This week, a new video circulated across social media showed the destruction of a Russian Su-24M strike aircraft near Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast of Eastern Ukraine.
The social media account Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) shared the 41-second-long clip, in which the twin-engine bomber is seen burning on the ground.
One of the crew appeared to have parachuted out of the aircraft, but it is unclear from the footage whether the second crewmember also survived.
According to the post, the Ukrainian 93rd Brigade had taken responsibility for downing the supersonic, all-weather tactical bomber – which was also reported to be operated by the Wagner Group, the private military contractor known to be operating in the region.
“The precise ID of the aircraft is yet to be confirmed,” @UAWeapons announced.
Scoring a Hit on Su-24 Fencer
The Sukhoi Su-24 (NATO reporting name “Fencer”) is a Cold War-era aircraft developed during the 1960s.
It features a variable-sweep wing, twin engines, and a side-by-side seating arrangement for its two-person crew. The Fencer was the first Soviet aircraft designed to utilize an integrated digital navigation/attack system.
As previously reported, the Su-24 is powered by two Salyut AL-21F-3 engines.
According to Russian state media, the Cold War-era tactical bomber has a maximum speed at an altitude of 1,000 miles per hour and a range of roughly 370 miles. In addition to its 23mm GSh-6-23M cannon, the Su-24 has eight hardpoints that can carry a combination of guided air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, unguided rockets, and freefall bombs. The Fencer is also nuclear-capable.
It was initially developed to penetrate hostile territory and to destroy ground and surface targets in all weather conditions, by and night. Noted to be fast and stable at low-level, and capable of carrying an impressive loadout, its avionics were considered unreliable.
As a result, the Fencer was never seen as capable as Western attack aircraft.
Moreover, while the Su-24 entered frontline service in 1973, it was only deployed in combat in the mid-1980s during the Soviet-Afghan War.
The Su-24M (Fencer-D) is an upgraded model that entered service in 1984. It featured cutting-edge technology for the era, including a then-new Su-24 computer, liquid crystal displays, ILS-31 head-up display, a digital moving map, and a global positioning system.
Several variants of the Su-24 have been produced, including those designed for surveillance and electronic countermeasures.
Approximately 1,400 in all variants were produced between 1967 and 1993.
However, by 2010, the Russian Aerospace Forces (Air Force) – which inherited a large number of those tactical bombers following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 – began to replace the aging aircraft with the Su-35 (NATO reporting name “Flanker-E”).
The Fencer is now among the older military aviation platforms to see active service in the ongoing war in Ukraine, but both sides have employed it. It was reported last year that a number in service with the Ukrainian Air Force has been equipped with Kh-25 air-to-ground missiles, which can be fired at low altitudes on Russian targets, including forward operating bases and armored vehicles.
It is unclear how many Su-24s are employed in the conflict and how many have been shot down.
However, a Russian Aerospace Force Su-24 was infamously shot down by a Turkish F-16 near the Turkey-Syria border in November 2015. Ankara had claimed the Russian fighter had crossed into Turkish airspace when an air-to-air missile hit it. The incident was the first destruction of a Russian or Soviet Air Force warplane by a NATO member state since an attack on the Sui-ho Dam during the Korean War in 1953.
Perhaps this helps explain why Ukraine would love to be operating the F-16 Fighting Falcon – the Fencer wouldn’t stand a chance.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian 93rd Brigade claimed the shootdown of a Russian Su-24M strike aircraft (Likely operated by the Wagner PMC) over Bakhmut, #Donetsk Oblast. As can be seen, at least one member of the crew ejected.
The precise ID of the aircraft is yet to be confirmed. pic.twitter.com/KBEfqtn1Or
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 15, 2023
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.