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The Russian Su-34 Fullback Strike Jet is the king of gas transport

In the Su-34, the internal fuel load was increased to 25,130 pounds – 26,676 according to some sources – and there was now a retractable air-refueling probe on the port side of the nose. Despite this new capability, the non-refueling range remained of paramount importance, as in Soviet times (and still today) air refuellers were assigned to the long-range bomber branch and did not an integral part of tactical aviation doctrine.

In addition to this, the Su-34 can also hold up to three drop tanks, each containing 793 gallons, or the equivalent of 5,286 pounds of fuel per tank. These are the same PTB-3000 drop tanks that can be fitted under the fixed wing portion of the Su-24 and each carries more than the total internal fuel load of an F-5E fighter (4,516 pounds) and to about 1,700 pounds less than the F-16’s internal fuel volume (7,000 pounds).

In the case of a Fullback flying in a “three-bag” configuration, adding all of those fuel reserves together provides a grand total of 40,988 pounds of fuel – or 42,534 according to some sources. That’s roughly the equivalent of refueling 400 cars with 17-gallon fuel tanks or internal fuel tanks from six F-16s. In contrast, the current US Air Force tactical long-range strike specialist, the F-15E, carries a total 35,550 pounds of fuel (including three external tanks and compliant fuel tanks).

A ferry range of 2,485 miles is possible for the Fullback, marking a huge lead over the Su-24, and allowing the Su-34 to perform very long-range deployments, covering nearly half the length of the Russia. The range of ferries is actually very similar to the F-15E, which the Air Force States can reach 2,400 miles – again using compliant fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks.

More importantly, the Su-34 can reach a range of 1,864 miles when carrying six 1,100 pound bombs, four air-to-air missiles, and auxiliary tanks, and when flying at high altitudes. Flying at sea level with the same load, the plane can still travel an impressive 1,087 miles, according to data released by the Russian aerospace expert. Piotr Butowski.

Increase the weapons load to 8800 pounds and the low-flying Su-34 can hit targets within a 373 mile radius. This reaches 684 miles in high altitude flight.

Concretely, this means that if the Su-24 were to strike targets 90-180 miles behind the front line in a very high threat environment, the Su-34 can hit targets more than 300 miles behind the front line. . This is, after all, still the Fullback’s primary mission, cutting off forward troops from supplies from behind, targeting lines of communication as well as command and control centers and depots.

As it stands, the Su-34 has so far been employed on very different tasks, during the Russian campaign in support of the Syrian regime of Assad, launched in September 2015. During this conflict, the Su-34s mainly carried small loads of weapons, with rarely used external fuel tanks. A typical load in the early days of the campaign included only two 1,100-pound satellites KAB-500S bombs or a handful of dumb bombs.

The Fullback has so far only been used in combat in Syria, but if Russia launched a new campaign of offensive operations on Ukraine, it is likely that Su-34 units would be heavily involved. And, thanks to their prodigious range, Fullback units from bases much more distant in Russia could also make a significant contribution.

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