BEFORE THE end of this year, the Russian Air Force’s 4th Combat and Conversion Training Centre (CCTC) in Lipetsk will receive its first two Sukhoi Su-34 multi-role tactical bombers. Addressing 59 OSCE observers in Lipetsk on September 5, the Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief, General Vladimir Mikhaylov, said: «One of the aircraft is due at the Lipetsk-based Centre very shortly, and the other in November.» They will be used to convert Russian AF flight and ground crews onto the type and to devise operational combat techniques. Official trials of the Su-34 are in the final stages, and early production aircraft are due to be fielded with combat units soon. The first production Su-34 built by the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO) was rolled out on July 6 this year. After a ground test programme, it made its maiden flight on October 12. After painting, it will be given the side number 49 and is expected to be one of the first two Su-34s slated for delivery to the CCTC in Lipetsk. According to General Mikhaylov, the Sukhoi design bureau will give the CCTC the other aircraft. This is likely to be the eighth Su-34 (side number 48) produced by NAPO to the Russian AF’s revised specification requirements in December 2003.
Having manufactured six prototype and low-rate initial production Su-34s between 1993 and 2003, NAPO began building the first production aircraft last year. Visiting the plant on March 23, 2006, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and defence minister, Sergey Ivanov, said that under the three-year contract, NAPO would supply the Russian Air Force with 24 Su-34s by 2010 to field the first air regiment with the type. As well as the two aircraft for delivery this year, construction of a further six Su-34s will be funded in 2007 and ten more in 2008.
The Air Force is scheduled to receive the first production bomber before the end of this year and it will shortly be followed by another now under construction. Ivanov said on July 7 that the Russian AF would have as many as 58 Su-34s by 2015, allowing two or three bomber air regiments from the previous-generation Su-24M bombers to convert to the advanced aircraft by the middle of next decade.