The Su-34 fighter bomber is a derivative of the Su-27 fighter aircraft. The aircraft design retains the basic layout and construction of the Su-27
airframe, with a conventional high-wing configuration and a substantial part of the onboard equipment.
Su-32"FN" has been characterized by Sukhoi as a "specialized strike fighter" and "a reliable guardian of sea borders". It would be, according to
Western terminology, a "missionized reconnaissance-maritime-strike platform" intended for around the clock operations to search for, detect,
classify, and then destroy, if necessary, waterborne or submarine targets. It is boldly advertised as the potential successor to the Su-24, F-111,
S-3A, RF-4E, EF-111A, A-6E, EA-6A, Tornado GR4, and the F-15E.
The first Su-34 prototype made its first flight on 18Dec93 and after transferring the development to Zhukovsky, it was decided that the third
prototype would be the first Su-32"FN". This aircraft first flew a year later on 28Dec94 with test pilots Igor Votintsev and Evgeny Reunov at the
The Su-32"FN" is fitted with the "Sea Snake" avionics suite optimized for surface search, anti-surface warfare, mine-detection, reconnaissance,
and anti-submarine warfare. The active radar is designed to ensure detection of waterborne targets and submarine wake trails within a dispersion area
of more than 3,000 sq.-meters from 150 km range at high altitude. The "Sea Snake" is also capable of detecting airborne targets, including small
ones, low over the sea out to 200 to 250 kilometers. The "FN" is equipped with an integrated GLOSNOSS/GPS navigation and with its secure datalink
can serve as a search-and-rescue coordinator or a maritime environment monitor.
The avionics suite has an extended architecture of computers, memory boards, color multi-function displays, and processors designed as self-contained
information processing modules. They consist of large "Argon" digital computer units with specially programmed processors that use multiplex
data-exchange channels. All information modules are controlled by a dual central computing system that fully coordinates workload and provides all
relevant information to the flight deck. Two-way data link enables the mission planning and weapon aim-point computations to be loaded or updated
while in flight or aircraft to aircraft.
According to Martirosov, Sukhoi utilized a high reliability modular approach that could complete most combat missions with a partial failure of any
module. The avionics suite is also tailored to specific customer requirement with capabilities added or deleted. Western avionics could also be added
When the aircraft is engaged in a maritime mission, the main weapon systems functions are performed by the onboard coherent radar, transmitting
sonobouys, information provided by offboard data link, an onboard infrared/TV imaging system and a laser rangefinder. Target detection is carried out
primarily with the help of the radar, in some cases visual contact is made, and the acoustic signatures are relayed by the sonobouys.
The fighter - bomber is equipped with the most powerful navigation complex. The control of the Su-34 uses multichannel digital electrodistance [total
word by word translation] system. The system of active safety is installed
There is also a magnetic anomaly detector employed with the sonobouys while the radar can detect small periscopes just breaking the wave tops. Onboard
passive radio-electronic reconnaissance systems operate through the entire usable spectrum.
An operational mission for the Su-32"FN" begins with a mission planning period that loads into the aircraft's two main computers the coordinates
and elevations of every navigation and mission-dependent point from takeoff to landing. At each coordinate-point or time-hack, automatic switching of
modes can be accomplished so that the pilots can be hands-off or involved with other parts of the mission. Data link with command aircraft, ground
stations, and command ships will be maintained and where line-of-sight limits are reached these communications resort to satellites for expanded
coverage. Mission updates can be passed by higher authority anytime during the flight.
A powerful Radio Locating Station for aft observation is placed in the tail section of the fuselage, between the engines.
The Su-34 bomber is intended to destroy point heavily guarded targets in any weather conditions, day or night. The accomplishment of the goal is
ensured by the installation of the most sophisticated at this day radioelectronic equipment on board, including multifunctional phased array radar
system with increased resolution capability able to see even insignificant in size ground targets and allowing the attack with high precision.
Not only the aft facing radar warns the crew about an enemy's attack, but also can guide the air to air missile firing. The missiles are able to hit
the enemy guided missiles as well as the planes. Not a single foreign attack a/c at this time has similar capabilities. It is also capable of
automated terrain following.
It mainly comprises of a large side-by-side crew station that contains the left command-pilot and right navigator-armament operator's stations. It is
a fully pressurized cabin that allows flight up to 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) without oxygen.
Standard K-36DM ejection seats are utilized with ejection being made upwards after the explosive destruction of the large main canopy.
The cockpit is outfitted with multifunctional CRT indicators and HUD's. The pilots also have helmet mounted sights that allow to perform target
cueing for the guided missiles "by looking", this significantly decreases the time of weapons reaction (which is especially important in the low
altitude flight, when the crew has only seconds to find, identify and hit the target).
Sukhoi designers believe that the cabin environment provides the pilot and navigator with conditions for good combat teamwork. It has been optimized
for long-range patrol missions with multiple air refuelings extending to ten to fourteen hours.
The pilots' access to the cockpit is also simplified and is facilitated by a ladder through a hatch by the front wheel.
The cockpit itself was constructed very spacious, behind the crew compartment is a toilet and a food heating closet. The design of the cockpit allows
the crew members to leave their seats in turns and assume a fully stretched vertical position in a special compartment behind the cockpit for a
relaxation. The distance between the chairs allows a one of the crew members to lie down in the corridor between the seats and to rest in a horizontal
position if necessary.
The Su-34 carries a range of precision guided and unguided bombs and rockets, including the KAB-500 laser-guided bomb. All types or tactical and
strategic ordnance can be utilized with emphasis being placed on long range standoff weapons such as the AS-13/18 Kingbolt cruise missiles, AS-14
Kedge anti-radiation weapon, AS-17 Krypton, Kh-35 Harpoon like anti-ship weapon, and the Kh-41 Moskit long range anti-ship missile.
There are 12 armament/store stations and can carry the entire inventory of standoff weapons as well as up to four air-to-air missiles like the R-73,
The total weight for armament comes out to around 8,000 kg (17,600 lbs) with a flight range of around 4,000 km (2,160 nm), increased up to 7,000 km
(3,777 nm) with in-flight refueling.
Ammunition can then be interestingly exchanged for additional provisions.
COUNTERMEASURES & SURVIVEABILITY
Regular active jamming counter-measures, and chaff & flare dispensers. But for the "FN" the new rear-firing version of the R-73 produced by Vympel
has become a viable defense system. External wing-tip mounted Sorbtsya ECM pods can also be carried.
The cockpit is made (the first time in the world practice on this type of a/c) in a form of an armored capsule with titanium walls up to 17 mm thick.
The other vital construction elements have similar protection, particularly the fuel tanks and the engines. The total weight of the structural
protection is 1,480 kg. All this in addition to the protection measures implemented on Su-27 (which had in particular fuel tanks with porous filling)
provide the Su-34 with high degree of survivability in a low altitude flight over the territory reach in air defense measures.
Lately decreasing of radar, thermal and visual signature of a/c became a major element of guarantying their survival (Stealth technology). Even
cursory look at the Su-34 gives an opportunity to make a conclusion that this plane has a smaller Radar Cross Section compared to the other craft in
its class. Clearly visible integral arrangement of the airframe (the family feature of the all Su-27 family a/c) is combined with radically changed
flatten nose section. The large "beak" of the radar sight is absent (the radar antenna and the air intakes are responsible for the size of the Radar
Cross Section of a combat plane in the fore hemisphere). All this plus radioabsorbing covering and materials can make the Su-34 much less visible on a
radar screen than such a/c as Su-24, F-111 and F-15E (according to the bureau representative at low altitude Su-34 will have the same radar visibility
as modern cruise missiles, and as we know this class of weapons have Radar Cross Section less than 1 square meter)
The aircraft is powered by two afterburning AL-31F or AL-35 turbofan engines. The engines are mounted under the wing and are equipped with all-duty
fixed geometry air intakes. A rotor protection installed in the air intakes provides protection against the ingestion of foreign objects.
The aircraft can carry 12,100kg of fuel internally in two fuel tanks in the wings and four in the fuselage. Three external fuel tanks, each with a
capacity of 3,000 litres, can also be fitted.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Su-32"FN" can carry and employ the UPAZ air refueling store, so one Su-32 could refuel from another.
The aircraft can achieve a speed of 1,900kph (Mach 1.6) at altitude and 1,300kph (Mach 1) at sea level.
One of the major combat modes of the Su-34 flight is an intrepid trust at low altitude following the terrain. However the plane based on the airframe
of an air superiority fighter and having a wing with relatively low wing load (even though bigger than that of regular Su-27) will be subjected to
excessive effect of the turbulence caused by the condition of the air mass' close to the ground. This can adversely effect the crew's physical
capability to perform a lengthy low altitude flight and under certain circumstances can lead to a disaster (because of such reasons in particular the
length of the low altitude section of the American McDonnell - Douglas F-15E "Strike Eagle's" flight is limited; this a/c is also created on a base
of an air superiority fighter and has a terrain following radar) For the Su-34 the low altitude flight comfort is achieved by using an automatic
pitching oscillation suppression system (such an equipment is use only on the American strategic bomber Rockwell B-1B).
The visual differences from basic Su-27 :
New radar with enlarged nose cone(1)
Resahped, flatten nose section of the fuselage(3)
Two-weel nose gear(4)
Non-adjustable engine intakes(6)
Two-weel main gears(7)
New back-sphere radar with larger antenna(9)
No fine tips uder fuzelage (10)
The Su-32"FN" remains perhaps the most flexible Sukhoi Flanker platform. It has the power and size to be converted to almost any role imaginable. As
a platform it can go slow, fast, high, and low. It maneuvers like a small fighter plane, yet can carry cruise missiles made for bombers. It has range
and load capacity superior to a Strike Eagle.
Despite its apparent superiority, there is a question mark on weather it will ever enter service in any air force. Thr Russian AF is too fund starved
to buy any of these. Neither Inida nor China are not showing any interest in acquiring the 32FN. India is to retire its Jaguar-for deep penitration
strike in 2012 but will be replaced by its indegenously built MCA. China too is more towards producing their own aircrfts.
Does the Su-34 have a future at all ??