In the light of the operation of the Russian VKS, deployed in the Syrian Arab Republic, the attention of foreign and domestic media once again attracted one of the most recently discussed Russian combat aircraft - Su-24M.
Previously, this front-line bomber was heavily criticized for its high accident rate, operational complexity and “outdated design”. The opinion of “experts” and officials of the Russian Ministry of Defense about the necessity of decommissioning these aircraft was repeatedly published in print and online publications. Now, in the same media, the combat effectiveness of the upgraded Su-24М is very high, according to the results of attacks on IG facilities. In the photo and video coming from Syria, the combat work of the “obsolete” Su-24М is demonstrated even more often than the more modern Su-34. In fairness, it should be said that the Su-24 family of bombers have always been controversial.
On the one hand, this plane has in many respects still not been surpassed in the Russian air force by the possibility of a breakthrough of air defense and the application of high-precision rocket-bomb strikes. For a long time it was equipped with the most advanced among other domestic winged percussion machines with sighting and navigation equipment.
On the other hand, Su-24 did not forgive piloting errors and negligence of ground maintenance. Since its inception, this aircraft has earned a very strict reputation. This is largely due to the fact that the designers in the pursuit of high performance even at the design stage laid many new technical solutions that were not previously used in other domestic combat aircraft.
The first serial Su-24 in 1973 year entered the Lipetsk Center for combat use and retraining of flight personnel. The first military unit that began to master the Su-24 in 1974 was the Kerch Red Banner 63-th BAP stationed in the Kaliningrad region, before that it was armed with Yak-28B aircraft.
One of the first production Su-24s at the Museum aviation Air Force technicians in Monino
In the initial period of operation, when the technical reliability of the aircraft was rather low, the necessary experience was not accumulated, and it was not possible to get rid of most of the “childhood ills”, the reputation of the Su-24 among the flight crew was largely saved by the reliable ejection seats of the K-XNUMHD. As well as initially a large margin of safety, often in the event of an emergency landing, even though the aircraft could not be restored after that, the crew remained unharmed.
Compared with its predecessors, the front bomber Il-28 and Yak-28B supersonic Su-24 had more than doubled the bomb load and could carry almost the entire spectrum of the then-guided aviation armament of front-line attack aircraft. Due to the variable geometry of the wing, the Su-24 had the ability to make low-altitude high-speed throws, while having good take-off and landing characteristics. Especially for this front-line bomber, large-caliber one-and-a-half bombs FAB-1500С were created with aerodynamically perfect hull shape.
The large range and complexity of the use of certain types of guided weapons and "special ammunition" led to the fact that in the bomber regiments had to introduce "specialization". In combat training of one or two squadrons, emphasis was placed on the use of X-23M and X-28 guided air-to-air missiles, another squadron was preparing to use nuclear weapon.
The fact that the Su-24 in the USSR was considered as one of the main carriers of tactical nuclear weapons was reflected in the appearance of the aircraft. On all the Su-24 combatants, a special paint with a highly reflective white coating was applied to the nose, front edges of the wing and the lower part of the fuselage. Part of the Su-24 was completed with curtains to protect the crew from blinding with a flash of a nuclear explosion.
Unlike the first Su-7B and Su-17, built on AZiG and originally entered service in combat regiments stationed in the Far East, Su-24, which were produced in Novosibirsk, were mainly sent to Western airfields. An exception was the 277 th Mlavsky Red Banner BAP, based at the Khurba airfield at Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which in 1975 was one of the first in the Air Force to change its IL-28 to Su-24.
Despite the fact that until the end of 70's, the reliability of a number of Su-24 electronic systems left much to be desired, in the 1979 year, these machines armed three bomber regiments deployed in the territory of the GDR. Soon, at the disposal of the Western press and special services appeared high-quality photos of the Su-24, as well as the real name of the aircraft became known.
At that time, foreign intelligence paid particular attention to the Su-24. In the West, they rightly feared that a front bomber, literally stuffed with numerous technical innovations, by virtue of its high speed and impact characteristics, could change the balance of power in Western Europe. Even with a low-altitude flight profile, the Su-24, based in East Germany, could strike targets in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Northern Italy.
In the first half of the 80-s, most of the aiming and navigation equipment of the Su-24 combat units reached an acceptable level of reliability. At the plant in Novosibirsk, where construction was carried out, improvements were introduced from series to series. Changes were made to the mechanization of the wing, electrical equipment, navigation systems, radio intelligence and state recognition.
A very important feature of the Su-24 is the high degree of interchangeability of nodes and some large units. This allowed for urgent repairs in combat conditions to move the damaged part or assembly from one machine to another.
Su-24 bombers (without the letter “M”) in 80-s were refined to allow the use of new anti-radar missiles X-58, for which a suspension was provided in the container of the “Phantasmagoria” target station.
To maintain a high combat potential in the new conditions and eliminate a number of deficiencies in the design of the aircraft and the avionics, almost immediately after the Su-24 was put into service, the design bureau began to develop an improved version of the front bomber with higher operational and combat characteristics. In 1984, the Su-24M entered service.
The most noticeable external difference from the Su-24 was the longer nasal part, which received a slight downward slope. Installing an air refueling system significantly increased the combat range. Another innovation was the sighting and navigation station PNS-24М "Tigr", which includes the search radar "Orion-A" and the radar "Relief", with the help of which the flight is carried out at extremely low altitude with rounding of the terrain. The introduction of the Seagull, instead of an electron-optical reticle, of the new Kaira-24 sighting system with a laser range finder, a target designator and a television unit, made it possible to use new types of high-precision guided aircraft weapons.
The laser-television station LTPS-24 "Kaira-24", thanks to a special prism made of ultra-pure glass, deflected the rays to an angle of up to 160 degrees down and back, could "see" the reflected signal from the target laser target indicator falling into the lens of the tracking camera in horizontal flight bomber when the target was behind him. This made it possible to use guided weapons even in a gentle climb. Prior to this, front-line aircraft could use weapons from a laser seeker only with a dive.
The introduction of the Su-24M avionics with the new sighting equipment gave the bomber a “second wind” and the possibilities that no Soviet combat aircraft had before. The front-line bomber ammunition was replenished with adjustable bombs KAB-500L, KAB-1500L and guided C-25L, X-25, X-29L missiles with semi-active laser homing heads. The Kaira-24 sighting system television indicator was also used for targeting X-29T guided missiles and KAB-500Kr adjustable bombs.
Heavy X-59 guided missiles with a 40 km launch range and KAB-1500ТК bombs could be used to attack fortified targets covered with strong air defense. To do this, the aircraft was suspended on a container APK-9 with television control equipment. The planning range of the KAB-1500ТК and the launch of the X-59 made it possible to hit targets that were covered with a small-range air defense missile system without entering their zone of operation. In some ways, only the MiG-24K fighter-bomber could compete with the Su-27K sighting system Kaira in terms of the use of guided weapons in the Soviet air forces. But compared with the Su-24M, which carried a much greater bomb load and had a greater range of fighter-bombers, the MiG-27 of this modification was not built much.
But not all the improvements and innovations were definitely successful. As it often happens, winning in one - lost in the other. The pilots who previously piloted the Su-24, during the transition to the Su-24M, noted a deterioration in handling on turns. Due to the introduction of the "aerodynamic knives", the flight range fell somewhat.
The transition to the Su-24M with its new aiming and navigation complex of the flight crew passed fairly quickly. Certain difficulties in the development of a new, more complex avionics arose from the engineering service.
In 1985, reconnaissance Su-24MR began to arrive in the troops. At that time, the Soviet Air Forces experienced an acute need for a tactical reconnaissance aircraft with an increased range, which could conduct not only aerial photography, but also radio reconnaissance.
Unlike the bomber, the reconnaissance version of the "twenty-four" is deprived of the opportunity to carry the bomb load. Pylons can be used to hang two outboard fuel tanks PTB-2000 or PTB-3000, or lighting bombs to provide photography at night.
For self-defense on the Su-24MR suspended rocket melee P-60. The main "weapon" of the reconnaissance aircraft is side-looking radar, aerial cameras, as well as removable outboard containers that house equipment for electronic and radiation reconnaissance, as well as laser systems.
Theoretically, the Su-24MR provides comprehensive reconnaissance at any time of day, to a depth of 400 km from the line of military contact of troops. But in the troops, the Su-24MR’s flight and technical staff are quite skeptical about the capabilities of remote transmission of reconnaissance equipment.
In practice, the equipment with which the information from the aircraft of the reconnaissance aircraft was supposed to be transmitted in real time did not work reliably. As a rule, intelligence was obtained with some delay. After the flight, the blocks of information storage and film with the results of aerial photography are sent to decryption, which means the loss of efficiency and the possible exit of mobile targets from the planned impact. In addition, data collection with the help of aerial cameras in the presence of the enemy advanced air defense system is always fraught with considerable risk of losing reconnaissance aircraft, which happened more than once during real combat operations.
The new Su-24M front-line bombers came mainly to the regiments that had previously operated the Su-24. But, in contrast to, say, the Su-17 fighter-bombers, whose early modifications were put into storage as more advanced versions arrived, the Su-24 front-line bombers continued to fly even to the full development of the resource.
Su-24 naval aviation at the airfield Guards
An example of the longevity of the Su-24 (without the letter “M”) is that the aircraft of this modification, belonging to the 43-th Sevastopol Red Banner Order of Kutuzov, had a separate naval attack aviation regiment based at the Guards Airfield in the Crimea, until recently they were lifted into the air. After the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, it was decided to re-equip this regiment with more modern machines, which the leadership of Ukraine had previously opposed. Until now, several Su-24s at the airfield in Guards are in flying condition and can, if necessary, accomplish a combat mission. But the age of these bombers is approaching 40 years, these are the most honored Russian combat aircraft of front-line aviation.
The used Su-24 re-armed aviation regiments in the rear military districts. There are cases when not only bomber and fighter-bomber air regiments passed on them, but also fighter ones, armed with which before that were air defense interceptors.
To a large extent, this demonstrated the importance the Soviet military leadership attached to this front-line bomber, which, in addition to high impact capabilities, laid a large margin of safety. Despite the high price, the complexity of operation and the accident rate, a total of about 1993 Su-1200 of various modifications was built before the end of production in 24. For comparison, the F-111, which is considered to be an analogue of the Su-24, was built in the USA in two times less - the 563 aircraft. Operation of the F-111 ended in the 1998 year.
There is information about the conversion of a certain amount of Su-24 into aircraft tankers Su-24T (tanker). Small series built aircraft EW Su-24MP (jammer). From the Su-24M they externally differed by the presence of a small fairing in the nose. The plane was set up very sophisticated for the beginning of 80-s complex of jamming "Lily of the valley." It was intended primarily for organizing opposition to the air defense system stations, including the American “Patriot”, which was only just beginning to enter service.
As conceived by the developers, the built-in and suspended container equipment of the Su-24MP was supposed to provide group protection for the Su-24 bombers under the conditions of operations of a well-organized enemy air defense system. The first Su-24MP were operated in "test mode". Due to the great complexity, the reliability of the REP “Landysh” complex was low, the collapse of the USSR did not allow to bring this equipment to the performance characteristics that satisfied the military.
In the same way as the Su-24MR reconnaissance engineer, the Su-24MP jammer from a weapon carried only the P-60 air combat missiles. After the collapse of the USSR, all the Su-24MP combat troops remained in Ukraine (the 118-th separate air regiment of REP aircraft in Chertkovo).
In 80-e for the Su-24 was developed universal suspension unit refueling (ORM), which was later used on other types of combat aircraft.
Due to the absence of the internal bomb-landing package of the Su-24, the UPAZ was made suspended. A turbine is used to drive the fuel pump, which is driven by the oncoming air flow. For refueling the unit has a hose length of about 30 meters. Refueling begins automatically after a reliable docking cone with the bar of the refueled aircraft.
Su-24M with suspended ORM and outboard fuel tanks
In 1984, it was decided to "run around" the Su-24 in real combat conditions. The mountains of Afghanistan were completely unlike the European plains, for the actions on which this front-line bomber was conceived. In Afghanistan, a low-speed high-speed flight mode designed to break through air defense proved to be unclaimed. Lack of large radio contrast targets, such as enemy columns tanks or bridges, and the features of the terrain did not make it possible to fully realize the capabilities of the sighting and navigation complex.
There was no particular difference in the effectiveness of the air strikes inflicted by the Su-24 149 Guards Red Banner BAP and the upgraded Su-24М 43 BN. At the same time, it was noted that, despite the lack of preliminary training and the crew’s lack of knowledge of the target area, these front-line bombers experienced no difficulties with navigation and carried a much greater bomb load compared to other fighters, fighter-bombers and attack aircraft.
Su-24 turned out to be the only front-line aircraft under which powerful FAB-1500 was hung. In addition, the large range of the “twenty-fours” allowed them to be based outside Afghanistan, on Soviet airfields in Central Asia.
To ensure the operation of the Su-24 sighting systems, the An-30 and Su-17М3Р reconnaissance aircraft carried out aerial photography in the area of the alleged air strikes, as well as the exact coordinates of the targets.
In the course of the assault on the fortification of the Akhmat Shah Masud area in the Panshsky gorge, there was a moment when, due to weather conditions, the Su-24 was the only combat aircraft providing air support to the advancing troops.
The next time, the Su-24 was shaken by the Afghan mountains with the roar of its engines and the explosions of 1988-1989 in the winter, covering the exit of the 40 Army. As in the 1984 operation, high-explosive aerial bombs weighing 250-500 kg were mainly used. The obvious advantage of the Su-24 - the ability to deliver fairly accurate strikes from remote home-based airfields, regardless of the weather conditions in the target area, was confirmed. In Afghanistan, the Su-24 flew at altitudes not lower than 5000 m, beyond the reach of MANPADS.
After the collapse of the USSR, Su-24 of various modifications, except Russia, went to Azerbaijan (11 units), Belarus (42 units), Kazakhstan (27 units), Ukraine (200) units. and Uzbekistan (30 units).
Azerbaijani Su-24 front-line bombers and Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft were used in the conflict with Armenia in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. One Azerbaijani Su-24MR crashed, crashing into a mountainside. At the same time, the defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh ascribe this victory to themselves.
Uzbekistan in 1993 used Su-24М for bombing the camps and villages occupied by the Tajik armed opposition during the civil war in Tajikistan. Apparently, they were not ruled by ethnic Uzbeks. The Uzbek authorities acknowledged the loss of one front-line bomber shot down from Stinger MANPADS. Crew members managed to successfully eject, and they were picked up by a search and rescue helicopter.
Uzbek Su-24M at Karshi airbase
In August, 1999 of the year in Tajikistan, residents of several villages rallied over the alleged bomb strike that was inflicted by four Su-24M of unidentified affiliation. As a result of the bombing of human victims there was no, but, as the protesters stated, about 100 livestock heads died, and the crops were set on fire. Perhaps the purpose of this demonstration bombardment was the “intimidation action” of the opposition Tajik field commanders.
Satellite image Google Earth: Su-24 Uzbekistan Air Force at Karshi airfield
In 2001, the Uzbek Su-24M, supporting the "Northern Alliance", attacked the Taliban's positions. One bomber was shot down, both crew members died. At present, all the surviving Uzbek Su-24 are “stored”.
An interesting case is related to the “twenty-fours” inherited to Ukraine, which was forever included in history Air Force of Russia and Ukraine. February 13 1992 from the Ukrainian Starokonstantinov airfield, where the 6 BAP airplanes were based, 6 Su-24M soared. Bombers landed at a Russian airfield in Shatalovo near Smolensk. The main motive of the pilots who hijacked the Su-24M to Russia was the unwillingness to swear allegiance to the new Ukrainian authorities. In this case, the banner 6-th BAP was taken to Russia by car. 12 people, including five regimental commanders of various ranks, including the chief of staff of the regiment, left Ukraine together with their bombers. This story, which happened on the eve of the meeting of the leaders of the CIS in Minsk, received a great response.
The fate of the “twenty-fours” hijacked from Ukraine turned out to be unenviable. Having removed, in general, the banner of an aviation regiment in Russia, which was useless, the pilots, some of whom were in considerable ranks, for some reason did not bring with them the forms for the main units — the airframe and the engines. Operation without the forms according to the existing rules of combat aircraft is impossible, since it is not known how long the aircraft spent in the air, when and what types of maintenance and repairs took place. This is especially true for the AL-21F-3 engines, the overhaul life of which is 400 hours, and the 1992 hours assigned to the 1800 year.
As a result, no one began to take responsibility and bother with the restoration of technical documentation. All the "Ukrainian" Su-24M in Shatalovo were "under the fence." Where they were “buried”, using as “donors”, dismantling some “non-critical” units and parts from them.
Currently, all Ukrainian Su-24М and Su-24МР are concentrated in Starokonstantinov, which became famous in 1992, where the 7 Brigade of tactical aviation is based. Brigade planes took part in the ATO in the south-east of Ukraine, where they lost three combat vehicles from anti-aircraft guns and MANPADS. Apparently, the Ukrainian pilots, using unmanaged types of aircraft armament, neglected the “golden” rule for the Su-24 - in combat missions against irregular armed formations that have small-caliber anti-aircraft installations and MANPADS, do not descend below 5000 meters.
The author is grateful to the "Ancient" for the advice