The Sukhoi Su-34 (Russian: Сухой Су-34) (NATO reporting name: Fullback) is a Russian twin-engined, twin-seat strike fighter. It is intended to replace the Sukhoi Su-24.
Based on the Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker', the two-seat Su-34 is designed primarily for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets (Tactical bombing/attack/interdiction roles, including against small and mobile targets) on solo and group missions in daytime and at night, under favourable and adverse weather conditions and in a hostile environment with counter-fire and EW counter-measures deployed, as well as for aerial reconnaissance.
The Su-34 had a muddied and protracted beginning. In the mid-1980s, Sukhoi began developing a new tactical multirole combat aircraft to replace the swing-wing Su-24, which would incorporate a host of conflicting requirements. The bureau thus selected the Su-27, which excelled in maneuverability and range, and could carry a large payload, as the basis for the new fighter-bomber. More specifically, the aircraft was developed from T10KM-2, the naval trainer derivative of the Sukhoi Su-27K. The development, known internally as T-10V, was shelved at the end of the 1980s sharing the fate of Soviet aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk; this was the result of the political upheaval in the Soviet Union and its subsequent disintegration.
In August 1990, a photograph taken by a TASS officer showed an aircraft making a dummy approach towards the aircraft carrier Tbilisi. The aircraft, subsequently and erroneously labelled Su-27KU by Western intelligence, made its maiden flight on 13 April 1990 with Anatoliy Ivanov at the controls. Converted from an Su-27UB with the new distinctive nose, while retaining the main undercarriage of previous Su-27s, it was a prototype for the Su-27IB (Istrebitel Bombardirovshchik, or "fighter bomber"). It was developed in parallel with the two-seat naval trainer, the Su-27KUB. However, contrary to earlier reports, the two aircraft are not directly related. Flight tests continued throughout 1990 and into 1991.
Su-34 intercepted by RAF over the Baltic in 2015
In 1992, the Su-27IB was displayed to the public at the MosAeroshow (later renamed "MAKS Airshow"), where it demonstrated aerial refuelling with an Il-78, and performed an aerobatic display. The aircraft was officially unveiled on 13 February 1992 at Machulishi, where Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the CIS leaders were holding a summit. The following year the Su-27IB was again displayed at the MAKS Airshow.
The next prototype, and first pre-production aircraft, T10V-2, first flew on 18 December 1993, with Igor Votintsev and Yevgeniy Revoonov at the controls. Built at Novosibirsk, where Su-24s were constructed, this aircraft was visibly different from the original prototype; it had modified vertical stabilizers, twin tandem main undercarriage and a longer "stinger", which houses a rearward-facing warning radar. The first aircraft built to production standard made its first flight on 28 December 1994. It was fitted with a fire-control system, at the heart of which was the Leninets OKB-designed V004 passive electronically scanned array radar. It was different enough from the earlier versions that it was re-designated the "Su-34". However, at the 1995 Paris Air Show, the Su-34 was allocated the "Su-32FN" designation, signalling the aircraft's potential role as a shore-based naval aircraft for the Russian Naval Aviation. Sukhoi also promoted the Su-34 as the "Su-32MF" (MnogoFunksionalniy, "multi-function").
Budget restrictions caused the programme to stall repeatedly. Nevertheless, flight testing continued, albeit at a slow pace. The third pre-production aircraft first flew in late 1996.
Orders and deliveries
An initial batch of eight aircraft was completed by the Novosibirsk factory in 2004. In March 2006, Russia's Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov announced that the purchase of the first 5 pre-production Su-34s for the Russian Air Force. In late 2008, a second contract was signed for delivery of 32 aircraft by 2015. A total of 70 aircraft were to be purchased by 2015 to replace some 300 Russian Su-24s, which were then undergoing a modernization program. Ivanov claimed that as it is "many times more effective on all critical parameters", fewer of these newer bombers are required than the old Su-24 it replaces. In December 2006, Ivanov revealed that approximately 200 Su-34s were expected to be in service by 2020; and was confirmed by Air Force chief Vladimir Mikhaylov on 6 March 2007. Two Su-34s were delivered in 2006-2007, and three more were delivered by the end of 2009.
Sukhoi Su-34 at the MAKS 2013
On 9 January 2008, Sukhoi reported that the Su-34 had begun full-rate production. The final stage of the state tests were completed on 19 September 2011.