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MAKS: Su-34 central to Russian modernisation plan

The Russian air force wants to procure 120 Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft, the service's commander has revealed.

Speaking at the MAKS air show in Moscow, Gen Aleksander Zelin said five squadrons will eventually be armed with the two-seat type, with each to have 24 aircraft.

The Russian defence ministry's procurement plan for this year includes 12 Su-34s, and production activities at Sukhoi's NAPO plant in Novosibirsk are gradually picking up.

Orders have been confirmed for 32 Su-34s so far, with seven of these having been accepted into squadron service and a handful more being used by the defence ministry's weapons-assessment units and industry.

© Vladimir Karnozov

The air force is now working with United Aircraft and Sukhoi to firm-up contacts for follow-on batches, and intends to have 70 of the aircraft operational in 2015.

The Su-34 holds a prominent position in Russia's state arms-acquisition programme, which was validated earlier this year and runs until 2020.

It has been developed as a replacement for the air force's Su-24 swing-wing strike aircraft, currently the most numerous type in its combat aircraft inventory and the backbone of its frontal bomber units.

Powered by two AL-31FM engines - developed by NPO Saturn and produced by MMPP Salut - the Su-34 can carry 8,000kg (17,600lb) of weapons on 12 hard points.

In 2010, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev offered Beijing an export version dubbed the Su-32, but there has been no indication so far that China, or any other international customer, is seeking to acquire the aircraft.

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