Aleksander Javorsky

A lot has already been written about the weapons system developed by Sukhoi design bureau on the base of the Su-32 reconnaissance-strike naval aircraft of coastal basing. But the development goes on and on, thus proving once and again that the system is unique.

Су-32The Su-32 supersonic aircraft is intended for protection of the sea economic zone and defense of the territories having sea borders in simple and adverse weather conditions, day and night. The aircraft can also be used in air defense acting against the enemy’s aerial assault means (aircraft and cruise missiles). The airplane has no equals anywhere in the world among aircraft developed for the same role in the areas of crew protection and comfort during long-duration missions. The weapons system has no analogues in the world in terms of combat capabilities. A lot has changed since the first display of the Su-32 at Le Bourget in 1995 and 1997. As it was originally envisaged, the open-end architecture of the on-board avionics set has provided the possibility to create tailor-made variants of the aircraft for most demanding customers. Today, airplanes of the pre-series batch carry a modified avionics set with extended capabilities. One of the Su-32s (side number 6) features a revised cockpit. One of the most distinguishing features of the airplane is its multi functionality that allows the command of an air unit to have flexibility in using a fleet of same-type aircraft. For instance, a regiment commander (or a wing commander – depending on structure of national air force) can send two Su-32 squadrons on a patrol and anti-ship mission, while sending another squadron on counter-air patrol (CAP) mission. It should be noted, though, that even in the bomber variant the aircraft has the capability to perform air-to-air missions.

All airplanes in the unit have the same functional capabilities, and therefore can be used in any possible configuration depending on weapons carried and crew skills. It is the fact of life that pilots trained to air-to-air missions, do not perform that good when flying ground strike missions and vise versa. Crew training for units flying the Su-32 is made easier. The pilots are trained on two different programs, while weapons officers, who are to fly both sorts of missions, and, additionally, are to undertake navigation and weapons firing functions.

In 1999 the Su-32 set seven Russian national records in the C-class on payload delivery (C-11 subclass). Shortly after FAI registered those records as world’s ones. Not many specialists know that these records were set by the airplane flying in a standard configuration, without following any special flight program calling for reducing the airplane’s weight (such as removal of “odd” equipment). The engines installed on the record-braking aircraft were standard models without additional reheat. In fact, the airplane carried a normal weapons load that consisted of guided and unguided munitions.

Specialists can imagine the destructive potential of this plane carrying guided air-to-surface munitions weighing up to 5,000 kg, fairly modern long-range weapons. Warheads of these munitions can cause considerable destruction to targets.

Although unique and modern, the Su-32 weapons system is not so expensive as western aircraft of the same class. It is affordable even for those nations that are not on the list of the world’s wealthiest countries. The Su-32’s export potential is relatively high. There are quite many countries in various regions of the world that have a long sea border and the will to protect their territories from would-be aggressors. Also, there is a need of control over sea communications, fighting piracy etc. A number of nations have already expressed their interest in acquiring the plane. The Su-32 can be delivered to a customer in an anti-ship version as early as in 2002. Aircraft with extended combat capabilities (able to act against surface ships and submarines) will be available in 2003.