The Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) is hogging the limelight for conducting regular bombing runs on Ukrainian positions, with experts predicting that the aircraft would give a tough time to the Ukrainian forces as the latter braces for another winter.
To conduct air-to-air attacks and ground strikes on Ukraine, the VKS has widely deployed its cutting-edge warplanes. Numerous victories in combat have been attributed, in particular, to Russian aircraft like the Su-35, Su-34, and MiG-31. For instance, Ukrainian pilots noted how the Su-35 was their “biggest enemy.”
For one, the MiG-31K aircraft is known for firing the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which Russia has projected as an invincible weapon. Although Ukrainian forces claimed to intercept this super weapon, several of them have reportedly struck their designated targets.
Equipped with its potent long-range Vympel R-37M air-to-air missiles, the MiG-31 Foxhounds were lauded for flying high-altitude patrols and shooting down several Ukrainian fighter jets that could not cope with the altitude and range of these Russian interceptors.
However, the Su-34 bombers have been hogging the limelight recently despite the stupendous performance demonstrated by other Russian jets. The VKS deployed the twin-engine, twin-seat, medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft to carry out air-to-ground strikes and bombing runs on the Ukrainian forces.
The Su-34 attached to Russia’s Central Military District recently hit command and observation posts, drone control posts, and armored combat vehicles of the Ukrainian forces in the Krasnolimansk direction.
The world seems to be keenly taking notice of the Russian aircraft. A columnist for China National Radio (CNR), Song Bo, said in a recent article that the pressure on Ukraine will increase in the winter now that the Russian Su-34 frontline bombers have been equipped with long-range cruise missiles.
“The Su-34 becomes the world’s first fighter-bomber capable of launching strategic ammunition,” he noted. The journalist also cited military observer Shao Yongling, who claimed that the “combination” of the Su-34 with cruise missiles increases Russia’s capacity for long-range attacks and enhances its ability to hit targets more precisely.
“The steps taken by Russia aim to increase pressure on the enemy’s air defense. In the report, ” Moscow may increase the intensity of attacks on the enemy’s infrastructure in the fall and winter,” Shao Yonglin said. The expert noted that the security situation for Ukraine will worsen if the Su-34 is tasked with firing long-range missiles on Ukrainian targets this winter.
Last winter, Russia launched a massive missile and drone onslaught on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leading to countrywide heating and water shortages. The move, aimed at restricting Kyiv’s war-fighting capabilities, snowballed into a borderline humanitarian crisis in the chilly European winter.
The Su-34, deployed along the frontlines, is being armed to the teeth by Moscow, giving the impression that the aircraft is set to be entrusted with additional roles as the 19-month-long war refuses to end. The Fullback appears to be becoming the real Ukrainian nemesis, overshadowing the Su-35 and the MiG-31 fighters.
Su-34 Fullback Bombers Being Armed To The Teeth
The remarks published in the Chinese publication come days after the newest Su-34M Fullback was reportedly equipped with Long Range Cruise Missiles (LRCMs). Earlier this month, Russian media noted that these missiles had already been fired into the so-called “special military operation zone” inside Ukraine.
The development is believed to rattle NATO countries that border Ukraine and find themselves at an enhanced risk in case the war spills over. An unnamed source told Russian media, “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.”
However, it also puts the massive country of Ukraine and its entire energy infrastructure at a greater risk of being hit by a cruise missile fired from the Russian airspace.
A Russian military expert who did not want to be named told EurAsian Times, “Of course, Ukraine has better Western air defenses this winter than last time, but they are far and few, so the missile strikes are unlikely to be completely ineffective.” The state media or the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) did not specify which cruise missiles had been integrated into the Su-34.
Not just that, in what came as an absolute surprise, the Su-34 Fullback was equipped with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which it had also reportedly fired on a target inside Ukraine.
Before this, the MiG-31K fighter-interceptor aircraft exclusively carried the hypersonic missile. Hence, the development was met with intrigue in the West. It also gave the impression that the use of Kinzhal would likely see an uptick in Ukraine.
Indian Air Force veteran and military expert Vijainder K. Thakur said, “The MiG-31K are deep modifications. They likely have a lot of life. The most significant advantage of the Su-34 Kinzhal’s launch capability for Russia will be a surprise. Ukraine is alerted when a MiG-31K with Kinzhal takes off!”
If long-range cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons weren’t enough, the RuMoD recently published footage of a Su-34 armed with 2 x FAB500M62 bombs with glide kits, supposedly on an attack mission against command and observation posts, armored vehicles, and control points for drones of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The VKS has also reportedly deployed the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber to drop its first-ever UMPC FAB-1500 M54 high-explosive fragmentation bombs on a target. After months of trial and error, the bomb hit the target accurately in a test conducted a few weeks ago.
Social media claims suggest that the fighter could initially carry three UMPC FAB-1500 M54 bombs, with the capacity increasing to at least two. The Su-34 could launch three bombs simultaneously or one at a time, all aimed at different targets.
In addition to all these lethal ammunitions, the aircraft has received new protection against enemy electronic warfare equipment, including protection against foreign-made electronic warfare systems, for use in the special military operation zone. Combining the Khibiny electronic countermeasure complex with the SAP-14 and SAP-518 active jamming stations provides reliable protection to Su-34s against air defense.
This has spawned the hyperbole claims that Su-34s can disappear from enemy radar screens.
The Fullbacks have endured many hardships, mainly in the air, but mostly because it’s the most extensively used warplane in the Russian inventory. Before February 2022, Russia had 130 Su-34Ms in the fleet, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Russia has lost at least 20 Fullbacks since the start of the all-out conflict, according to the Dutch open-source tracking organization Oryx. The actual number is probably higher since it only includes aircraft for which it has visual confirmation when counting losses.
The fleet’s readiness has purportedly been impacted by high-tempo operations and pressures placed on Russia’s supply chain due to severe sanctions. It makes sense, then, that the VKS is arming the aircraft with the most lethal weapons in its arsenal that would not necessarily expose the plane to the Ukrainian air defenses.
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