The contract has not yet been signed, but its details have already been negotiated and agreed upon, and the manufacturer is Novosibirsk Aviation Plant named after Chkalova - began to place pre-orders for some components and assemblies for new machines.
The contract is valid until 2027, and on average it is planned to supply troops from 8 to 14 vehicles annually.
Despite the fact that the Su-34 is not a completely new machine, and at the moment the Russian aerospace forces already have a fleet of about 120 aircraft of this type, this contract is very important from several points of view. And the point is not only in the quantitative growth of the combat fleet of modern attack aircraft, although this is important in itself. No, everything is much more complicated here, at least due to some features of the aircraft itself.
First of all, it should be noted that the Su-34 quite officially replaced the front-line Su-24 bomber. Its predecessor, although proved to be the best in all conflicts, from the Afghan war (where not a single Su-24 was shot down, unlike, for example, the Su-25 attack aircraft) to the current Russian Air Force operation in Syria, where Su -24 is still in very good shape. However, the incident with the loss of the Su-24 from a Turkish F-16 rocket once again reminded us all that the possibilities of this good, but not at all new machine are still not unlimited. This concerns, among other things, the possibilities of upgrading and extending the life of the airframe: the Su-24 has a controlled sweep wing, which, along with obvious advantages for the flight characteristics of the aircraft, is one huge minus in terms of its operation, maintenance of technical readiness and etc. The extension of the life of such machines is comparable to the full-fledged modernization of conventional ones, because the entire mechanism responsible for the rotation of the wing has to be changed almost without fail.
One more thing needs to be added: the Su-24 is a very complex and accident-prone aircraft. To a large extent, it is precisely due to the developed mechanization of the wing, the breakdown of which in flight can lead to a loss of alignment and the impossibility of further control of the aircraft. In the nineties, the Su-24 was considered the most emergency aircraft of the Russian Air Force. Alas, it was not possible to completely overcome this tendency of a good, but very capricious machine - “drying” is now considered accessible only to experienced pilots who know well how to behave in a critical situation.
As of the current year, the troops have about 120 different modifications of the Su-24: these are, first of all, the Su-24M / M2 and Su-24MR. There was more, but the process of replacing these machines with the Su-34 has been going on for more than a decade. And it is very similar to the fact that in the current decade it should be completed. What can be called good news - for all the merits of the Su-24, there is no reason to keep it in service when we have such a powerful and versatile machine as the Su-34.
The versatility of the Su-34 should be said separately. Probably anyone who understands at least a little bit in military aviation immediately draws attention to the outward similarity of the Su-34 with its "elder brother," the heavy fighter Su-27. And this is not accidental: it was on its basis that it was decided to create a new strike aircraft back in 1986. A successful aerodynamic design promised high maneuverability, and the large dimensions and power allowed the new machine to significantly increase the volume and range of shock weapons. In addition, the range has also grown - with outboard fuel tanks, the Su-34 is capable of attacking targets within a radius of 3,500 kilometers, which is a very serious indicator for this type of machine.
Of course, one should nevertheless make a reservation: flights to such a range are possible only with limited combat load. Naturally, it is unlikely he will be able to take on board 8,000 kg of missiles and bombs, and bring them down on the head of the enemy, who is so far from his base. But even if the combat load consists of a pair of anti-ship missiles, this will be a very big threat to a potential enemy. Either a pair of anti-radar missiles, or one high-precision bomb - there can be many options, and all of them potentially suffer great losses and destruction to the likely enemy.
Probably, the range indicators should be illustrated, there are not enough dry numbers. Just keep in mind that Su-34 can “reach” almost any point in Europe from Moscow airfields, except for very distant ones, such as Gibraltar or Portugal, it can “sting” some American base from the Primorsky Territory right up to the Philippines, from Irkutsk to the south of China, but from Kamchatka it confidently reaches Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
Yes, we all understand what to "get" technically, and to achieve in reality, in the face of active opposition from enemy air defense, things are completely different. But there is one important nuance: such a technical possibility will certainly be taken into account by a probable adversary who cannot bare the rear and throw all his forces to the front lines, otherwise in the event of a breakthrough, what is said above will happen - the achievement of deep-flying goals by Russia strategic rear of the enemy. In addition, the likely enemy will have to control the huge sea areas through which aircraft with a large radius of flight can perform a roundabout maneuver, desert terrain, and so on. And this requires resources, and very significant ones, which would be very useful to him in areas of active confrontation. That is, it turns out that the presence of machines like the Su-34, by the very fact of its existence, weakens the strike potential of the enemy, not allowing him to throw all his strength into a "meat grinder".
Another ability inherited by the Su-34 from its predecessor is the ability to conduct maneuverable air combat with enemy fighters. Let him give way to more specialized machines in this matter, but in no case can he be called defenseless. And this, in turn, allows you to do without fighter cover, which, firstly, is more profitable, and secondly, makes it possible to fully realize the potential of the aircraft in range. Alas, fighters do not differ in long range, one and a half to two thousand kilometers are the limit for them.
In a sense, the Su-34 is the "younger brother" of the supersonic Tu-22M3 bomber. Alas, this once very formidable car in Gorbachev’s times, under an agreement with the Americans, was deprived of the possibility of refueling in the air, which sharply limited its range and automatically transferred from the category of strategic carriers of nuclear weapons to the category of tactical aircraft. Of course, it is difficult to draw direct analogies, because the Tu-22M3 is able to carry cruise missiles and bomb weapons of a larger caliber and mass. But its range is now also within the specified limits, that is, 3,500 kilometers. And the range of tasks to be solved is similar - precision precision strikes against targets in the enemy’s operational depths, destruction of warships, air defense centers, headquarters, command posts and so on. Therefore, although there is no question of replacing one with another, a certain “safety net” is possible. Yes, and the command of the presence of different tools gives great flexibility in the planning of air operations.
It should be noted that the new contract provides for the purchase of an updated version of the aircraft, which has the preliminary designation Su-34M, or Su-34 HBO. According to the Director General of the UAC, Yuri Slyusar, "the new machine will twice exceed the basic modification in combat capabilities." This is not deciphered in more detail, but it is known that the new version of the Su-34 has undergone a deep modernization of the Sych project. So, it is assumed that avionics will be completely updated, new high-precision weapons will be installed, and the vehicles will receive at least three types of hanging containers for reconnaissance.
Containers "Sych" can be optoelectronic (UKR-OE), radio engineering (UKR-RT) and radar (UKR-RL). The first ones allow one to see better in the literal sense of the word, both day and night. The latter can detect any electronic activity of the enemy, from the work of portable radio stations to the work of radars, electronic warfare systems, satellite communication centers, and so on. Well, a radar container will allow you to scan the surface, distinguishing even small targets on it, not to mention armored vehicles, cars and the like. In addition, with its help you can navigate even in dense clouds at low altitudes.
The capabilities of overhead containers are higher than the capabilities of integrated airborne equipment. On the one hand, this increases the capabilities of the machine. And on the other hand, it allows you to more flexibly respond to new challenges and realize the opportunities that have arisen: it is still much easier to design and produce a new hanging container than to make a deep modernization of the aircraft.
In all cases, hanging containers for data exchange with the board use a single data bus. Information is sent to the on-board computer, and from there, if necessary, in a convenient form for perception, it is visualized for the pilot, or goes directly to the sighting system to aim the weapon even before the pilot draws attention to the activity of a particular target. This allows you to significantly save time and respond more quickly to threats - it’s enough for the pilot to single out the target and give the order to destroy it, everything else has already been calculated by the electronic brain of the aircraft, and the command to kill will immediately leave for the rocket ready to launch.
If the contract is nevertheless signed and implemented (and there are all the prerequisites for this), in the next 7 years the Russian Air Force will receive two more regiments of attack aircraft, capable of solving a very wide range of tasks with high quality. As already mentioned above, the capabilities of the Su-34 allow it to equally successfully keep naval groups of the enemy at a respectful distance from our shores, or to knock out all kinds of terrorists from their field and mountain shelters with great accuracy and efficiency. Perhaps these costs of our Moscow Region can rightfully be called one of the best in terms of price / efficiency ratio. Yes, the Su-24 will no longer be in service (except in the armies of other states), but this is just the case when the detachment does not notice the loss of a fighter ...