Sukhoi Su-24

The Sukhoi Su-24 (NATO reporting name Fencer) was the Soviet Union's most advanced all-weather interdiction and attack aircraft in the 1970s and 1980s. The two-seat, twin-engined aircraft carried the first integrated digital nav/attack system deployed by the USSR. In many aspects, the Su-24 configuration is similar to that of the F-111. It remains in service with former Soviet air forces and various export nations.

Sukhoi Su-24
Class Aircraft
Type Attack
Manufacturer Sukhoi
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1967
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Algeria View
Angola View
Iran (Persia) View
Kazakhstan View
Libya View
Russia (USSR) 1978 2008 View
Sudan View
Syria View
Ukraine View
Uzbekistan View
Azerbaijan View
Belarus View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Sukhoi 1400 View

The Su-24 has a shoulder-mounted variable geometry wing outboard of a relatively small fixed wing glove, swept at 69°. The wing has four sweep settings: 16° for take-off and landing, 35° and 45° for cruise at different altitudes, and 69° for minimum aspect ratio and wing area in low-level dashes. The variable geometry wing provides excellent STOL performance, allowing a landing speed of 230 km/h (143 mph), even lower than the Sukhoi Su-17 despite substantially greater take-off weight. Its high wing loading provides a stable low-level ride and minimal gust response.

The Su-24 has two Saturn/Lyulka AL-21F-3A afterburning turbojet engines with 109.8 kN (24,700 lbf) thrust each, fed with air from two rectangular side mounted intakes with splitter plates/boundary-layer diverters.

In early Su-24 ("Fencer A" according to NATO) aircraft these intakes had variable ramps, allowing a maximum speed of 2,320 km/h (1,440 mph), Mach 2.18, at altitude and a ceiling of some 17,500 m (57,400 ft). Because the Su-24 is used almost exclusively for low-level missions, the actuators for the variable intakes were deleted to reduce weight and maintenance. This has no effect on low-level performance, but absolute maximum speed and altitude are cut to Mach 1.35 and 11,000 m (36,100 ft). The earliest Su-24 had a box-like rear fuselage, which was shortly changed in production to a rear exhaust shroud more closely shaped around the engines in order to reduce drag. The revised aircraft also gained three side-by-side antenna fairings in the nose, a repositioned braking chute, and a new ram-air inlet at the base of the tail fin. The revised aircraft were dubbed "Fencer-B" by NATO, but did not merit a new Soviet designation.

The Su-24's fixed armament is a single fast-firing GSh-6-23 cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition, mounted in the fuselage underside. The gun is covered with an eyelid shutter when not in use. The warload includes various nuclear weapons. Two or four R-60 (NATO AA-8 'Aphid') infrared missiles are usually carried for self-defense by the Su-24M/24MK.

Initial Su-24s had basic electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment, with many Su-24s limited to the old Sirena radar-warning receiver with no integral jamming system. Later-production Su-24s had more comprehensive radar warning, missile-launch warning, and active ECM equipment, with triangular antennas on the sides of the intakes and the tip of the vertical fin. This earned the NATO designation "Fencer-C", although again it did not have a separate Soviet designation. Some "Fencer-C" and later Su-24M ("Fencer-D" by NATO) have large wing fence/pylons on the wing glove portion with integral chaff/flare dispensers; others have such launchers scabbed onto either side of the tail fin.

Substantial numbers of ex-Soviet Su-24s remain in service with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. In 2008, roughly 415 were in service with Russian forces, split 321 with the Russian Air Force and 94 with the Russian Navy.

The Russian Air Force is to eventually replace the Su-24 with the Sukhoi Su-34.

Soviet War in Afghanistan

The Soviet Union used some Su-24s in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, starting from 1984.

Syrian invasion of Lebanon

On October 13, 1990 and for the first time since the 1982 air battle. The Syrian Air force jets were allowed to enter the Lebanese air space in order to strike General Aoun military forces. Seven Su-24 jets were used in this operation. 

Operation Desert Storm

During Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi Air Force evacuated 24 of its 30 Su-24MKs to Iran. Another five were destroyed on the ground, while the sole survivor remained in service after the war.

Tajik-Afghan civil wars

Fencers were used by the Uzbek Air Force (UzAF) against Islamist and opposition forces operating from Afghanistan (also with a civil war of its own going on), as part of a wider air campaign in support of the embattled Tajikistan government during the 1992–97 civil war. An Su-24M was shot down on 3 May 1993 with an FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS fired by fundamentalists. Both Russian crew members were rescued.

In August 1999 Tajikistan protested over an alleged strike involving four UzAF Su-24s against Islamist militants in areas close to two mountain villages in the Jirgatol District that, despite not producing human casualties, killed some 100 head of livestock and set ablaze several crop fields. Tashkent denied the accusations.

In the final stages of the 1996-2001 phase of the Afghan civil war, Uzbekistan launched airstrikes against Taliban positions in support of the Northern Alliance. During a mission to attack a Taliban armoured infantry unit near Heiratan, an UzAF Su-24 was shot down on 6 June 2001, killing both crew members.

Second Chechen War

Su-24s were used in combat during the Second Chechen War performing bombing and reconnaissance missions. Up to four were lost, one due to hostile fire.

On 4 October 1999, a Su-24 was shot down by a SAM while searching for the crash site of a downed Su-25. The pilot was killed while the navigator was taken prisoner.

2008 South Ossetia War

In August 2008, a low intensity conflict in the breakaway Georgian regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia, escalated to open war between Russia and Georgia. Russian Su-24s were heavily involved in bombing strikes and reconnaissance flights over Georgia.

Libyan civil war

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, on 5 March 2011, rebels shot down a Libyan Air Force Su-24MK during fighting around Ra's Lanuf with a ZU-23-2 antiaircraft gun. Both crew members died. A BBC reporter was on the scene soon after the event and filmed an aircraft part at the crash site showing the emblem of the 1124th squadron, flying the Su-24MK.

Syrian civil war

Starting in November 2012, 18 months after the beginning of the Syrian Civil War and four months after the beginning of air raids by fixed-wing SAF aircraft, Su-24 medium bombers were filmed attacking rebel positions. The SAF suffered its first Su-24 loss, an upgraded MK2 version, to an Igla surface-to-air missile on 28 November 2012 near the town of Darat Izza in the Aleppo Governorate. One of the crew members, Col. Ziad Daud Ali, was injured and filmed being taken to a rebel field hospital.

Syrian Fencers have reportedly also been involved in near-encounters with NATO warplanes. The first of such incidents occurred in early September 2013, when Syrian Fencers of the 819th Squadron (launched from Tiyas airbase) flew low over the Mediterranean and approached the 14-mile air exclusion zone surrounding the British airbase in Akrotiri, Cyprus. The jets turned back before reaching the area due to two RAF Eurofighter Typhoons being scrambled to intercept them. Turkey also sent two F-16s. The Fencers were possibly testing the air defenses of the base (and their reaction time) in preparation for a possible military strike by the U.S, the United Kingdom and France in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Damascus allegedly committed by the Syrian government.

On September 23, 2014, a Syrian Su-24 was shot down by an Israeli Air Defense Command MIM-104D Patriot missile near Quneitra, after it had penetrated 800 meters into Israeli controlled airspace over the Golan Heights.[24] The missile hit the aircraft when it already re-entered into the Syrian air space. Both crew members ejected safely and landed in Syrian territory.

2014 Ukrainian Conflict

Main articles: 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and List of Ukrainian aircraft losses during the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine

On 2 July 2014, one Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 was damaged by MANPADS fired by pro-Russian forces. One of the engines was damaged, but the crew managed to return to base and land. During landing a new fire started but it was extinguished by the ground crew.

Initially identified as a Su-25, on 20 August 2014 a Ukrainian Su-24M was shot down by pro-Russian forces in the Lugansk region and confirmed by Ukrainian authorities who reported that the crew members ejected safely and were recovered. On 21 August 2014, the downed plane was identified as a Su-24M.

In late May 2015, a pair of Russian Fencers made a low pass over the USS Ross in the Black Sea.

2015 Russian military intervention in Syria

The Russian air force’s long-range striking power in the region comes from the twelve Su-24M2 Fencer jets that Russia has sent to its base in Latakia, Syria.

Role All-weather attack aircraft
Manufacturer Sukhoi
Designer Ye. S. Felsner from 1985 – L.A. Logvinov
First flight T-6: 2 July 1967
T-6-2I: 17 January 1970
Introduction 1974
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Kazakh Air Force
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Produced 1967–1993
Number built Approximately 1,400
Unit cost US$24–25 million in 1997

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two (pilot and weapons system operator)
  • Length: 22.53 m (73 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 17.64 m extended, 10.37 m maximum sweep (57 ft 10 in / 34 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 6.19 m (20 ft 4 in)
  • Wing area: 55.2 m (594 ft)
  • Empty weight: 22300 kg (49,165 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 38040 kg (83,865 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 43755 kg (96,505 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 x Saturn/Lyulka AL-21F-3A turbojets
    • Dry thrust: 75 kN (16,860 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 109.8 kN (24,675 lbf) each
  • *Fuel capacity: 11100 kg (24,470 lb)


  • Maximum speed: 1,315 km/h (710 knots, 815 mph, Mach 1.07) at sea level; Mach 1.35 at high altitude
  • Range: 615 km in a lo-lo-lo attack mission with 3000 kg (6,615 lb) ordnance and external tanks (330 nm, 380 mi)
  • Ferry range: 2775 km (1,500 nm, 1,725 mi)
  • Service ceiling 11000 m (36,090 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 150 m/s (29,530 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 651 kg/m (133 lb/ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.60
  • G-force limit: 6
  • Takeoff roll: 1550 m (5,085 ft)
  • Landing roll: 1100 m (3,610 ft)


  • 1x GSh-6-23 cannon, 500 rounds of ammunition
  • Up to 8,000 kg (17,640 lb) ordnance on 8 hardpoints, including up to four Kh-23 (AS-7 Kerry) radio-command missiles; up to four Kh-25ML (AS-10 Karen) laser-guided missiles; up to two Kh-28 (AS-9 Kyle), Kh-58 (AS-11 Kilter), or Kh-31P (AS-17 Krypton) anti-radiation missiles; up to three Kh-29L/T (AS-14 Kedge) laser/TV-guided missiles; up to two Kh-59 Ovod (AS-13 Kingbolt) TV-command guided missiles, or KAB-500KR TV-guided and KAB-500L laser-guided bombs.
  • Unguided rocket launchers with 55 mm S-5 rockets, 80 mm S-8 rockets, or 120 mm S-13 rockets
  • Other weapon options include general-purpose bombs, external gun pods, and tactical nuclear bombs.
  • Two R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) air-to-air missiles are normally carried for self-defense; upgrade aircraft can carry R-73 (AA-11 'Archer') as well.

End notes