Sukhoi Su-34: Russia’s Most Advanced Fighter-Bomber/Strike Aircraft

Sukhoi Su-34 is one of the last soviet-era designed aircraft.
Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-34

The Su-34 is one of Russia’s most technologically state-of-the-art aircraft with amazing multi-role capabilities, speed, and armaments.

It is also known by NATO’s nickname Hellduck. Although its nose looks like a duck’s, the Su-34 is no joke. It is exceptionally capable against almost any target – and it has already been tested in Syria since 2014.

Su-34 Fullback strike fighter

Su-34
Sukhoi Su-34 by Dmitry Terekhov. Licensed under CC by 2.0

The Su-34 is a 4th generation, two-seat fighter-bomber fabricated by the Russian company Sukhoi. It was derived from the Su-27 Flanker and planned to substitute other attack aircraft such as the Su-24, which has been in service for almost 50 years.

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In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union built a new fighter bomber that incorporated the best capabilities of the Su-27 and the latest technologies to produce an aircraft that could replace a wide variety of fighters and bombers in the Russian Air Force.

It took its first flight in 1990 but joined the Russian Air Force 24 years later because of many development problems. Besides, the collapse of the Soviet Union and regular upgrades to modernize the aircraft delayed its production.

Unusual features of the Su-34

Performing checks on Sukhoi Su 34
Performing checks on Sukhoi Su-34 by Mil.ru. Licensed under CC by 2.0

The Su-24 is a somewhat peculiar aircraft, but all this has a reason based on its impressive engineering with several decades of development.

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Cockpit

In the cockpit, the pilot and co-pilot are seated side by side, which is an unusual design for a fighter aircraft, first seen in the F-111 Aardvark fighter-bomber.

Likewise, the cockpit is more elevated than usual, and the curve of its structure makes an extensive space that provides a large internal area for adding new avionics equipment, internal fuel, and even a crew toilet.

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1024px Sukhoi Su 34 Simulator Russia Air Force AN2242851
Sukhoi Su-34 under CC BY-SA 3.0

But, the peculiarities of its design substantially optimize the work area’s performance and streamlines the crew’s interaction during long flights.

Even the cockpit is ample enough to stand up and move around – and it’s protected by 1,480 kilograms (3263 pounds) of titanium armor installed in various sections of the cockpit to offer more protection from ground attacks.

Entrance

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The unusual crew entrance to the aircraft is via a stairway placed where the front landing gear is stowed. This enables the Su-34 to optimize space and make the aircraft more comfortable.

Tail

The protruding tail extends from the main structure of the aircraft to the rear, carrying a missile warning radar and a parachute.

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1024px Sukhoi Su 35S at the MAKS 2013 03
Sukhoi Su-35S by Doomych

Nose

There’s a radar for air-to-ground operations in its unique nose duck-shaped nose. This radar is big compared to others radars, and that’s why the nose of the Su-34 has this distinct shape.

This radar offers the Hellduck the capability to detect at least 10 targets flying simultaneously with a range of 75 miles (120 km).

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Characteristics and specs

The Su-34 can carry a devastating payload of 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds), with which it can destroy any armored vehicle, sink most of the current vessel, and wipe out a city when carrying its nuclear-guided missiles.

MAKS Airshow 2015 21246294371
SU-34 by Dmitry Terekhov under CC BY-SA 2.0

This aircraft is only available for the Russian Air Force with over 143 units available and a cost per unit of $40 million.

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 23.34 meters (76 feet 7 inches)
  • Wingspan: 14.7 meters (48 feet 3 inches)
  • Height: 6.09 meters (20 feet)
  • Max takeoff weight: 45,100 kilograms (99,428 pounds)
  • Fuel capacity: 12,100 kilograms (26,676 pounds)
  • Maximum speed: 1,900 km/h (1,200 mph or Mach 1.8)
  • Cruise speed: 1,300 km/h (810 mph)
  • Combat range: 1,100 kilometers (680 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 meters (56,000 feet)

One of the most distinctive fighter-bombers but…

Su-34 is one of the most capable military aircraft of our time. While it lacks stealth ability, it has outstanding firepower and impressive capabilities, but the question remains if it can hold its own against next-generation stealth aircraft.

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It is recognizable because of the unique features that make it distinctive among all fighter-bombers in the world – and now, a new version of the Su-34 is on the way, the Su-34M with cutting edge weapons that will keep this aircraft suitable for the coming years.


Feature image credit: Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-34 by Alex Beltyukov. Licensed under CC by 3.0

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