From propeller bombers to 5th gen jets: Russia’s Sukhoi marks 80th anniversary (PHOTOS)
The Sukhoi company owes its name to its first leading engineer – Pavel Sukhoi – and traces its history back to 1939, when his team was tasked with launching the serial production of its first machine – the Su-2 light bomber. Sukhoi himself was already a very experienced aircraft engineer by the time, who had worked for years together with another prominent Soviet aircraft designer, Andrei Tupolev.
Su-2: The first
The Su-2 was Sukhoi's first 'own' machine – conceived, tested and put into service by the team. The plane was a single-engine two-seat light bomber, capable of close air support and reconnaissance missions.
Around 900 machines of the type were built, and they were actively used by the Soviet Army during the first three years of what became known as the Great Patriotic War. However, the Su-2 was the only plane Sukhoi serially produced during the WWII-era. Other designs, such as the Su-1 and Su-3 fighters, either remained prototypes or were produced in very limited numbers.
Su-7: First jet
The Sukhoi engineer team was one of the first to experiment with jet aircraft in the USSR, fielding mixed-power (propeller and jet) Su-5 and turbofan Su-10 prototypes in the 1940s. Designs hit a snag when the team was disbanded in 1949 – only to be reassembled in 1953.
The Su-7 fighter-bomber became Sukhoi's first serial turbojet aircraft, adopted by the Soviet military in 1960 and used until the late 1980s. Nearly 2,000 planes were produced and saw extensive use in the USSR and other countries. Su-7 are believed to be still operational only in North Korea.
Shifting to fighter jets...
While the team has had the most experience in the area of bomber aircraft, it was not shy to produce a pure-breed fighter of its own. Sukhoi fielded the Su-9 in the late 1950s and its upgraded version Su-11 shortly afterward.
The Su-15 would become the pinnacle of Sukhoi's fighter jets during the Soviet era. Fielded in the mid-1960s, Su-15s remained the backbone of the USSR air defense units till the demise of the country. The interceptor was involved in the majority of incidents involving aircraft that violated Soviet airspace.
This was followed up by the revolutionary Su-27 (and its much-modernized successors, Su-30 and Su-35). It became another iconic fighter workhorse, that remains in active service in Russia and across the globe. The plane proved to be both reliable and agile – go and check out the Russian Knights aerobatic team and see for yourself.
…But staying true to bombers
Sukhoi remained fruitful in the jet era in its trademark field, bomber aviation, with the company designing and building a wide range of ground-attack aircraft. The Su-17/20/22 fighter-bomber family became one of the most mass-produced by Sukhoi, with some 3,000 machines of the type were build – and they still remain in service in some countries.
While the Su-24 is showing signs of age, it remains a workhorse of the Russian Aerospace forces. The tactical bomber has seen active use during the ongoing anti-terrorism operation in Syria.
Its successor, the Su-34, is already in service and steadily replacing its older cousins in the Russian bomber squadrons.
The Su-25 and its modernized variants remain the one and true close air support aircraft of the Russian Airspace force. Heavily armed and armored, the plane has proven itself in multiple conflicts across the globe.
Into the future
The Sukhoi company has developed Russia’s only 5th-gen fighter jet – the Su-57, also known during development as PAK FA and T-50. Following the extensive testing of the dozen or so prototypes, the cutting-edge plane has entered serial production earlier this year.
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