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    Evaluating the Influence of Western Air Defense Systems on Russian Su-34 Casualties in Ukraine

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    Sukhoi Su-34” by Pavel Vanka is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    In the complex aerial combat environment over Ukraine, the losses of Russia’s Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers should shock no one.

    Sukhoi Su-34 ‘Fullback’” by Pavel Vanka is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    These advanced warplanes, designed during the Soviet era, have demonstrated considerable capabilities in the Syrian Civil War.

    Sukhoi Su-34” by Pavel Vanka is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    However, the Ukrainian conflict has exposed the Su-34 to a new range of threats, primarily due to its deployment closer to the frontlines and the high-risk nature of its missions, which have made it increasingly vulnerable to Western-supplied air defense systems.

    Sukhoi Su-34” by Pavel Vanka is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The Su-34 is no ordinary aircraft. Its design specifications boast a pair of Saturn AL-31FM1 turbofan engines, allowing the aircraft to reach speeds of more than Mach 1.8.

    Multifunctional Russian Aircraft Sukhoi Su-34. Многофункциональный истребитель-бомбардировщик КБ Сухого Су-34.” by Peer.Gynt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    With a range of 2,500 miles extendable through advanced air refueling, it stands as a formidable force in the sky.

    It is armed with a versatile array of weaponry, including the R-77 air-to-air missile, two R-73 short-range air-to-air missiles, complemented by a 30 mm Gsh-301 cannon with 180 rounds.

    Despite these impressive features, the Su-34 has found itself increasingly at risk in the Ukrainian theater.

    According to Oryx Blog, which has been tracking data coming from the Ukraine War, Russia has lost as many as 26 of the Su-34s in combat since the start of the war.

    Now, that sounds like a lot. Considering how many Su-34s the Russians have in their arsenal—as well as the fact that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has identified the Ukraine War as an existential struggle for his armed forces—losing these systems in combat shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    Certainly, air defense systems like the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) and the Patriot missile batteries that Ukraine has been sending to the frontlines to harry Russian air attacks are lethal systems.

    Lessons will be learned from the way that these air defense systems have been deployed against waves of Russian warplanes.

    Ukrainian forces have showcased a persistent capability to defend their airspace, as evidenced by the downing of Russian SU-25 attack aircraft by the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade.

    Sukhoi Su-34” by Pavel Vanka is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The General Staff has tallied the loss of 348 Russian aircraft and 325 helicopters.

    Sukhoi Su-34 ‘RF-95841 / 10 red’ “Олег Пешков”” by Support your local Air Museum! (HawkeyeUK) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Concurrently, Ukraine’s own pilots have been conducting high-risk “wild weasel” missions to suppress and destroy Russian air defenses, utilizing tactics reminiscent of those developed by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War.

    Sukhoi Su-34 ‘RF-95841 / 10 red’ “Олег Пешков”” by Support your local Air Museum! (HawkeyeUK) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The arrival of the US-made AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs) has bolstered Ukrainian Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD) capabilities, despite the challenges of integrating such modern Western technology with Soviet-era jets.

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s Su-34 Fullback Fighter-Bomber Nightmare in Ukraine Should Shock No One, National Intererst, 05/12/2024
    Ukraine forces shoot down Russian Su, Euromaidan Press, 05/11/2024
    Ukraine’s pilots are flying high-risk ‘wild weasel’ missions first developed in the Vietnam War by the USAF, says defense analyst, Yahoo News UK, 05/11/2024
    Lonely Red Square Tank Speaks of Russia’s Growing Shortages of Military Equipment, The New York Sun, 05/10/2024
    Ukraine war latest: ‘Astonishing’ Putin reshuffle points to ‘serious instability’ in Russian leadership, ex-MI6 officer says, Sky News, 05/10/2024

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