The Russian air force has started acceptance trials of the upgraded Sukhoi Su-25SMFrogfoot strike aircraft after a year-long manufacturer's test programme.

The Su-25SM has a Pantera GPS satellite navigation-based weapons system and is compatible with laser- and TV-guided munitions. Unlike standard Su-25s, the upgraded aircraft is equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system and can operate at night.

Vladimir Babak, general director of the Sukhoi Attack Aircraft consortium, says the air force test programme will last a year.

Only one Su-25SM has been built, although a second will be completed by year-end. Next year, the air force's maintenance centre in Kubinka is scheduled to upgrade three Su-25 single-seaters as well as modifying an Su-25UB twin-seat into a Su-25UBM.

The Su-25SMfills some of the capability gap created by a lack of funds to procure the Su-25T, which is equipped with the Shkval optical sight used with the KBM 9K121 Vikhr (AT-16) supersonic laser-guided anti-armour missile. A single Su-25Tsquadron is in Russian air force service.

Meanwhile, Russian air force trials of the Mil Mi-24PN night-capable combat helicopter at the Akhtubinsk flight-test centre are set to be completed by year-end.

The Mi-24PN upgrade includes a modified cockpit, Krasnogorsk Optics' Zarevo infrared sighting system, fifth-generation night vision goggles and Kolomna 9M120 Ataka missiles.

The Russian armed forces have ordered upgrades of 120 Mi-8s and Mi-24s to the night-attack variants, says Aleksei Samusenko, general designer of Mil's Moscow helicopter plant.

Mil is offering two PN sub-variants: the PN-1, with the Mi-24's original rotor system and a fixed undercarriage replacing the earlier retractable gear; and the PN-2, which has a rotor system developed for the Mi-28N with new main rotor blades and a tail rotor with offset blades.

Source: Flight International