This 35-year-old supersonic Russian fighter sees combat worldwide
During the Cold War, the F-111 Aardvark and the slightly larger FB-111 Switchblade were some of the fastest — and best — strike planes the United States Air Force had in its inventory. The F-111 never saw much in the way of export sales (the United Kingdom canceled a planned purchase, Australia bought less than two dozen), but the Russian counterpart to this fast and lethal bomber was sold far and wide.
That plane was the Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer." This plane was in the news just a year ago as the perpetrator of one of Russia's more notorious buzzing incidents. It shouldn't be a surprise that this plane was selected for those dangerous buzzing missions, though. In a very real sense, the Fencer was operating in its element.
Left side view of a Soviet Su-24 Fencer fighter/bomber aircraft. (Photo from DoD)
Like the F-111, the Su-24 is intended to operate at low levels and at high speeds. It can carry up to 8,000 kilograms (roughly 17,600 pounds) of ordnance, which typically ranges from missiles, like the AS-13 Kingbolt, to dumb bombs and rocket pods. The Su-24 also has an internal 23mm gun that carries 500 rounds of ammo.
Throughout its decades-long service, the Su-24 has been exported all over the place. It saw action with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War and Desert Storm. Russia used it during combat operations in Chechnya, Syria, and against Georgia. The plane also saw action in the Libyan Civil War. Other countries with Fencers on hand include Ukraine, Algeria, and Sudan.
Three-view recognition drawing of the Su-24. (Photo from DoD)
Most of the 1,400 Su-24s built were configured as bombers, but the plane did see two major variants. One, the Su-24MR, known as the "Fencer E," is a tactical reconnaissance version. The other, the Su-24MP, is an electronic intelligence version known as "Fencer F" by NATO.
Learn more about Russia's answer to the F-111 Aardvark in the video below.