The Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” is a modern all-weather supersonic medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft currently being used by the Russian Armed Forces to bomb Ukrainian Army Positions. It is one of the most advanced warplane of Russia. Russian Aerospace Forces has deployed the Su-34 for conducting various different types of military operations in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. So what type of role is this medium-range bomber playing in the Russia-Ukraine War?
The Su-34 “Fullback” is currently one of the most-used aircraft used by Russia with great intensity in the special military operation in Ukraine.
This strike bomber often carries a weapon load including the Kh-29 air-to-surface High-Explosive Armour Piercing warhead equipped missiles to attack the enemy’s important and high-value targets.
Russia’s has repeatedly announced about the successful operations carried out by the Su-34 attack aircraft in combination with the Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles in the ongoing conflict area.
The Su-34 was developed in the early 1980s based on the Su-27 heavy multi-role fighter. The prototype, known as T-10V made its first flight on April 13, 1990.
Due to the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Su-34 project was delayed many times, and it was not until the mid-1990s that the project resumed under the new name, Su-34.
However, it was not until the last decade that the Su-34 began to be gradually equipped in the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The Aircraft Manufacturer said that the Su-34 is equipped with advanced electronic fire control systems, with the Leninets V004 radar capable of identifying ground targets at a distance of 5km.
In addition, the aircraft is also equipped with a sophisticated electronic warfare system, a good combination of thermal imaging observations and multi-functional displays, so the Su-34 is capable of effectively destroying ground targets.
Russia tested the Su-34 in Syria during high-intensity combat operations to evaluate its actual battlefield performance.
However, the reality of the battlefield shows that the Su-34 is a advanced aircraft, but it still has some drawbacks.
“The Sukhoi Su-34 faces great difficulties when dealing with mountainous terrains and dense forests. The Su-34’s radar cannot detect targets in such tough and complicated terrains. The aircraft other equipments also fails to perform as expected in these type of battlegrounds”. said a unnamed russian defence industry complex source.
Military Observers said that the design of the Su-34 is proved to be outdated due to its heavy size and lower maneuverability compared to the Su-27 series.
Today, when reconnaissance, surveillance and man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems have been developed, building a fighter aircraft specializing in low-altitude attack missions is always risky.
To avoid the treat of MANPADS and anti-aircraft guns, the Su-34 is forced to fly high sometimes, when it passes the 5km flight ceiling, the Su-34 radar also losses its effectiveness immediately afterwards.
In air-to-air combat situation, the Leninets V004 radar is only able to recognize heavy fighter aircrafts from 90 kilometers away and guides the missile to destroy the target at the distance of 60 kilometers away.
Also, the design of the Su-34 tail and its nose are detectable easily because of its high radar signal, it ultimately affects the aircraft battlefield survivability.
Many Defense Analysts believes that in today’s era there is no need of the Su-34, because the Su-30SM and Su-35S are capable of performing well in air to ground attacks similar to the Su-34, also these two aircrafts are superior in air combat capabilities as compared to the Su-34.
Realising these above-mentioned problems in the Su-34, the aircraft manufacturers has tried to improve the aircraft after gaining practical battlefield experience in Syria.
During the current deployment of the Su-34 in Ukraine, the combination of the Su-34 and the Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles proved to be a deadly combination.
Russia has also successfully tested the ability to integrate its most powerful air-to-air missile, the R-77 on the Su-34 fighter.
Despite gaining many victories in the Russia-Ukraine War, the Su-34 is also the aircraft which has got many looses too, many Su-34 jets has been shot down by Ukrainian Air Defense Systems.
Ukraine claims to have shot down more than 200 different types of Russian Aircrafts till now in this ongoing war. Although the Russians has repeatedly denied this.