SUKHOI HAS begun testing the Sorbtsiya-S electronic- countermeasures (ECM) system on board the first prototype of its next-generation Su-34 long-range strike aircraft.

The aircraft, previously known as the Su-27IB, is being flown from the Zhukovsky flight-test research centre, near Moscow, with the Sorbtsiya-S fitted in wing-tip pods.

Previously, the Sorbtsiya system has been seen on the naval variant of the Su-27 Flanker and the Su-35 advanced Flanker derivative.

The first two prototype Su-34s, rather than the Su-27IB, have so far, not been seen fitted with the pods. The Su-27IB's wingtip R-73 (AA-11 Archer) launch rails have been replaced by the Sorbtsiya-S wide-spectrum jamming pod.

It is expected that the first Su-34 testbed at Zhukovsky (aircraft number 42) will be joined by the second prototype aircraft this month. Aircraft number 43, the first prototype Su-34, is also believed to be at Zhukovsky.

The most obvious difference between the Su-27IB and the Su-34 is that the former has a single main landing-gear, while the latter has a twin-wheel arrangement, reminis- cent of that of the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound.

The Sorbtsiya-S ECM system, is believed to belong to a family of ECM pods, which also includes the Schmalta and Gardeniya pods. The Sorbtsiya, however, may be the more-capable system.

The Su-34 programme is taking a high priority within the Russian air force's requirements. The Novosibirsk Chkalov production plant is now assembling the fourth and fifth prototypes of the aircraft.

These aircraft are described as being in a production configuration, say plant officials. The air force wants about 12 Su-34s by 1998. Sukhoi hopes to bring an Su-34 prototype to the Paris air show in June.

Source: Flight International