TechRussia's devastating week: Military aviation suffers nearly $750M loss in aircraft

Russia's devastating week: Military aviation suffers nearly $750M loss in aircraft

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 17: A Sukhoi Su-35S aircraft performs during the International Military-Technical Forum "Army 2022" at Kubinka military training ground in Moscow, Russia on August 17, 2022. (Photo by Pavel Pavlov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 17: A Sukhoi Su-35S aircraft performs during the International Military-Technical Forum "Army 2022" at Kubinka military training ground in Moscow, Russia on August 17, 2022. (Photo by Pavel Pavlov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Anadolu Agency

7:02 PM EST, February 24, 2024

Within a week in February 2024, Russia lost six Su-34 tactical bombers, two Su-35S multi-purpose fighters, and a single early warning aircraft, A-50U Beriyev. The Su-34 tactical bomber comes with a whopping price tag of about $47 million, an updated quote from RIA Novosti's 2008 estimate of $37 million.

Similarly priced are the multi-purpose Su-35S fighters, with a single A-50U costing as much as approximately $350 million. This enormous figure stems from the A-50U's specialization, brimming with expensive electronics due to its extensive radar and electronic warfare systems.

These losses pose a significant challenge to rebuild for the Russian defence industry, already grappling with Western sanctions. In certain situations, like electronic systems in missiles or bombs, elements can be replaced with those sourced from household appliances. However, the scenario worsens when it comes to aviation components. Each loss of a modern aircraft constitutes a severe blow to the aging Russian aviation industry.

Su-35S: Su-27's fighter successor

Deployed into active service in 2014, the Su-35S fighter jets are the evolved version of the Su-27, also termed as Flanker in NATO terminology. The Su-35S is a powerful, twin-engine, single-seat, air superiority fighter weighing 19 tons (20944 lbs). Despite its air dominance role, it's also equipped to target ground and sea assets when necessary.

As opposed to its predecessor, the technologically advanced Su-35S bears front canards and incorporates numerous features from the Su-57. This includes Saturn AL-41F1 engines, as well as upgrades in avionics and cockpit provisions. This aircraft consists of 12 weapon pylons, with three capable of accommodating bombs or guided missiles weighing up to 1500 kg (3307 lbs).

Equipped with thrust vectoring technology, the Su-35S shows remarkable maneuverability, especially at lower speeds. This impressive attribute has often been highlighted during international air shows where the Su-35S was on display. Russia has integrated a powerful N035 Irbis-E type PESA radar and a passive IRST OLS-35 system in the Super Flanker. However, these systems fall short of those installed in Rafale or Eurofighters.

Su-34: A tactical bomber derived from Su-27

Furthermore, the Su-34, known as Fullback under NATO classification, is another derivative of the Su-27. However, it is designed primarily for attacking ground targets and is intended to replace the older Su-24 in Russian aviation. One of its unique designs includes a side-by-side cockpit layout, as opposed to the conventional tandem seating, designed to enhance pilots' collaboration. Aesthetically, it appears to be a larger Su-27 variant, enhanced with canards and higher resistance to gunfire.

The Su-34's cockpit is reinforced with titanium to improve the pilots' survivability chances upon impact. As a frontline bomber, it can carry a massive 8 ton (17,637 lbs) weaponry load on 12 pylons. These include various weapons from simple S-8 unguided rocket launchers, Ch-25 missiles, bombs from the KAB family weighing up to 1500 kg (3307 lbs), to Raduga Ch-59 missiles with an extensive range of over 200 km (124 miles). A GSz-30-1 30mm cannon is also mounted on board.

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