MOSCOW, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Russia's Air Force should get at least five new state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bombers this year.
Sukhoi said Monday it had just commenced full-scale production of the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber at a Novosibirsk-based aircraft-manufacturing plant, a subsidiary of Sukhoi Aircraft Holding, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"In 2008, our plant will increase its production capacity by 15-20 percent and will manufacture at least five Su-34 aircraft, while modernizing 20 Su-24 Fencer planes," said Alexander Kalashnikov, deputy general director of the Novosibirsk plant according to the report.
RIA Novosti said the Su-34 could prove to be a world leader for the next generation of combat aircraft. The news agency said the Russian Air Force planned to buy 70 of them by 2015 to take over from its current front line fighter bomber fleet of about 300 aging Sukhoi Su-24s. The Su-24s are still being upgraded to give them a longer operational life, the report said.
RIA Novosti said the first two serial-production Su-34s were bought by the Russian Defense Ministry in 2007 and that since then they have been based at the Lipetsk pilot training center where they have been used to train combat pilots.
RIA Novosti said the Su-34 fighter-bomber cost $36 million per unit. It described the plane as "a two-seat strike aircraft fitted with twin AL-31MF afterburner turbojet engines (which was) is designed to deliver high-precision strikes on heavily-defended targets under any weather conditions, day or night."
The report said the Su-34 was armed with a 30-mm GSh-301 cannon, up to 12 Alamo or Archer AAMs, ASMs, and bombs.