NewsUkrainian drone strike cripples Russian airfield housing Su-34s

Ukrainian drone strike cripples Russian airfield housing Su‑34s

Destroyed Russian Su-34 aircraft
Destroyed Russian Su-34 aircraft
Images source: ©
Przemysław Juraszek

15 June 2024 08:21

Ukrainians conducted an attack using at least 70 drones on the Russian Morozovsk airfield, which houses Su-34 strike aircraft that pose a significant problem for Ukrainians. We present the details of this attack.

The attack occurred during the night of June 13-14, 2024, and judging by satellite images obtained by the portal The Warzone, at least a few Su-34 aircraft belonging to the 559th Bomber Regiment were destroyed or damaged.

Exact losses remain unknown until higher-resolution satellite images become available. In the currently available images, for example, two wrecks can be seen amidst the remnants of a hangar and numerous damages to parking spots usually occupied by Russian aircraft.

The Russians, as usual, claim no equipment losses, but information on Telegram channels suggests six pilots killed and ten soldiers injured. Most likely, the Russians, having learned from experience, evacuated all airworthy machines from the airfield in emergency mode upon seeing the incoming drones on their radar.

This was crucial when Russian air defence could only shoot down some incoming drones. These were simple constructions carrying, at most, dozens of kilograms of explosives, equipped with a combination of inertial and satellite navigation similar to previous drone attacks on Moscow or the Russian oil sector.

Su-34 strike aircraft - one of the key Russian machines

The tactical bomber Su-34, known in NATO as Fullback, is a development of the Su-27 aircraft designed specifically for attacking ground targets. It is a significantly larger design, equipped with canard foreplanes and armour to increase resistance to ground fire. The Su-34 was meant to replace older Su-24 aircraft in the Russian Air Force gradually.

A unique feature of the Su-34 is its cockpit design, where the pilots sit side by side rather than in a tandem arrangement (one behind the other). The Russians believe this setup improves cooperation between the pilots. Additionally, the cockpit is housed in a titanium-reinforced cocoon, increasing the pilots' chances of survival against anti-aircraft gunfire, such as from the Gepard or shrapnel from exploding anti-aircraft missiles in close proximity.

As a tactical bomber, the Su-34 can carry up to 8,000 kilograms of armament on 12 pylons, including S-8 unguided rocket pods, Kh-25 missiles, FAB glide bombs weighing up to 1,500 kg, and Raduga Kh-59 missiles with a range of over 200 kilometres. Additionally, the Su-34 is equipped with a 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon.

Glide bombs dropped from distances over 40 kilometres are particularly problematic for Ukrainians. No field fortifications can survive their precision strikes, which are accurate to within a few metres, and destroying the aircraft carrying them is difficult. However, using their own aviation or medium-range air defence systems, such as the Patriot or SAMP/T systems, is possible. Ukraine has considerable shortages in both categories of equipment.

For this reason, any destruction of a Su-34 aircraft in any way is very valuable to Ukrainians. At the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia had just over 130 Su-34 jets, with a unit cost of approximately £38 million (according to 2008 data, considering inflation). Current losses of these aircraft amount to at least 27 units, which is a significant loss for the Russian Air Force.

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