On 29 December 2022, the Russian Federation - Aerospace Forces (RF VKS) received another batch of three Sukhoi Su-34M (Su-34 NVO, NATO reporting name Fullback) front-line fighter bombers built at the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant (NAZ) named after V.P. Chkalov.
The delivered aircraft represent the 4th batch of Su-34M aircraft built by PJSC United Aircraft Corporation (UAC, part of the Rostec State Corporation) and they are part of the three-year contract signed in June 2020 by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the delivery of 24 modernised Su-34M bombers. This last batch of three Su-34Ms of the year 2022 amounts the total number of delivered Su-34M aircraft to 14 units, with the total number of all Su-34s built reaching 153 (incl. seven experimental and pre-production aircraft).
Judging by the provided photos, the three new aircraft have been presumably marked with bort numbers 01, 02 and 03 Blue and delivered to a new unknown aviation regiment, which has not been using Su-34 bombers before.
The initial batch of four Su-34Ms was transferred to the Khurba airfield (near Komsomolsk-on-Amur) back in November 2021 and since then has been serving with the 277.BAP (bomber aviation regiment) of the 303.SAD (mixed aviation division), part of the 11.KA VKS i PVO (Red Banner Army of Aerospace and Air Defence Forces) of the Eastern Military District. In 2022, two more batches of Su-34Ms were transferred to the same regiment – four aicraft in June 2022 and three in November 2022.
The side numbers of the Su-34M bombers previously delivered to 277.BAP were retouched in all official photos but we can assume that the supplies to the regiment made it possible to at least partially equip the 3rd squadron of the 277.BAP with Su-34Ms. The 1st and 2nd squadron of the 277.BAP have been operating 26 Su-34 aircraft delivered in 2016-2017, with two aircraft having been lost in a mid-air collision over the Tatar Strait on 18 January 2019. The 3rd squadron of the regiment has still been flying the older Su-24M2 front-line bombers, transferred during rearmament of the first two squadrons. We can assume that the newly delivered bombers at least partially serve as replacements for the aircraft lost in 2022.
The current pace of the production of the Su-34s is expected to continue until the end of the 20s and beyond. In August 2022, another Su-34M contract was signed, although the parameters of this deal are not yet publicly known. Generally, the Su-34s are being procured in greater numbers than either the Su-30SM or the Su-35S, as the Su-34 type is being produced exclusively for domestic use, while a significant part of the production capacity of the other two models is reserved for export.
In Russia, the Su-34 family is valued for its tremendous range and carrying capacity, comparable to the Tu-22M-3 strategic bomber, as well as powerful EW systems, which, combined with a relatively small effective RCS, makes them quite difficult to intercept. The currently running Su-34 NVO upgrade is only a part of the future upgrade programme which also counts with Su-34s receiving (Izd.117?) engines from the Su-57, a move which would further boost the already impressive capabilities of the platform.
On 29 June 2021, Scramble Magazine reported on the delivery of the first Su-34M fighter-bombers.
Photo via forums.airforce.ru