Su-34 Fullback: How Russia Combined a Bomber and Fighter Jet

Su-34 Fullback
February 28, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Su-34Su-34 FullbackRussiaRussian Air ForceMilitaryDefense

Su-34 Fullback: How Russia Combined a Bomber and Fighter Jet

The Su-34 Fullback, a versatile twin-engine, twin-seat fighter-bomber, epitomizes Russia's rich history of producing formidable combat aircraft.

Summary: The Su-34 Fullback, a versatile twin-engine, twin-seat fighter-bomber, epitomizes Russia's rich history of producing formidable combat aircraft. Derived from the Su-27 Flanker, the Fullback excels in all-weather conditions, conducting fighter, bomber, and strike missions, primarily focusing on tactical bombing. Equipped with an armored cockpit and electronic warfare capabilities, it can carry up to 30,000 lbs of diverse munitions, including air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-ship missiles, alongside conventional bombs and a 30mm cannon. With a performance reaching Mach 2 and an operational range of 2,500 miles, over 150 Su-34s serve in the Russian Aerospace Forces, with several lost in Ukraine.

Su-34 Fullback: Russia's Premier Fighter-Bomber in Modern Warfare

The Russian Aerospace Forces field several great aircraft. Russia has a long history of capable combat aircraft, dating all the way back to World War Two. The aerospace defense companies that helped the Soviets fight back the Nazis are still around. Sukhoi aircraft, for example, comprise the majority of the Russian combat fleet. 

Out of the hundreds of aircraft, the Su-34 Fullback stands out. 

Fighter and Bomber in One 

The Su-34 Fullback is a twin-engine, twin-seat fighter-bomber jet. A supersonic jet, the aircraft can operate in all weather conditions and conduct fighter, bomber, and strike missions. However, the aircraft is mainly known for its tactical bombing role. 

Tactical bombing missions can be complex and require cool nerves. The Su-34 Fullback comes with an armored cockpit to withstand ground fire, electronic warfare capabilities, as well as with the ability to carry a wide range of munitions. 

When it comes to weapon systems, the Su-34 Fullback can carry a heavy punch. The aircraft has 12 external hardpoints that can carry up to 30,000 lbs of munitions. In terms of air-to-air missiles, the Russian combat aircraft carry R-77 active radar-homing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, R-73 heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, and R-27 radar-homing air-to-air missiles. In terms of air-to-ground munitions, the Su-34 Fullback can carry Kh-59, Kh-58, Kh-38, Kh-29, and Kh-25 air-to-surface missiles, as well as Kh-65 and Kh-36 cruise missiles. The aircraft can also take out ships with its Kh-35 and Kh-31 anti-ship missiles. The aircraft’s stand-off munitions can reach targets up to 160 miles away. In addition, the Su-34 can carry a wide range of conventional bombs. For strafing and dogfighting, the fighter jet packs a 30mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 cannon with 120 rounds.

The Su-34 Fullback is based on the Su-27 Flanker, an air superiority fighter jet. It can conduct both solo and group bombing missions day and night and in all weather conditions. Usually, however, Su-34s fly in small numbers as Russian doctrine isn’t designed to support large-scale air operations at the same time. 

Ideally, the Russian Aerospace Forces would like the Su-34 to replace the Su-24 tactical strike fighter and the Tu-22 long-range bomber. Many militaries are trying to compress different capabilities into one platform to facilitate better maintenance and alleviate logistical woes—the U.S. F-35 Lighting II is the perfect example of this effort. 

In terms of performance, the Su-34 Fullback can reach speeds of almost Mach 2 (or 1,500 miles per hour), has an operational range of 2,500 miles (without aerial refueling), and can withstand up to 9G forces. As a tactical bomber, the Su-34 Fullback has a pressurized cabin and doesn’t require oxygen masks up to 33,000 feet.

The aircraft entered service in 2014, and more than 150 have been produced. The Su-34 is also available for export in conventional form, as well as in a maritime strike version (the Su-34FN), which includes a Sea Snake radar, anti-submarine warfare systems, radio sonobuoy system and a magnetic anomaly detector.

The Ukrainian forces have destroyed several Su-34 Fullbacks in the air and on the ground. 

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].