TechRussian Air Force struggles to sustain SU-34 fleet amid losses

Russian Air Force struggles to sustain SU‑34 fleet amid losses

Su-34 - illustrative photo
Su-34 - illustrative photo
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

8:34 AM EDT, May 24, 2024

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been ongoing for over two years. During this time, the defending army has repeatedly destroyed more Russian machines. But how many aircraft do the Russians have left to strike toward Ukraine? Military analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko has calculated exactly how many Su-34 bombers were destroyed during the war and, consequently, how many machines might be left for the military. His estimates align with recent reports from the United States about rebuilding the Russian army.

The Ukrainian sky is becoming increasingly dangerous for Russian aircraft. This conclusion, drawn by the Ukrainian agency Unian, is based on calculations from a military expert and numerous recent reports from the front. These reports are relentless; just recently, the Ukrainians shot down at least four Su-25 attack aircraft within two weeks.

further losses of the russian air force

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the Russian Federation's arsenal contained 110 Su-34 aircraft, of which fewer than 100 were operational. "Throughout the entire full-scale war, the Russian air force has lost 25 Su-34 bombers," explains Kovalenko. However, these are figures from December 22, 2023. According to unofficial data, the Russian forces have lost over 50 Su-34s in two years," adds the analyst.

Therefore, theoretically, in the worst-case scenario for the Ukrainians, the Russian Federation's army currently has an arsenal of 85 Su-34 aircraft. In the best case, according to Kovalenko and based on unofficial findings, this is a maximum of 60 machines. However, it should be emphasized that these numbers do not account for current production. Kovalenko counts destroyed machines, whereas the Russians continuously produce new Su-34s.

If Russia continues to lose 2-3 Su-34s per month, it will not be possible to compensate for these losses with production, and the total number will go negative, explains the analyst. The Russian Federation reportedly produces 10-12 Su-34s per year (about 1 aircraft per month).

Assuming that Russia has produced a maximum of 12 Su-34s annually since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Federation's army currently may still have about 100 Su-34 aircraft. This means, as confirmed by recent statements from U.S. authorities commenting on rebuilding the Russian military that the Russian Federation is managing to maintain a steady supply of valuable equipment.

multi-role tactical bomber su-34

The Su-34 aircraft mentioned are among the key targets for Ukrainians. This is because the Su-34 was created as a multi-role tactical bomber with the characteristics of a fighter jet. It can carry nuclear weapons and conduct direct engagements on the front line. Its performance, particularly its ability to reach supersonic speeds, cannot be overlooked.

The Su-34 is powered by two AL-31F M1 turbojet engines, which propel the craft to a maximum speed of 1,180 mph. Simultaneously, the aircraft can operate at 56,000 feet, while its range on a full fuel tank is approximately 2,500 miles. The Russian design's defensive capabilities are provided by a standard 30 mm GSh-30-1 aircraft cannon, and it can carry additional weapons weighing nearly 17,637 lbs on 12 hardpoints.

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