TechRussian Su-34s suffer heavy losses. Road collision takes out the first mass-produced unit

Russian Su‑34s suffer heavy losses. Road collision takes out the first mass-produced unit

Su-34 strike aircraft
Su-34 strike aircraft
Images source: © Lic. CC BY-SA 4.0, Vitaly V. Kuzmin, Wikimedia Commons | Vitaly V. Kuzmin

8:03 AM EST, December 15, 2023

The high-value plane, whose production cost is estimated at $36 million, was damaged at an indeterminate time. Online sources suggest it could have been in the recent weeks or at the start of the conflict in Ukraine, which began in the spring of 2022.

The video material shared by witnesses showcases a winter landscape, helping to narrow down the possible timeframe of this unusual event.

The recorded footage displays a Russian Su-34 strike aircraft. The aircraft was damaged under peculiar conditions while being transported on a low-bed trailer, which, for unclear reasons, ended up in a roadside ditch.

The first mass-produced Su-34

The airplane was likely used as a training aid at the State Technical University in Ufa before being transported. It was unairworthy during transport, with its wings and tail dismantled. Additionally, Defence 24, the service reporting on the event, pointed out visible indications of significant wear and tear.

The aircraft's markings allow for its identification — it's the first mass-produced Su-34 delivered to the Russian air forces. Following modernization, this pre-production aircraft was brought up to the standards of mass-produced planes.

About the Su-34 strike aircraft

The Su-34 is a strike aircraft extensively modified from the Su-27 fighter. It features a two-seater cockpit with seats placed side by side and a distinct "sting" at the back of the fuselage, hiding a radar responsible for detecting emerging threats at the rear.

The Su-34 is approximately 75 feet long, sports a wingspan of over 52 feet, and weighs up to 38 tons (or 83,776 pounds) when ready for flight. The machine has a range of about 2,485 miles and can carry nearly 17,637 pounds of armament.

Losses of Russian Su-34s

Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, Russian Su-34s have sustained critical losses. From about 130-140 machines of this type, Russia has lost at least 20, as various sources confirm. However, the reported figures of losses range between 20 and 30.

Not all of these aircraft were destroyed in combat. Intensive usage tends to cause accidents; at least two instances have been recorded in recent months. The extent of the damage inflicted on the Su-34 from the collision is hard to gauge. The front impact could have damaged the radar and avionics, amongst other components.

However, it's worth noting that, compared to other fighter aircraft, the Su-34 has a reinforced structure. The cockpit is shielded with armor in the form of a titanium "bathtub" that surrounds it from below.

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