Air International 2018-06
A.Mladenov - Russian Bears sharpen their claws /Military/
The MiG-31BM is the only specialised air defence type in the FA inventory. It is used to protect the vast territories without ground-based air defence infrastructure in the extreme northern and far eastern regions of Russia.
The Su-25SM is the mainstay of the FA's attack force, equipping six front-line squadrons, while the enhanced but long-delayed Su-25SM3 is now expected for service introduction this year.
Since the early part of this decade, the RuASF has sharply intensified aircrew training, including employment practice of air-to-surface weapons in attack and bomber regiments. The Su-25 Frogfoot fleet is easy to maintain and overhaul, and the type has ample life-extension reserves to remain in frontline service until the early 2030s. The Su-24M Fencer has been among the most problematic aircraft types in the FA fleet, with difficult maintenance and complex flight performance; the type has suffered from serious attrition in the past decade.
Currently the Su-25UB fleet is increasing, with plans for establishing one new regiment with two component squadrons, but pilot shortage is among the factors which prevented this taking place in 2017.
The Su-30SM (in the foreground) and Su-35S are the mainstays of the FA fighter fleet. Both are multi-role aircraft capable of delivering a wide range of precision-guided air-to-surface munitions.
The first Su-35S batch ordered for the RuASF in 2009 numbered 48 examples, the last of which were delivered in 2016. Deliveries of the second batch of 50 aircraft are expected to be completed in 2020.
This MiG-29SMT is from the first batch of newly built MiG-29SMTs which were handed over to the RuASF in 2009 and serves with the 14th Guards IAP at Kursk-Khalino. The humpbacked Fulcrums serving with the regiment will be replaced by the Su-30SM in 2018 but it is not known where they will be based after that.
This early production Su-34 belonging to the 47th BAP Su-34 is armed with four ZB-500GD napalm bombs.
In addition to bomber missions, the Su-34 is expected to be made compatible with the Sych under-fuselage recce pod.
The Fencer-D is set to continue its service with the FA branch until the early 2020s, flying with only two front-line squadrons and one conversion and training and instruction-research unit.
The swing-wing Su-24M Fencer-D serves in dwindling numbers with the FA, equipping only four front-line squadrons, two of which will convert to the Su-34 in 2018. A handful of aircraft, including this machine, fly with the Lipetsk combat training centre. Most of the surviving Fencer-Ds are upgraded machines, featuring the SVP-24 navigation/attack avionics package.
Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft are used to equip four independent recce squadrons - one in each of the four military districts.
Production of the Su-57 is expected to begin in 2018, with the first two examples being delivered to the RuASF for so-called experimental operation and field trials in late 2019. Currently, there are ten T-50 prototypes involved in the exhaustive test and evaluation effort.