|Photo Credit: Military Photos.net|
The defense ministry had previously said 70 Su-34s would be delivered by 2015. Six aircraft are in service at Russia's test and evaluation center at Lipetsk, with a further 10 due to be delivered this year. The Russian air force will eventually field a total of about 120 Su-34s in five squadrons of 24 aircraft each, its commander Col Gen Alexander Zelin said at last year's MAKS air show near Moscow.
Powered by two AL-31MF turbofan engines, the twin-seat Su-34 is designed to conduct precision strikes on heavily defended targets under all weather conditions, day or night. It is armed with a GSh-301 30mm cannon and a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and bombs.
Noting that the Su-34 is entering service more than a decade behind original plans, Douglas Barrie, an air warfare analyst with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: "The Su-34 will, with the appropriate avionic and weapons systems, provide the air force with a capable long-range strike platform, with considerably more punch than the Su-24."
The defense ministry has said the air force will procure more than 1,500 new aircraft by 2020. Moscow's Su-34 order was signed only two days after the Russian navy confirmed an order for 24 RAC MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighters.