1st Time In Ukraine War, Russian Su-34M Fires Long-Range Cruise Missile As It Prepares For NATO Conflict

The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) has reportedly equipped its newest Su-34M Fullback with Long Range Cruise Missiles (LRCMs) days after the front-line bomber was armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.

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The long-range cruise missiles equipped on the Su-34M, or the Su-34NVO as it is popularly called in Russia, have already been fired into the so-called “special military operation zone” inside Ukraine, reported Russian state media RIA Novosti, citing sources.

“As part of the SVO, using a long-range cruise missile with the Su-34, which had not previously been used on these aircraft, was tested. The missile is not new, like the aircraft. Still, they have not been used in one complex before, and the new solution increases the variability of use as a missile and the plane,” said the news agency’s interlocutor.

The state media or the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) have not specified the type of Long-range cruise missiles mounted on the Su-34.

As per the limited information provided by informed sources to the media, the Su-34 successfully hit a Ukrainian military facility using such a missile. Since the Su-34s had not previously been equipped with LRCMs, the VKS chose the latest aircraft variant to see how the aircraft complex would work with the missile.

While delivering the first batch of these advanced Su-34M fighters, Russia observed that the “modernized Su-34 has expanded combat capabilities, allowing the use of advanced aviation weapons, which will increase the range of destruction of ground and surface targets, expand the conditions and accuracy of bombing.”

More interestingly, this development could be alarming for the NATO countries that border Ukraine and find themselves at an enhanced risk of being attacked by Russia in case the war spills over. The unnamed source said, “The Su-34 as carriers of the cruise missile system may be needed, for example, in the event of a conflict with NATO countries to carry out strategic tasks,” the RIA Novosti’s interlocutor explained.

However, Russia has extensively deployed its strategic bombers that have been firing conventional long-range cruise missiles on targets inside Ukraine. For example, there have been several instances of Russian strategic bombers firing Kh-55 and Kh-101 on Ukrainian targets. Some of these have also been intercepted by Kyiv’s air defense forces and examined by its engineers.

For instance, the Armed Forces of Ukraine had earlier stated that the Kh-55 missiles, originally designed as carriers for nuclear warheads during the Soviet era, were being deployed by Russia without explosive warheads. However, they still pose a threat due to their kinetic energy and the danger of exploding fuel residues.

In addition to the Kh-55, Russia has been relentlessly firing the Kh-101 on Ukraine, a long-range, air-launched cruise missile known for its precision strike capabilities. It is believed to have a range of over 2,500 kilometers, making it one of Russia’s most extended-range airborne weapons generally fired from its strategic bombers.

Some other air-launched cruise missile variants of the above missiles with an extended range have also allegedly been used in combat by Russian Forces. However, equipping the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber, which guards and fires from the frontlines, the cruise missile attacks could see an uptick in the coming days.

With Ukraine’s drone onslaught rattling Russian infrastructure and troops in the past weeks, Moscow has intensified its aerial attacks, often dominated by cruise missiles on Ukraine.

The Su-34 Fullback Is Being Armed To The Teeth

The Su-34 Fullback is a twin-engine, twin-seat, all-weather supersonic medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft deployed extensively by the VKS to carry out air-to-ground strikes and bombing runs on Ukrainian forces. Fully aware of the aircraft’s utility, the VKS has now started to arm it with the most lethal munitions available in its inventory.

In early September, it was revealed that a Su-34 Fullback was equipped with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which it had also fired on a target inside Ukraine.

At the time, an informed defense official told Russian state news agency TASS, “The Su-34 fighter jet used the Kinzhal hypersonic missile in the special military operation. The first crew who accomplished such a task will receive state awards.”

The development was received with intrigue in the West as the hypersonic missile was previously only carried by the MiG-31K fighter-interceptor aircraft specifically designed to carry these missiles. This paved the way for discussions surrounding the uptick in using Kinzhals now that Su-34s could hold them.

Su-34 Russia
File Image: Su-34 Fullback

In another instance, VKS fired its first-ever UMPC FAB-1500 M54 high-explosive fragmentation bombs on a target using the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber. The bomb reportedly hit the designated mark accurately after several months of trial and error.

According to claims made on social media, the fighter could carry at least two of the UMPC FAB-1500 M54 bombs, which would be increased to three in the future. With three such bombs, the Su-34 could fire one at a time or fire three bombs simultaneously aimed at three targets.

As these fighter bombers continue to get more lethal and cutting-edge weaponry, the VKS also seems to be aware of the threat to the Su-34 parked at air bases. So, to protect it from Ukrainian attack, the aircraft has been covered with tires and wheels, as seen in the latest satellite imagery.