Sukhoi Su-24

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Sukhoi Su-24 inflight Mishin-2.jpg
Su-24M of the Russian Air Force, May 2009
Role All-weather attack aircraft/interdictor
National origin Soviet Union / Russia
Manufacturer Sukhoi
First flight T-6: 2 July 1967; 55 years ago (1967-07-02)
T-6-2I: 17 January 1970; 52 years ago (1970-01-17)
Introduction 1974
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Algerian Air Force
Produced 1967–1993[1]
Number built Approximately 1,400

The Sukhoi Su-24 (

supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft developed in the Soviet Union. The aircraft has a variable-sweep wing, twin-engines and a side-by-side seating arrangement for its crew of two. It was the first of the USSR's aircraft to carry an integrated digital navigation/attack system.[1] It remains in service with the Russian Air Force, Syrian Air Force, Ukrainian Air Force, Algerian Air Force
and various other air forces to which it was exported.



One of the conditions for accepting the

Su-7 design was too small to contain all the avionics required for the mission.[2] OKB-794 (later known as Leninets)[3] was tasked with developing an advanced nav/attack system, codenamed Puma, which would be at the core of the new aircraft.[1] That same year, the United States proposal for their new all-weather strike fighter would be the TFX. The resulting F-111
would introduce a variable-geometry wing for greatly increased payload, range, and low-level penetration capabilities.

In 1962–1963, Sukhoi initially set out to build an aircraft without the complexity of moving wings like the F-111. It designed and built a mockup of S-6, a delta wing aircraft powered by two Tumansky R-21 turbojet engines and with a crew of two in a tandem arrangement. The mockup was inspected but no further work was ordered due to lack of progress on the Puma hardware.[2]

In 1964, Sukhoi started work on S-58M. The aircraft was supposed to represent a modification of the

Soviet Air Force requirements called for a low-altitude strike aircraft with STOL capability. A key feature was the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds at low altitude for extended periods of time in order to traverse enemy air defenses.[2] To achieve this, the design included two Tumansky R-27 afterburning turbojets for cruise and four Rybinsk RD-36-35 turbojets for STOL performance. Side-by-side seating for the crew was implemented since the large Orion radar antennas required a large frontal cross-section.[2] To test the six-engine scheme, the first Su-15 prototype was converted into S-58VD flying laboratory which operated in 1966–1969.[2]

Design phase

The aircraft was officially sanctioned on 24 August 1965 under the internal codename T-6. The first prototype, T-6-1, was completed in May 1967 and flew on 2 July with Vladimir Ilyushin at the controls.[2] The initial flights were performed without the four lift jets, which were installed in October 1967. At the same time, R-27s were replaced with Lyulka AL-21Fs. STOL tests confirmed the data from S-58VD that short-field performance was achieved at the cost of significant loss of flight distance as the lift engines occupied space normally reserved for fuel, loss of under-fuselage hardpoints, and instability during transition from STOL to conventional flight.[2] So the six-engine approach was abandoned.

By 1967, the F-111 had entered service and demonstrated the practical advantages and solutions to the technical problems of a swing-wing design. On 7 August 1968, the OKB was officially tasked with investigating a

variable geometry wing for the T-6. The resulting T-6-2I first flew on 17 January 1970 with Ilyushin at the controls. The subsequent government trials lasted until 1974, dictated by the complexity of the on-board systems.[2] The day or night and all-weather capability was achieved – for the first time[2] in Soviet tactical attack aircraft – thanks to the Puma nav/attack system consisting of two Orion-A superimposed radar scanners for nav/attack, a dedicated Relyef terrain clearance radar to provide automatic control of flights at low and extremely low altitudes, and an Orbita-10-58 onboard computer.[1] The crew was equipped with Zvezda K-36D ejection seats, allowing them to bail out at any altitude and flight speed, including during takeoff and landing.[1][2]
The resulting design with a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,900 mi) and payload of 8,000 kilograms (18,000 lb) was slightly smaller and shorter ranged than the F-111.

Ten fatal accidents occurred during Su-24 development, killing thirteen

test pilots, and more than 5 crashes per year were occurring at average after that [4]

A Russian Su-24M in flight, 2009

The first production aircraft flew on 31 December 1971 with V.T. Vylomov at the controls, and on 4 February 1975, T-6 was formally accepted into service as the Su-24.[2] About 1,400 Su-24s were produced.


Surviving Su-24M models have gone through a life-extension and updating program, with

HUD, digital moving-map generator, Shchel helmet-mounted sights, and provision for the latest guided weapons, including R-73 (AA-11 'Archer') air-to-air missiles. The upgraded aircraft are designated Su-24M2.[citation needed


The Su-24 has a shoulder-mounted

aspect ratio and wing area in low-level dashes. The variable geometry wing provides excellent STOL performance, allowing a landing speed of 230 kilometers per hour (140 mph), even lower than the Sukhoi Su-17
despite substantially greater take-off weight. Its high wing loading provides a stable low-level ride and minimal gust response.

The Su-24 has two

splitter plates
/boundary-layer diverters.

In early Su-24 ("Fencer A" according to

Mach 2.18, at altitude and a ceiling of 17,500 meters (57,400 ft). Because the Su-24 is used almost exclusively for low-level missions, the actuators for the variable intakes were removed to reduce weight and maintenance. This has no effect on low-level performance, but absolute maximum speed and altitude are cut to Mach 1.35 and 11,000 meters (36,000 ft).[5][unreliable source?] The earliest Su-24 had a box-like rear fuselage, which was soon changed in production to a rear exhaust shroud more closely shaped around the engines to reduce drag
. The revised aircraft also gained three side-by-side antenna fairings in the nose, a repositioned braking chute, and a new ram-air inlet at the base of the tail fin. The revised aircraft were dubbed "Fencer-B" by NATO, but did not merit a new Soviet designation.


The Su-24's fixed armament is a single fast-firing GSh-6-23 cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition, mounted in the fuselage underside. The gun is covered with an eyelid shutter when not in use.[citation needed] Two or four R-60 (NATO AA-8 'Aphid') infrared missiles are usually carried for self-defence by the Su-24M/24MK.[6]

Initial Su-24s had basic

/flare dispensers; others have such launchers scabbed onto either side of the tail fin.

Operational history

Substantial numbers of ex-Soviet Su-24s remain in service with Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. In 2008, roughly 415 were in service with Russian forces, split 321 with the Russian Air Force and 94 with the Russian Navy.[7]

The Russian Air Force will eventually replace the Su-24 with the Sukhoi Su-34.[8]

Soviet–Afghan War

The Soviet Union used some Su-24s in the Soviet–Afghan War, with an initial round of strikes in 1984 and a second intervention at the end of the war in 1988. No Su-24 was lost.[9]

Lebanese Civil War

On October 13, 1990, Syrian Air Force jets entered Lebanese airspace in order to strike General Michel Aoun's military forces. Seven Su-24s were used in this operation.[10]

Operation Desert Storm


Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force evacuated 24 of its 30 Su-24MKs to Iran. Another five were destroyed on the ground, while the sole survivor remained in service after the war.[citation needed

Tajik and Afghan civil wars

Fencers were used by the

MANPADS fired by fundamentalists. Both Russian crew members were rescued.[11][12]

In August 1999 Tajikistan protested over an alleged strike involving four UzAF Su-24s against Islamist militants in areas close to two mountain villages in the

Jirgatol District that, despite not producing human casualties, killed some 100 head of livestock and set ablaze several crop fields. Tashkent denied the accusations.[13]

In the final stages of the

1996-2001 phase of the Afghan civil war, Uzbekistan launched airstrikes against Taliban positions in support of the Northern Alliance. During a mission to attack a Taliban armoured infantry unit near Heiratan, an UzAF Su-24 was shot down on 6 June 2001, killing both crew members.[14][15]

First Chechen War

On 3 February 1995, during operations over Chechnya, a Russian Su-24M hit the ground in bad weather killing both crew members.[16]

Second Chechen War

Su-24s were used in combat during the

. The pilot was killed while the navigator was taken prisoner.

2008 Russo-Georgian War

In August 2008, a low intensity conflict in the breakaway Georgian regions of Samachablo and Abkhazia, escalated into the

Tu-22M3 long-range bomber were lost. Moscow Defence Brief provided a higher estimate, saying that Russian Air Force total losses during the war were one Tu-22M3 long-range bomber, one Su-24M Fencer fighter-bomber, one Su-24MR Fencer E reconnaissance plane and four Su-25 attack planes. Anton Lavrov listed one Su-25SM, two Su-25BM, two Su-24M and one Tu-22M3 lost.[19]

Libyan Air Force

Libya received five Su-24MK and one Su-24MR from the Soviet Union in 1989.

Libyan Air Force Su-24MK during fighting around Ra's Lanuf with a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun. Both crew members died. A BBC reporter was on the scene soon after the event and filmed an aircraft part at the crash site showing the emblem of the 1124 Squadron, flying the Su-24MK.[21][22][23]

Syrian Civil War

Starting in November 2012, 18 months after the beginning of the

Syrian Civil War and four months after the beginning of air raids by fixed-wing SyAAF aircraft, Su-24 bombers were filmed attacking rebel positions.[24] The SAF suffered its first Su-24 loss, an upgraded MK2 version, to an Igla surface-to-air missile on 28 November 2012 near the town of Darat Izza in the Aleppo Governorate. One of the crew members, Col. Ziad Daud Ali, was injured and filmed being taken to a rebel field hospital.[25]

Syrian Su-24s have reportedly also been involved in near-encounters with NATO warplanes. The first of such incidents occurred in early September 2013, when Syrian Su-24s of the 819th Squadron (launched from

F-16s. The Fencers were possibly testing the air defenses of the base (and their reaction time) in preparation for a possible military strike by the U.S, the United Kingdom and France in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Damascus allegedly committed by the Syrian government.[26]

On 23 September 2014, a Syrian Su-24 was shot down by an Israeli Air Defense Command MIM-104D Patriot missile near Quneitra, after it had flown 800 meters (2,600 ft) into Israeli controlled airspace over the occupied Golan Heights.[27] The missile hit the aircraft when it already re-entered into the Syrian air space.[28] Both crew members ejected safely and landed in Syrian territory.[29]

On 18 March 2018, a SyAAF Su-24 was shot down by rebels in East Qalamoun, East of Damascus province; it fell into territory controlled by Syrian government forces.[30][31]

On 1 March 2020, two SyAAF Su-24MK2s were shot down by Turkish Air Force F-16s using air-to-air missiles over the Idlib province. All four pilots ejected safely.[32][33]

2015 Russian military operation in Syria

The long-range striking power of the Russian aerospace forces in the region comes from the twelve Su-24M2 bombers that Russia sent to its base in Latakia, Syria.[34] On 24 November 2015, a Russian Su-24M was shot down by a flight of two Turkish F-16s near the Turkey–Syrian border. The two crew ejected before the plane crashed in Syrian territory. Russia claimed that the jet had not left Syrian airspace while Turkey claimed that the jet entered their airspace and was warned 10–12 times before being shot down.[35][36]

A deputy commander in a

S-400 SAM systems were deployed in Syria and a Russian cruiser was stationed off the coast to protect Russian aircraft.[38][39] Following the incident, Russia announced that Su-24s in Syria had been armed with air-to-air missiles on operational sorties.[citation needed

2014 War in Donbas

Ukrainian Su-24M over Starokostiantyniv
in 2015.

On 2 July 2014, one

MANPADS fired by pro-Russian forces. One of the engines was damaged but the crew managed to return to base and land. During landing a new fire started but it was extinguished by the ground crew.[40] Initially identified as a Su-25, on 20 August 2014 a Ukrainian Su-24M was shot down by pro-Russian forces in the Lugansk region and confirmed by Ukrainian authorities who reported that the crew members ejected safely and were recovered.[41][42] On 21 August 2014, the downed plane was identified as a Su-24M.[43]

Russian encounters with NATO forces

In late May 2015, a pair of Russian Su-24s made a low pass over the

Godetia. At the time of the incident, the Godetia was in use as the command ship of NATO’s northern mine-sweeping fleet.[46]

Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

In March 2015, Sudanese President

Houthis. Part of the military effort was the commitment of up to four recently acquired Sudanese Air Force Su-24s to the Saudi King Khalid Air Base where they were depicted. Sudanese Armed Forces did not specify the type of mission the Su-24s conducted.[47][48] Integrating few Soviet made combat jets with Air Forces using modern Western models (F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, Tornadoes, Typhoons) during an active military campaign would represent a first in the world which would require extensive communication integration or leaving the Soviet made jets operating on a different mission plan, not integrated with the rest of the campaign. Air defense units, like Saudi MIM-104 Patriot batteries, would either need to stand down, taking the risk of not monitoring for incoming threats or some very specific orders to avoid shooting down friendlies.[citation needed
] On 28 March 2015, during
Operation Decisive Storm, Houthi forces claimed they shot down a Sudanese Air Force Su-24.[49][50] Houthis published photos of an allegedly captured Sudanese pilot and metal parts claiming it as the aircraft wreckage.[51][52][53]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Su-24Ms were used by Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[54] Ukraine reportedly had 10-20 operational Su-24s prior to the invasion.[55]

In the first hours of the invasion, the Ukrainian Air Force used at least two Su-24Ms during the Battle of Antonov Airport against Russian Airborne Forces which had been inserted in the airport by helicopters.[56] On 27 February, one Ukrainian Su-24 was lost near Bucha, Kyiv Oblast. The pilots, Commander Ruslan Aleksandrovich Belous and Commander Roman Aleksandrovich Dovhalyuk, died, and were awarded with the Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky.[57][58] Another bomber was reported lost on 3 April, when a video emerged showing the crash site with the remains of a blue-coloured AL-21 engine employed by the Su-24.[59] On 10 April, another Ukrainian Su-24 was destroyed by Russian forces in Izyum.[60] On 19 May, a Su-24 from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade was lost near Pylove. The pilot Lt. Colonel Igor Khamar and the navigator Major Ilya Negar, died.[61][62]

On 9 August,

Saky Airport in Novofedorivka, Crimea destroyed and damaged several aircraft on the ground, among them at least five Russian Naval Aviation Su-24s.[63] Russia denied the loss of any aircraft, though this was refuted by satellite imagery.[64]

On 9 October 2022, an Su-24 crashed during landing in the Rostov region in Russia due to technical malfunction.[65]

In total as of 24 November 2022, Oryx open-source intelligence website has visually confirmed 8 Su-24 losses for Russia.[66]


Source: Sukhoi[2]


An early project in the gestation of the Su-24, like a meld of the Su-7 and Su-15.[67]


The initial prototype with cropped delta wings and 4 RD-36-35 lift engines in the fuselage.[67]

T6-2I / T6-3I / T6-4I

Prototypes for the variable geometry Su-24 production aircraft.[67]


The first production version, the armaments include Kh-23 and Kh-28 type air-to-ground guided missiles, together with R-55 type air-to-air guided missiles.[1] Manufactured 1971–1983.

Su-24M ('Fencer-D')

Work on upgrading the Su-24 was started in 1971, and included the addition of
inertial navigation system and digital computer were also added. A Kaira-24 laser designator/TV-optical quantum system (similar to the American Pave Tack) was fitted in a bulge in the port side of the lower fuselage, as well as Tekon track and search system (in pod), for compatibility with guided weapons, including 500 and 1,500kg laser-guided bombs and TV-guided bombs, and laser/TV-guided missiles Kh-25 and Kh-29L/T, anti-radar missiles Kh-58 and Kh-14 (AS-12 'Kegler') and Kh-59 (AS-13 'Kingbolt')/Kh-59M TV-target seeker guided missiles.[1] The new systems led to a reduction in internal fuel amounting to 85 l (22.4 US gal). Su-24M was manufactured in 1981–1993.[1]

Su-24M2 ('Fencer-D')

Next modernization of Su-24M introduced in 2000 with the "Sukhoi" program and in 1999 with the "Gefest" program. The modernized planes are equipped with new equipment and systems. As a result, they get new capabilities and improved combat efficiency, including new navigation system (SVP-24), new weapons control system, new HUD (ILS-31, like in Su-27SM or KAI-24) and expanding list of usable munitions (Kh-31A/P, Kh-59MK, KAB-500S). The last batch of the Sukhoi was delivered to the Russian VVS in 2009.[68] Modernization continues with the program "Gefest". All frontline bombers Su-24 in the Central Military District received new sighting and navigation systems SVP-24 in 2013.[69]

Su-24MK ('Fencer-D')

Export version of the Su-24M with downgraded avionics and weapons capabilities. First flight 30 May 1987 as T-6MK, 17 May 1988 as Su-24MK. Manufactured 1988–1992, sold to Algeria, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Many Iraqi examples were evacuated to Iran.
Su-24MR ('Fencer-E')
Dedicated tactical reconnaissance variant. First flight 25 July 1980 as T-6MR-26, 13 April 1983 as Su-24MR. Entered service in 1983. Su-24MR retains much of the Su-24M's navigation suite, including the terrain-following radar, but deletes the Orion-A attack radar, the laser/TV system, and the cannon in favor of two panoramic camera installations, 'Aist-M' ('Stork') TV camera, RDS-BO 'Shtik' ('Bayonet') side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), and 'Zima' ('Winter') infrared reconnaissance system. Other sensors are carried in pod form. Manufactured 1983–1993.[1] It is also being modernized.[70]

Su-24MP ('Fencer-F')

Dedicated electronic signals intelligence (
ELINT) variant, intended to replace the Yak-28PP 'Brewer-E'. First flight 14 March 1980 as T-6MP-25, 7 April 1983 as Su-24MP. The Su-24MP has additional antennas for intelligence-gathering sensors and radar jamming, omitting the laser/TV fairing, but retaining the cannon and provision for up to four R-60 (AA-8) missiles for self-defense. Only 10 were built.[1]


Current operators



  • Belarus Air Force[75]


  • Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force – 30 Su-24MKs were in service as of January 2013.[76] 24 Iraqi examples were evacuated to Iran during the 1991 Gulf War and were put in service with the IRIAF. Iran possibly purchased other Su-24s from Russia or other former Soviet States. Iran tested domestically produced anti-radar missiles carried by Su-24 aircraft in September 2011, the IRIAF's Deputy Commander, General Mohammad Alavi said, according to IRIB TV1.[77]


  • Libyan Civil War, but forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar claim to have refurbished a number of the Su-24s.[79]



  • Syrian Arab Air Force – 22 received. 20 Su-24MKs from the Soviet Union starting in 1987, one Su-24MK and one Su-24MR from Libya.[82] 20 were in service in January 2013.[76] All the Su-24MKs have been upgraded to Su-24MK2 standard, between 2009 and 2013. The contract for that was signed in 2009 and the upgrade started in 2010.[83]



Former operators



  • Iraq Air Force


  • Kazakhstan Air Defense Force


Notable recent accidents and incidents

  • On 10 April 2011 an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force Su-24MK crashed close to Khavaran village near the city of Sarvestan, about 80 km east of Shiraz in the southern province of Fars.[87]
  • On 30 October 2012, a Russian Air Force Su-24M crashed in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia. During the flight the nose cone fractured. After attempting an emergency landing, the crew of two flew to open territory and safely ejected. A regional government website stated that emergency was the result of aircraft control system failure. Flights of Su-24 were suspended at the Shagol base.[88]
  • On 21 March 2014, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-24M belonging to the 7th Brigade crashed during approach for landing near Starokonstantinov in the Khmelnitsky region, Ukraine. Both crew members ejected safely.[89]
  • On 13 October 2014, an Algerian Air Force Su-24 crashed during a training flight killing both crew members[90]
  • On 6 July 2015, a Russian Air Force Su-24 crashed outside of Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East killing one out of two crew members.[91]
  • On 24 November 2015, a Russian Air Force Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 near the Turkey-Syria border. Both crew ejected, but the pilot was killed by Turkmen rebels as he parachuted to the ground, while the navigator was rescued.[92]
  • On 10 October 2017, a Russian Air Force Su-24 crashed during takeoff at
    Khmeimim Air Base, Latakia province, Syria. Both crew members died in the crash.[93]
  • On 9 August 2022, a series of explosions occurred at the
    Saki Air Base in currently occupied Crimea, Ukraine. As a result, at least 1 Su-24 was destroyed, with satellite imagery taken hours before indicating there were at least two others in the immediate vicinity. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated "there had been no attack and no aviation equipment had been damaged."[94]

Specifications (Su-24MK)

Sukhoi Su-24MR at Kubinka airbase

Data from Sukhoi,[2] Combat Aircraft since 1945,[95],[96][97]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (pilot and weapons systems operator)
  • Length: 22.53 m (73 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 17.64 m (57 ft 10 in) wings spread
10.37 m (34 ft) wings swept


  • Maximum speed: 1,654 km/h (1,028 mph, 893 kn) / M1.6 at high altitude
1,315 km/h (817 mph; 710 kn) / M1.06 at sea level



Notable appearances in media

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-27
  • General Dynamics F-111
  • Panavia Tornado IDS
  • Xian JH-7
  • F-14 Tomcat
  • F-15E Strike Eagle



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Further reading

  • Air Forces Monthly, September 2015 (Iranian Su-24 force)

External links