Ukraine has revealed plans to modernise the country’s fleet of Soviet-era Su-24MR Fencer-E reconnaissance aircraft. On May 25, representatives of the Association of Military Attachés from Kiev visited the Odessa Aircraft Plant (OAZ, Odeskyy Aviatsiynyy Zavod). Among the plant’s other activities and products, they were given a brief presentation on the Su-24MR upgrade programme.
At the end of August last year, it became known that OAZ was working on a Su-24MR modernisation. At that time, the fuselage of a Su-24MR arrived at the plant from storage at Bila Tserkva air base. However, the company hadn’t presented the programme in public until now.
The aim is to equip the Su-24MR with ICAO- and NATO-compatible communication and navigation equipment enabling operations from civilian and/or Western military facilities, as well as to fit modern role-specific equipment offering increased detection range and real-time data delivery. The latter will be provided by a special mobile truck-mounted system that will be stationed behind the front line, receiving and processing all data collected by the aircraft’s on-board reconnaissance systems transferred in real time via a secure radio-link. The latter was also available for some of the original systems fitted on the Su-24MR, but this equipment is both obsolete and compromised due to its Russian origin.
Although full details of the programme remained classified, it was revealed that OAZ has developed two separate modernisation packages with different internal role-specific equipment and these have yet to be accepted by the Povitryani Syly (PS, Ukrainian Air Force). Nonetheless, both variants would be based around a standard set of modern Ukrainian-made avionics – these include an A-511 version 30 ICAO-compatible transponder, BUR-4 flight data recorder, Kurs-93M-V combined VOR/ILS navigation system and SN-3307 GLONASS/GPS-compatible satellite navigation system.
Furthermore, OAZ plans to provide a full overhaul and modernisation service for the type in-house. The only repair plant in Ukraine currently capable of overhauling Su-24MRs is NARP, based at Kul’bakino air base near Mykolayiv. Since NARP has had some difficulties overhauling Su-24s for the PS since 2014, OAZ stands a good chance of taking over the job.
The fuselage of Su-24MR ‘05 White’ (c/n 0415305 – originally ‘05 Red’ from a disbanded reconnaissance regiment at Buyalyk air base) arrived at the OAZ plant from storage at Bila Tserkva last year. It has since been turned into a full-scale static demonstrator for the proposed modernisation. Note that this aircraft was previously cannibalised (its tail section was used to repair Su-24MR ‘11 Yellow’ damaged in combat over the Donbas in July 2014), so it’s certain that a different aircraft will become a flying test-bed as soon as the PS accepts any of the proposed upgrade packages.
Alongside all remaining Su-24M Fencer-D bombers, the Su-24MR dedicated reconnaissance variant is operated by the 7 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi (brTA, tactical aviation brigade) at Starokostyantyniv air base – the single remaining PS unit operating Su-24s today. All Su-24MRs are operated by the reconnaissance squadron of 7 brTA and it is believed that seven are currently operational (from a total of over 20 aircraft that are present on base). All seven recce jets remain in their original Soviet-era configuration. Vladimir Trendafilovski