Beyond The Sprues

Current and Finished Projects => Stories => : GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:01:17 PM

: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:01:17 PM
Soviet Swordsman

In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union introduced new ground attack aircraft – the Sukhoi Su-7B and Yakovlev Yak-28.  However, even as these were entering service, design of their replacements was beginning.  These replacements would be required to be capable of all-weather precision air-strikes as well as the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds at low altitude for extended periods of time in order to traverse enemy air defences.  In addition, in order to increase survivability, the platforms would also be required to have a STOL capability.

A request for proposals was issued to the Mikoyan (MiG) and Sukhoi experimental design bureaus (OKBs) for new strike aircraft to meet this requirement. Both OKBs produced solutions to the requirement. The MiG OKB developed what would become the "MiG-27 Flogger-D" single-engine VG strike fighter. The Sukhoi OKB would initially produce the comparable "Su-17 Fitter".  However, neither design really met the requirement, being smaller, with less range and war-load than really desired.  However, all was not lost as Sukhoi had already recognised this and had also invested effort in development of a heavy strike aircraft to compliment its Su-17.

This heavier solution offered by Sukhoi was designed under the internal codename T-6.  The first prototype, T-6-1 was completed in May 1967 and flew on 2 July with V. S. Ilyushin at the controls. As the T6-1 prototype emerged, it had a general configuration like that of the Su-15, with a cranked-delta wing, a conventional swept tail assembly, with all-moving tailplanes; a fuselage accommodating twin main engines; and D-style intakes with variable inlet ramps. The main engines were Tumanskiy R-27F2-300 afterburning turbojets complemented by four Kolesov RD-36-35 liftjets, installed in a bay behind the cockpit. The liftjets were installed at 15% forward of the vertical, with intakes and exhausts hidden behind doors except for takeoffs and landings.  The design also featured blown flaps across the entire trailing edge of the wing to help achieve the short takeoff and landing requirement.  The pilot and navigation / weapons systems officer (NWSO) sat side-by-side in a pressurized and climate-conditioned cockpit. Side-by-side seating for the crew was implemented since the large Orion radar antennae required a large frontal cross-section.

Avionics were sophisticated by the standards of the time. The core of the avionics suite was the PNS-24 Tigr navigation-attack (nav-attack) system, which integrated a number of avionics subsystems. Avionics subsystems included an Orion-A pulse-Doppler radar in the nose for navigation and targeting; an electro-optic sight and radio datalink for missile guidance; a terrain-following system; an infra-red sensor mounted just in front of the windscreen; and defensive countermeasures system.

Following testing, the first of the new ‘Su-19 Fencer’ entered service with the Soviet Air Force’s Frontal Aviation (VVS-FA) in June 1969.  The west got its first real look at the new Su-19 in May the next year during the Victory Day flypast of Red Square.  What was really a shock to the observers was that at least two aircraft appeared to be fitted as EW platforms with fin-tip fairings and under wing pods almost identical to that from the EA-6 Prowler.  This wasn’t surprising given they were modelled using components from a crashed USMC EA-6A Prowler that had been recovered from Vietnam (though this was not known to the US at the time).

The intention was for at least one of these dedicated jammer Su-19R variant to accompany standard Su-19 strike platforms on airstrikes.

: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:01:40 PM
Ship Ahoy

Concurrent with these developments, even bigger events were taking place in the Soviet naval arena.  Following the commissioning of the two Moskva class helicopter carriers, Moskva and Leningrad, in 1968 and 1969 respectively, the Soviet Navy under the guidance of Defense Minister Marshal Grechko had embarked on a program to introduce conventional carrier designs able to equal or better anything the Americans had.  While the Moskvas were revolutionary in the sense that they were the first Soviet ships dedicated to carrying an air wing, it was clear that they were insufficient to fulfil the full role of aircraft carriers in fleet operations. The key problem was that they could not effectively provide the fleet with organic fighter cover. The Russian Navy now took the next step, assembling a specification for a new type of ship to carry not only helicopters, but fixed-wing fighter aircraft.
This resulted in the first ‘real’ Russian aircraft carrier to date.  Named Project Orel, this nuclear-powered ship would displace 80,000 tons and carried seventy conventional (that is, non-vertical takeoff/landing) aircraft. These aircraft would serve in an American-style multipurpose air wing, capable of fulfilling the fighter, attack, and airborne early-warning roles. There were some differences between the Orel vessel and an American super carrier though, primarily in Orel's own battery of dedicated anti-ship missiles (carried in missile silos in the deck).  However, the philosophies underlying both designs were very similar, a point underscored by an order reportedly from Defense Minister Grechko himself during one debate on the topic: "Why are you splitting hairs here? Make an aircraft carrier like the Americans have, with that kind of aircraft fleet."

This was not such an easy thing to do though since the Soviets did not have any aircraft that were specifically designed for carrier operations.  As such a number of new and modified aircraft were developed concurrent to the new carrier:

Amongst the first considered was the new Su-19 – in the form of the Su-19K.  However, despite being designed for extreme STOL type operations, this was found to be simply too heavy.  In addition, the lift jets had already been found too limiting – no weapons were able to be carried under the fuselage and the jets used a lot of space that could have been better used for fuel.  Moreover, the lift jets were found to be extremely damaging on runways and decks alike.

Working from data provided by the Central Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI), Sukhoi OKB engineers now decided to focus on a Variable Geometry (VG) modification instead, resulting in an aircraft concept very similar to the US F-111.   When the prototype T6-2I performed its initial flight on 17 January 1970, once again with Vladimir Ilyushin at the controls, it was a substantially different aircraft.  Along with the VG wings, it was powered by new, powerful Lyulka AL-21F afterburning turbojet engines, not the R-27F2-300 engines of the earlier Su-19. In addition, fixed ventral fins were added, the fuselage was modified, and the tailplane shape was changed to mesh more closely with the VG wings when they were fully swept.  The undercarriage was also strengthened to compensate for higher takeoff weight and deck landings and a retractable in-flight refuelling probe was fitted in the nose, just ahead of the cockpit (Tanker services were often provided by a second Su-24 carrying a UPAZ-1A Sakhalin buddy tanker pod on the centerline).  In service, the new aircraft would be designated the Su-24 (NATO still used the Fencer reporting name though – designating these new aircraft simply as “Fencer B” with the earlier Su-19 being the “Fencer A”).  Initially two versions were developed:

•   The Su-24K strike aircraft – this had essentially the same sensor fit as the earlier Su-19 but with additional maritime attack profiles and weapons; and
•   The Su-24KP dedicated air defence aircraft – this was a version of the Su-24K but optimised for the Fleet Air Defence Role.  Unlike the basic Su-24K, this had intakes with variable ramps, allowing a maximum speed of 2,320 km/h (1,440 mph), Mach 2.18, at altitude and a ceiling of some 17,500 m (57,400 ft).   More impressive though was its sensor suite.  This was centred around the new revolutionary Tikhomirov passive electronically scanned array radar, the Zaslon S-800.  Its maximum range against fighter-sized targets was approximately 200 km (125 mi), and it was able to track up to 10 targets and simultaneously attack four of them.  The radar was matched with an infrared search and tracking (IRST).  Typical armament comprised 4 – 6 Vympel R-33 (AA-9 'Amos') missiles each with a 160km range as the primary weapon.  In addition to these, both Vympel R-27 (AA-10 ‘Alamo’) and Molniya R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') were also carried in addition to the internal Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-23 six-barreled 23-millimeter Gatling-type cannon.

Complimenting the Su-24s were:

•   Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23K Tactical Fighter –a navalised version of the MiG-23ML, this served in the tactical fighter role in support of the Su-24s, though before long was phased out in favour of a larger Su-24 compliment;
•   Korchagin Kor-1 Typhoon multirole carrier-based aircraft.  Although part of a proposed family of aircraft, (including ground attack aircraft, air-to-air refuelers, AEW&C and Light transports) the Kor-1 was initially only selected to operate in the dedicated antisubmarine role.
•   Antonov An-71 – a variant of the Antonov An-72 transport aircraft, this fulfilled the role of organic AEW&C on the ships with up to four being carried.  Its sister, the An-72K served in the COD role, though these were rarely based on ship.
•   Kamov Ka-27 – developed for ferrying, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare, multiple variants of this design were carried. Intended to replace the decade-old Ka-25, it adopted a similar configuration to its predecessor due to the requirements of fitting in the same hangar space. Like other Kamov military helicopters it has a co-axial rotor, removing the need for a tail rotor.

The first of the new carriers, Orel (Eagle) was launched in 1975. A year later it was joined by its brother (all Russian ships being considered ‘male’) Rodina (Mother Russia).  The trials of the new ships went unexpectedly well with proper service entry taking place in 1977.  The third and last of the original version, Varyag (Viking) was commissioned in 1979.  Initially, the ships would enter service with the Northern and Pacific Fleets.  Later, as more ships were added to the class (see below), this would be expanded to include the Atlantic (based in Cuba) and Mediterranean Fleets (based in Syria).

In April 1980, the Orel caused the biggest USN/USAF operation since the end of the Vietnam war and perhaps even since the Cuban Missile Crisis when the ship and its battle group, comprising of the Kirov class battlecruiser, Kirov, two Kara II class air warfare cruisers and two Kresta II class ASW cruisers along with support and supply ships made a visit to Cuba.  This would also be the first of many times that the Su-24Ks and the F-14 counterparts would encounter each other.  The fact that the Russians had nicknamed their mounts the Ovcharka (Russian sheep or shepherd dog) and the Americans the Tomcat was not lost on observers, with more than one comment about the ‘cat and dog’ sparing. This visit is also often credited with helping to propel Ronald Reagan into the US Presidency following his claims that under Jimmy Carter, the USN had lost naval dominance in ‘its own back yard’.

: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:02:03 PM

Unlike the Soviet Naval experience which was all good, that of the VVS-FA with the Su-19 was not so good.  Although the aircraft was a step up from previous platforms, crews complained about the limited range and weapons payload when compared to their Naval counterparts.  The usefulness of the lift jets was called into question more than once with many pointing out that they were rarely ever used in real operations and were essentially dead weight.
These complaints were soon heard in Moscow. Two responses were developed.  Firstly, a batch of 24 Su-19s were given a major overhaul/modification to remove the lift jets.  In their place, a combined fuel/reconnaissance pack was substituted.  Although an improvement over the Su-19 in terms of range and performance (though takeoff length was worse), these Su-19Ms were still not felt satisfactory. 

Finally in 1978, what was deemed the obvious choice by many took place – a de-navalised version of the Su-24K, the Su-24M, was acquired for the VVS-FA. Over the next 5 years, this would gradually replace all Su-19s in service (the Su-19M would last a little longer until 1985).  Concurrent with the introduction of the Su-24M, the VVS-FA also adopted a version of the Su-24M fitted with the EW suite of the Su-19R.  This was designated the Su-24MR.  In addition to its jamming pods, this was often witnessed carrying Kh-28 (AS-9 'Kyle') and/or Kh-58 (AS-11 ‘Kilter’) Anti Radiation missiles in a dedicated SEAD role - a development that concerned the West greatly.
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:02:24 PM

The first action for any of the Su-19/Su-24 family was during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan during 1979/1980 with aircraft flying from (what were then the Soviet states of) Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.  This was deemed a success, with the Su-24s being used when heavy bombing and precision strikes against fixed targets were needed, though the Afghan Mujahedeen fighters hardly provided a serious threat or test of the new platform.


An altogether different challenge would take place 1982 though.  Following the 1981 surprise Israeli air strike that destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor being constructed in Osirak, the Arab world was calling for war on Israel.  In a convoluted way, the Soviet leadership found itself suddenly contemplating a way to end the crisis with what was termed a ‘vaccination’ (i.e deal with some pain now to prevent greater pain later on).

On the night of 1st April 1982, the newest Soviet Carrier - Novorossiysk (this being the first of the so-called Orel II improved version) - launched what would become known as the “April Fool’s Day Strike”.  Twelve Su-24Ks supported by a similar number of Su-24KPs as well as four Su-24KR EW aircraft made their way from the mid-west Mediterranean towards the South of Israel.  Their primary target was the Negev Nuclear Research Center where Israel was believed to have developed their own nuclear weapons.  Although Israeli Air defences detected the incoming force, they were unable to prevent the strike.  Moreover, through a combination of SEAD strikes by some of the Su-24Ks, the Jamming of the Su-24KRs and the air defence capabilities of the Su-24KPs, both the Israeli SAM defences and Interceptors were quickly neutralised (amongst the casualties on the Israeli side were two F-4Es, two of the new F-16As and a single F-15A).  The strike itself went forward flawlessly and provided a sobering insight to the West on the development of Soviet precision strike capabilities.


Moreover, the strike also achieved its intended goal:  that of preventing a wider Arab-Israeli war.  This was due to the calming of Arab anger at the Israeli attack on Iraq when it was seen that Israel’s similar capability was also removed (in truth though, Israel’s nuclear capability was only slightly hindered, with many warheads having already entered service prior to the strike).  Although tension at the time was heightened between the USA and USSR and the strike was officially denounced, many years latter the USA also admitted that the action had probably averted such a war and was probably for the better.
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:02:49 PM

For the remainder of the decade, the Ovcharka of the Soviet Navy continued to spar with their Western counterparts.  During this time, the soviet Carrier fleet grew to comprise a total of nine ships:

Original version:

•   Orel
•   Rodina
•   Varyag

Improved version (Orel II Class):

•   Novorossiysk
•   Baku
•   Ulyanovsk

Second Improved version (Marshal Class):

•   Marshal Grechko
•   Admiral Kuznetsov
•   Admiral Gorshkov

For all, the Su-24 was an integral part of the air wing.

In 1990, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops that began 2 August 1990 was met with international condemnation, and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council.  U.S. President George H. W. Bush deployed American forces to Saudi Arabia and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the Coalition of the Gulf War.  Amongst those sending forces was the Soviet Union.  The thawing of relations between the USSR and the West had been ushered in with the new Soviet Leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.  He now ordered two Carrier Battle groups to lend their weight to the Coalition.  To the South, the Marshal Grechko sailed from its normal port at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, whilst in the Mediterranean, the Varyag made ready for action.  The VVS-FA also deployed a number of regiments of Su-24Ms to Turkey to operate alongside their western counterparts (the sight of Su-24s and F-111s operating together on the same base was bewildering to many).  To prevent accidental shoot downs, all the Soviet aircraft had special transponders fitted to allow their identification by Western IFF systems.  During the subsequent war, the Su-24s proved invaluable providing a welcome (though once again sobering) compliment to the western forces.


The next 10 years were a relatively quiet time for the Fencers as their crews largely went back to normal operations.  Finally in 2008, the last Fencer flew off the deck of a Soviet carrier (fittingly, this was the Orel).  In their place was another product of the Sukhoi stable, the Su-30K Flanker.  This having started replacing the Fencers in both the Strike and Fleet Defence roles in the early 2000’s.
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin December 14, 2011, 07:03:17 PM
Other Users

The Soviet Union wasn’t the only user of the Su-24.  The following countries also made use of it – including many still to this day:

In 1988, India negotiated to purchase an Orel II Class carrier from the Soviet Union.  This Carrier, the INS Viraat.  This also operates a similar compliment of aircraft to the Soviet carriers.


In a similar manner to India, China PLAN also acquired a pair of Orel II Class carriers from the Soviet Union.  The first of these, Zheng He, was delivered in 1989 whilst the second, Zhou Man arrived in 1991.  Both were equipped with similar airwings to the Soviet carriers.
The Chinese PLAAF also acquired a large number of Su-24Ms and also produced some under license as the JH-8.


In 1990, the VPAF acquired a batch of 8 Su-24Ms.  This was followed 4 years later by a second batch of 14 aircraft.


In 1992, Syria acquired 18 Su-24Ms.  They also acquired 14 Su-24KPs but operated these from land bases.



: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: Empty Handed December 15, 2011, 05:41:10 AM
Some really inspired work here!  :on-fire:
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: M.A.D February 18, 2012, 07:42:57 AM
Loved this 'Backstory'!!
Loved these profiles!!

Could never work out why India never operated such a dedicated strike platform like the Fencer  :-\
They had the political and military want, need and desire!
They were prepared to spend the money!
The Soviet's were willing to sell them everything and anything in their Order of Battle!!

Great job gents!!

: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: Rafael February 18, 2012, 07:52:31 AM
Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn!!!! ;D :icon_surprised: :o

I have only one Su-24 Kit!
How am I s'possed to....?
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GaryF March 07, 2017, 02:17:39 PM
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin March 08, 2017, 02:30:40 AM
BTW folks, here are images of what the Project Orel class ships would have looked like (yes, this was a real design in case you weren't aware):

: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: kerick March 08, 2017, 10:07:35 AM

Love the stories and the profiles. A plan view of this bird would be awesome! Please!!
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: Volkodav March 08, 2017, 06:18:22 PM
"Ovcharka"?  Wolfhound of the Soviet Navy?
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: GTX_Admin March 09, 2017, 02:42:33 AM
"Ovcharka"?  Wolfhound of the Soviet Navy?

That's the one.
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: Volkodav March 09, 2017, 04:10:45 PM
"Ovcharka"?  Wolfhound of the Soviet Navy?

That's the one.

Had one of them, she was a dwarf, only 55kg.
: Re: Soviet Swordsman
: buzzbomb June 06, 2017, 04:31:58 PM
How have I not found this until now ?
Oh I know... too much other good stuff on this site