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Firepower: Air

A rundown of fighter jets in the Russian Air Force

Lipetsk Airbase is home to several frontline fighter and bomber squadrons of the Russian Air Force. The planes that call the base home are some of the most modern in the Russian arsenal. They’re designed for a wide variety of missions, and if not training the pilots are on constant readiness.

The film takes a look at each of the aircraft types based a Lipetsk, showcasing each plane’s unique characteristic and the men who fly and maintain them.

On board a SU-27
A pilot flying in the spacious cockpit of a SU-34 fighter bomber.

The SU-34 is one of the most elegant-looking flying today. The two-seat fighter bomber has the ability to target the enemy on the land, sea, and in the air. What makes it unique among fighting aircraft from a pilot’s point of view is the expansive cockpit. There is room for the two-man crew to move around, there are cooking facilities on board and even a toilet for relief on long missions.

A SU-24 bomber
A SU-24 bomber taking off with its wings swept forward for maximum lift.

The SU-24 bomber is known as the ‘Flying Iron’ because of its stability in the air and as a platform to deliver its deadly bomb load. What makes it different from the other planes at the Lipetsk airbase is the use of variable-sweep wings. The wings can fold forward to give lots of lift for landing and takeoff, and sweep back to provide a more streamlined shape for high altitude and supersonic flight.

A pair of MiG-29s in close formation
A pair of MiG-29s in close formation showing the streamlined body and wings of the plane.

Probably the best-known aeroplane flying in the Russian Air Force these days is the MiG-29. The plane has a reputation of being an agile and capable fighter and is in service with many air forces around the world. The single-seat aircraft is designed, so the fuselage is part of the wing, making it one of the first in the world to use this type of construction.

SU-25 ground attack aircraft
Pilot Evgeny Gostev sitting in the cockpit of his SU-25 ground attack aircraft.

Alongside the sleek fighter jets, the SU-25 ground attack aircraft could be considered an ‘ugly duckling’. The stubby plane proved itself when fighting in Afghanistan, taking lots of punishment after being shot at, and still returning safely from a mission. Even though the aircraft getting long in the tooth, their pilots want to see them flying for many years to come.

SU-27 during an aerobatics training mission
On board a SU-27 during an aerobatics training mission.

Pilots love the SU-27 for the plane’s speed and agility, so it’s become the aircraft of choice for Russia’s Falcons aerobatic team. The superior power of the plane’s engines allows the SU-27 to perform aerobatics no other supersonic fighter can do.

The highly-experienced pilots of the Falcons aerobatic team can have the aircraft sitting on its tail in mid-air, hovering like a kestrel ready to pounce. At a flick of the joystick, the aircraft can reverse direction and be behind an enemy in a blink of an eye. This makes the SU-27 one of the most feared planes in the Russian Air Force.