variety of missiles and bombs for air-to-air and air-to-ground/sea combat. In addition, the Su-34 has a reconnaissance component that can provide high resolution video imagery of ground targets.
According to Sukhoi, one of the first confirmed combat applications of the Su-34 fighter-bomber was the operation of the Russian air forces to combat international terrorism in the Syrian Arab Republic, which began on September 30, 2015. The aircraft is believed to have impressed the RAeF and its Syrian Air Force with its endurance and ability to perform attack and reconnaissance functions.
The Su-34’s stands apart from other Russian Su-27- derived jets due to it long tail boom that juts out between the two engines. The boom houses a brake parachute, auxiliary power unit, additional fuel, and a small rear-facing radar antenna to track missiles coming from behind.