In football, fullbacks are used to bring hurt to the opposing team. They provide lead-blocking for the running backs and, at times, serve as offensive threats, running the ball or catching short passes. But one fullback can bring the hurt on the battlefield — both to threats in the air and on the ground.
Well, to be honest, this ‘fullback’ is an airplane. To be precise, it’s the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. The plane is intended to replace the Su-24 Fencer, an all-weather strike aircraft comparable to the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The Fullback is, in essence, a heavily modified Su-27 Flanker. Here’s what’s changed:
A Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback intercepted by Royal Air Force Typhoons over the Baltic Sea.
(Royal Air Force)
The Su-34 has a top speed of 1,134 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,485 miles. It can carry over 17,000 pounds of bombs, maintains wingtip rails for the AA-11 Archer, and packs a 30mm cannon. The plane can also carry the AA-12 Adder, a medium-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile.
Like its predecessor, the Su-24, the Fullback has a tandem seating arrangement that comfortably fits both the pilot and a weapons operator.
A Sukhoi Su-34 in flight.
(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)
The Fullback had an unusually lengthy time between its first flight in 1990 and its entry into service. The Russians introduced the Su-34 in 2014 – a full 24 years after its first flight. The collapse of the Soviet Union made it extremely difficult to find funding for this project. As cash slowly started to flow once more, so, too, did progress on this airframe’s production.
Currently, the Russian Air Force has 109 Su-34s in service, with another 39 on order or under construction. Currently, Russia still operates 296 Su-24 Fencers between their Air Force and Navy.
Learn more about Russia’s aerial Fullback in the video below.