Russia continues to deploy Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers to the frontlines even though they have proven mostly useless against modern Western aircraft and faced steep losses in Ukraine.
The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) handed over a new batch of Su-34 bombers to the Russian Aerospace Forces, state tech giant Rostec, which owns UAC, reported June 1.
The company delivered the "splendid" aircraft to the Russian Ministry of Defence after a set of ground and flight tests, the UAC press office said in a statement on its Telegram channel. It did not specify the number of aircraft transferred.
"The Su-34 features extended combat capabilities, enabling it to employ advanced air-launched munitions, increase the range of striking ground and naval targets and expand the conditions and accuracy of bombing runs," the statement claims.
"Su-34 frontline bombers are a major part of the Russian frontline aviation's strike power," it added.
Russia has long touted the multirole supersonic fighter-bomber, despite its troubled development and disappointing combat history.
The Su-34 "Fullback" is also known by the nicknames "Duckling", "Hellduck" and "Platypus" due to the shape of its nose and forward fuselage.
The twin engine, side-by-side twin seat, medium-range aircraft was first tested in 1990 and achieved operational use only in 2014 -- 24 years later.
Originally developed for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets, the Su-34 was intended to replace both the Soviet-era Su-24 tactical bomber and the Tu-22M long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber.
However, Russia has been able to build only about 148 operational aircraft to replace its fleet of more than 1,400 Su-24s.
To make matters worse, Russia has lost more than 10% of its Su-34 fleet amid the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.
Since the start of the invasion in February 2022, Russia's aerospace forces have lost at least 21 Su-34s -- or two squadrons worth of aircraft, according to Oryx, an open source intelligence website that has been collecting visual evidence of military equipment losses in Ukraine.
The Su-34 in particular has been involved in several high-profile losses in recent months.
On October 17, an Su-34 crashed into a residential building during a training flight in the southern Russian city of Yeysk, exploding upon impact and killing 15 people.
In late November, the remains of a Russian Su-34 jet fighter were found in Kupiansk, Kharkiv, after Ukrainian forces downed the aircraft in September.
On January 25, video posted online showed the crash site of another Su-34 downed in an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
On March 3, a friendly fire incident over Yenakiieve, Donetsk region, resulted in the loss of another Su-34 and one crew member.
And on May 13, a Russian Su-34 and an Su-35 crashed in Bryansk region, Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
Su-34s have also been involved in several embarrassing incidents in recent months.
In April, for instance, an Su-34 accidentally bombed the Russian city of Belgorod, leaving a massive crater in the city centre.
'Dumb' bombs, GPS
The Su-34 appears to be largely unequipped to effectively fulfil both its ground attack and air-to-air roles.
Due to a lack of precision-guided munitions (PGMs), the Su-34 has been seen equipped exclusively with "dumb" bombs, The Aviation Geek Club reported in March 2022.
The "multi-role" fighter jet was also seen without a single air-to-air missile despite the presence of Ukrainian interceptors, the website noted.
Downed Russian Su-34s have also been retrofitted with rudimentary Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers because their built-in navigation systems are ineffective.
"'GPS' receivers have been found taped to the dashboards of downed Russian Su-34s so the pilots knew where they were, due to the poor quality of their own systems," British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in May 2022.
Other systems of the Su-34 also make it ineffective if it were to face Western aircraft.
Because the jet's radar can detect an aircraft only at 75 miles (120km) -- compared to the US F-35 or US F-22 which can detect aircraft up to 400 miles (643km) away -- the Su-34 must be escorted by other fighter aircraft.
Fails to stack up
That radar range performance is worse than that of the original AN/APG-70 radar of the F-15E Strike Eagle, which itself has been compared to the Su-34 and entered service in 1976.
Both are designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions and both have a cockpit designed for two crew members, but aviation analysts say the comparisons end there.
The F-15 has over 100 combat kills with no losses in aerial combat, while the Su-34 -- as seen in Ukraine -- is not air-to-air combat capable.
Furthermore, the F-15 navigation system uses a laser gyroscope and a GPS to continuously monitor the aircraft's position and provide information to the central computer and other systems, including a digital moving map in both cockpits.
The new generation F-15E's specialised radar system enables aircrews to detect ground targets from long ranges, while the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system gives the aircraft unequaled accuracy in weapons delivery day or night and in poor weather.
First deployed at the height of the Cold War, the F-15 has an exceptional combat track record and has proved its might over the Middle East's skies.
The aircraft was extensively used in the Gulf War, where it was credited with destroying 60% of the Iraqi Republican Guard's total force.
Since then, it has taken action against non-state actors including the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in the wider region.
In March, just hours after an Iranian kamikaze drone struck a US military base in Syria, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) deployed an F-15E to carry out retaliatory strikes against groups supporting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).