Russian SU-24M2. (Photo: Toshi Aoki)
The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 "Fencer D" all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.
The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced "glass cockpit" with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia's knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.
The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi's Libya, Hafez al-Assad's Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq's Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni's hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)
The transfer comes as part of Russia's military assistance to Assad's regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.