The Su-24 Fencer, although born in the Soviet era, is still extremely dangerous thanks to its Western-developed Storm Shadow cruise missile.

Recent images of a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer carrying the British Storm Shadow has revealed a complex attempt to combine weapons systems of Western and Soviet origin. The integration of modern Western weapons on a number of Soviet-made fighter lines, helps create a powerful weapon in modern warfare.

Storm Shadow is a line of cruise missiles developed by Britain and France, which can operate at a range of more than 500 km in the domestic version and 300 km in the export version. Integrating Storm Shadow onto Soviet-era systems required a number of hardware and software adjustments. Because the Storm Shadow missile is quite heavy in weight, it is only suitable for mounting on fighters such as the Su-24, Su-25 and Su-27.

It’s a relatively small missile, weighing just 1.3 tons, and packs a 450-kilogram warhead. The Storm Shadow has a length of 5.1 meters, a maximum body diameter of 48 centimeters, and a wingspan of 3 meters. Co-developed by Matra and British Aerospace, and manufactured by MBDA, the Storm Shadow (French variant SCALP-EG) is a turbojet-powered missile that cruises at Mach 0.8 to a max range of 560 kilometers.

Fifty years ago, the Sukhoi Su-24 was designed to counterbalance the American F-111. Through decades of production and combat, the Su-24 has played an important role in the air forces of many countries. The combat aircraft has a height of 6.19 m, a length of 24.59 m, and an empty weight of about 22.3 tons. Maximum take-off weight is 39.7 tons, service ceiling is 11,000m, and a crew of 2.

Newer variants are heavily upgraded in terms of avionics and weaponry that double the power of the original. The aircraft is equipped with two Lyulka AL-21F-3A turbojet engines with 75 kN dry thrust each, and 109.8 kN with afterburner. Su-24 can reach a speed of 1,700 km/h, a rate of climb of 150 m/s. The flight range is 2,500km.

The Su-24 can carry 8 tons of weapons including a 23 mm GSh-6-23M rotary cannon with 500 rounds. There are 9 hardpoints, with provisions to carry combinations of Rockets, Missiles, and Bombs. The Sukhoi Su-24 is designed to strike ground and surface targets, including low-altitude combat. Two or four R-60 infrared missiles are usually carried for self-defence.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine inherited a lot of Su-24 attack aircraft in different versions. The Ukrainian Air Force has inherited about 250 aircraft including Su-24 Fencer-A , Su-24M Fencer-D and Su-24MR Fencer-E. However, due to economic problems and conflicts in the East, by early 2022, the Ukrainian Air Force only has a small number of Su-24M version. Meanwhile, Russia still maintains hundreds of Su-24Ms in service, and is being deployed in conflict hotspots where the country is involved.

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