Since being put into service in 1981, the Su-25 has seen combat in several conflicts during its more than 30 years in service.

Introduce

Syria, the fierce battlefield has turned this war into the worst humanitarian crisis of the modern world. If anything is gained from this war, it is the battle experience that the biggest beneficiary is the Russia, the combat experiences in the Syrian battlefield is truly invaluable booty for the Russians.

In fact, most of the Russian pilots have been flying missions in Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was said at a military conference. The Russia’s intervention in the Syrian war has proven its military prowess, especially in helping the government of President Bashar al-Assad to reverse the situation against terrorists.

While Hezbollah and Iran maintained battle on the ground with the Syrian army, Russia has continuously provided air support against the rebels. Moscow had the opportunity to test many aircraft, including the most modern aircraft such as the Su-35, Tu-160, Su-57 and various types of missiles and smart bombs.

The Syrian army, along with their allies, has received a great deal of air support from Russian attack aircraft, including the Su-25. Despite being manufactured in the Soviet era, the Su-25 squadrons is still a nightmare for all ground targets by the arsenal that this aircraft can carry.

Background

The Soviet Union had extensive experience in creating attack aircraft since the 1940s before the end of World War II, Ilyushin Il-2 was famous for its number of more than 36,000 units or its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 42,330 were built.

Later generation aircraft were also considered for ground support purposes, such as the Su-7, Su-17, MiG-21 and MiG-23, but all did not meet army’s requirements. They lacked essential armour plating to protect the pilot and vital equipment from ground fire and missile hits, and their high speed made it difficult for the pilot to maintain visual contact with a target.

With the experiences gained from generations of military aircraft, in early 1968, the Soviet Ministry of Defence decided to develop a specialised shturmovik armoured assault aircraft in order to provide close air support for the Soviet Ground Forces. The new aircraft was designated Su-25 Grach, NATO reporting name was Frogfoot.

Designed as a close air support aircraft operating on the front line, as well as continuing the tradition of the famous Ilyushin aircraft in World War 2, the Su-25 has many features of a true flying tank. The first prototype made its maiden flight on February 22, 1975. After testing, the aircraft went into series production in 1978 at Tbilisi in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Design

The Su-25 was originally designed to be a single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several Su-25 variants appeared, including modernised versions, and variants for specialised roles. But essentially the generations of the Su-25 retain their original design characteristics.

The Su-25 has a conventional aerodynamic layout with a shoulder-mounted trapezoidal wing and a traditional tailplane and rudder. All versions of the Su-25 have a metal cantilever wing, high-mounted and back-tapered with straight trailing edges.

The air brakes are housed in fairings at the tip of each wing. Each wing has five hardpoints for weapons carriage, with the attachment points mounted on load-bearing ribs and spars. The fuselage of the Su-25 has an ellipsoidal section and is of semi-monocoque, the body tapers to the rear section that overhangs the exhausts.

The one-piece swept-back horizontal tailplane is attached to the load-bearing frame along with a single vertical tail fin. There are two turbojets mounted alongside the body under the wings, the air is drawn by two oval air-intake forward of the wings’ leading edges and the exhaust right behind the wings’ trailing edges.

When operating on the front lines, before thinking of attacking the target, the higher requirement is to survive, the design of the Su-25 is optimized for this capability. The cockpit, fuel tank is covered with titanium plates that can withstand 20mm anti-aircraft ammunition.

Electronic equipment and control systems are hidden on the back of the aircraft, where enemy fire is difficult to penetrate. The pilot sits in a transparent glass cockpit, which has limited visibility, being a trade-off for him to be better protected, the aircraft is also equipped with K-36L Zvezda ejection seat used in emergencies.

Electronic systems

The Su-25’s avionics system includes a distinctive nose-mounted laser rangefinder, that is thought to provide for laser-based target finding. A DISS-7 doppler radar is used for navigation; the Su-25 can fly at night, in visual and instrument meteorological conditions.

The Su-25 often has radios installed for air-to-ground and air-to-air communications, including an SO-69 identification-friend-or-foe transponder. The aircraft’s self-defence suite includes various measures, such as flare and chaff dispensers capable of launching up to 250 flares and dipole chaff.

The electronic warfare suite includes an SPO-15 Sirena-3 radar warning receiver and a Gardeniya radar jammer.

Armament

The first Su-25s were powered by two R95Sh non-afterburning turbojets, which were later replaced by more advanced R-195 turbojet engines rated at 44.18 kilo Newtons.

The engines, sub-assemblies and surrounding fuselage are cooled by air provided by the cold air intakes on top of the engine nacelles, to reduce the temperature of the exhaust gases and minimise the infrared signature of the aircraft. The engine control systems allows independent operation of each engine.

Su-25 can reach a maximum speed of 975 km/h, a range of 1000 km, a ceiling of 7000m and a rate of climb is 58 m/s. The range of the aircraft can be extended by the provision of four external fuel tanks, which are carried on the underwing pylons.

Armament

Along with the self-protect ability is the amount of weapons and equipment that the Su-25 can carry. The maximum weapon load of the Su-25 when taking off is about 4.4 tons, it is capable of using both conventional and smart weapons to create extremely strong ground suppression fire.

It is armed with one twin barrel 30mm gun in the bottom of the fuselage with 250 rounds. 8 pylons under the wings which can carry a range of air-to-ground weapons, including 57mm to 330mm rockets. The air-to-air missiles carried on the smaller outboard pylons are the R-3S and the R-60.

Different from the design of the US A-10 Warthog aircraft using 30mm cannon as the main armament, the Su-25 uses bombs, rockets and missiles as the main weapon. In addition, the Su-25 has its strong point thanks to its compact structure, which has a high frequency of takeoffs and landings, and is much cheaper than heavy bombers such as the Su-24 and Su- 34, each Su-25 only costs about 11 million US dollars. At the Syrian battlefield, the Su-25 can carry out many missions in a day compared to only about two missions for Su-24 and Su-34 aircraft.

Su-25SM3

The most powerful and modern variant is the Su-25SM3. The most significant upgrade on the Su-25SM3 is the SVP-24 Hephaestus sighting and navigation system, which significantly improves the accuracy of unguided-type weapons.

The new firing system makes conventional weapons as accurate as guided weapons. More importantly, the SVP-24 has a simple construction, so it can be easily integrated into any Su-25 aircraft to increase combat efficiency.

Operations

Since being put into service in 1981, the Su-25 has seen combat in several conflicts during its more than 30 years in service. It was heavily involved in the Soviet–Afghan War, flying counter-insurgency missions against the Mujahideen.

The Iraqi Air Force employed Su-25s against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Most were later destroyed or flown to Iran in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Georgian Air Force used Su-25s during the Abkhazia War from 1992 to 1993. The Macedonian Air Force used Su-25s against Albanian insurgents in the 2001 Macedonia conflict and, in 2008, Georgia and Russia both used Su-25s in the Russo-Georgian War.

African states, including the Ivory Coast, Chad, and Sudan have used the Su-25 in local insurgencies and civil wars. And most recently, the Su-25 has seen service in the Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War. With significant upgrades, the Su-25 will continue to serve the Russian Army for decades to come. After tests on the Syrian battlefield, the Su-25s will become increasingly dangerous.

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