Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer-C: Soviet Aardvark

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Overview
The Su-24 is a Soviet all-weather attack aircraft entering service in 1975. It shares many design similarities with its contemporary the F-111, though its role was more akin to the Tornado IDS. The Su-24 sans suffix saw gradual improvement during initial production, being classified into 3 primary variants by NATO (the USSR made no distinction between these 3): the Flanker-A was the initial version used for testing and evaluation, the Flanker-B had simplified air intakes, a redesigned forward fuselage, and expanded fuel capacity, being the first true production version, and the Flanker-C was the main early production subvariant with improved avionics and ECM. The Su-24 Flanker-C saw combat briefly in Afghanistan before being replaced by the Su-24M Flanker-D, with no aircraft lost to enemy fire. The Su-24M2 is still in service with Russia today, with the Su-24MK being in service with Algeria (alongside some Su-24M2s), Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine.
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History

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Initial Development
Development of the Su-24 began with the Su-7. During 1960-1961, the Su-7B proved to be a capable fighter-bomber. However, it lacked all-weather capabilities. The Su-7B was accepted I to service in January 1961 under the condition that Sukhoi would begin immediate development of an all-weather strike and attack aircraft to supplement or supplant the Su-7B. Initially, Sukhoi attempted to upgrade the Su-7 with all-weather avionics. The airframe proved too small, so in 1962 a new aircraft was developed.
The new S-6 was based on the new Su-15 interceptor and featured twin engines, a tandem-seated cockpit, and large delta wings. This aircraft was redesignated the T-58M (refencing the T-58 developmental designation for the Su-15) in 1964, then the T6 in 1965. One of the requirements for the aircraft was STOL capabilities, to achieve this, early T6 designs had lift-jets. To fit these lift-jets as well as the large avionics suite, the Su-15 airframe had to be significantly enlarged. With this larger airframe, the original R-13 engines could be swapped for the larger, more powerful AL-7s, and the cockpit was redesigned with side-by-side seating for increased visibility. This was the configuration of the T6-1, the first prototype, flying in late 1967. However, the T6-1 was not to be.

F-111 inspiration
Parallel to the development of the T6-1, multiple other configurations were considered. One such configuration included variable-sweep wings, with development beginning in late 1965. However, this configuration was not given much priority as its unconventional design was deemed overcomplicated.
That is, until the F-111A made its public debut at the 1967 Paris Air Show. The F-111 had a similar role to the T6- a high-speed, low-altitude heavy all-weather strike aircraft. The F-111’s swing-wing design was revolutionary and provided numerous performance benefits. Of note to the Soviets was how such a design provided excellent top speed at low altitude without sacrificing low-speed handling. It also provided a very short takeoff run for an aircraft of the size, without any of the anticipated instability that had initially pushed designers away from the concept. Later that year, a trio of swing-wing combat aircraft were ordered: the 23-11 (MiG-23), S-32 (Su-17), and T6-2, the variable-sweep version of the T6. In addition to the new wings, the T6-2 removed the temperamental lift-jets (no longer needed) and used the extra space for increased fuel load, with the variable-sweep design also nearly doubling maximum payload. By this point, all relation and similarity to the Su-15 was essentially nonexistant. The T6-2 first flew in January 1970. Between then and July 1974, 4 prototypes and 13 pre-production aircraft (T6-2,3,4,6 and T6-7:19 respectively) were produced. Like many aircraft programs of the time, this pre-production batch was intended to speed up development and allow an earlier service entry. The Su-24 received its designation and official acceptance into service in 1972, though it wouldn’t be until 1973 that combat-capable units were received, and only in 1975 was the aircraft approved for combat operations.

Fencers ABC
The Soviets at the time made no distinction between the first three major subvariants of the Su-24, each simply being designated the Su-24. However, there were notable differences that NATO deemed sufficient to give each subvariant its own reporting name, working off of limited information and guesswork.
The first subvariant was the Fencer-A, the 17 prototype and pre-production aircraft. Naturally, each airframe was different from the rest, and all were used exclusively for development.
The Fencer-B was the first true production variant of the aircraft with full combat capabilities. Compared to the Fencer-A, it had a slightly longer wingspan. The AL-7Fs were replaced by even more powerful AL-21F-3s, and the complex variable engine intakes were replaced with simple fixed ones. This had the unfortunate effect of reducing top speed at altitude from Mach 2.35 to only Mach 2.0. However, this was largely irrelevant as aircraft were not to break Mach 1.35 except in emergencies anyways to prevent damaging the engines. In addition, top speed at sea level (where the Su-24 was designed to operate) actually increased from 1,365 km/h to 1,400km/h. In addition, the Fencer-B saw increased fuel capacity and improvements to the accessibility of systems for maintenance. Later production batches introduced further refinements, including an additional pair of under-fuselage hardpoints, redesigned nose and rear fuselage, and blinders for nuclear strikes.
The Fencer-C was the definitive early-production version. It replaced the earlier SPO-10 RWR with the new SPO-15 system. It also introduced a Missile Approach Warning system which could be tied to the APP-50 countermeasure dispensers. It was also the first variant to carry R-60s, earlier Su-24s only had the anemic R-55M. This variant entered service in 1975 and most Fencer-Bs were eventually retrofitted to Fencer-Cs.

Into Service
The first operational Su-24s were delivered to the 4th GvBAP operating out of Kaliningrad in February 1975, where it proved enormously more capable than the Yak-28s it replaced. Over the next decade, the Su-24 would completely replace the obsolete Il-28s and Yak-28s in Soviet service, as well as some MiG-27s which lacked the range and payload of the Su-24. The Su-24 proved reliable and extremely durable, though its maintenance was overcomplicated and unnecessarily difficult, leading to a multitude of modifications over the production of the Fencer-B.
The Su-24 made its combat debut in April 1984 in Afghanistan during Operation Big Panjsher, serving until July. The Su-24 saw relatively little action during the conflict, as the Su-17M4 and Su-25 were both better suited for precision strikes that fighting a guerilla war necessitated. When the Su-24 was used, it was not particularly effective. The Su-24 was designed for high-speed, ultra-low-altitude strikes against armoured targets and emplacements on the flat Eurasian Plain. In the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, the Orion radar struggled to detect targets. Additionally, the Su-24s were forced to operate at altitudes of up to 5000m to avoid terrain, which significantly reduced bombing accuracy. It also meant the Su-24 wasn’t able to effectively hug the ground to avoid anti-aircraft fire- in particular, the FIM-92A Stinger proved extremely dangerous. However, no Su-24s were lost to enemy fire. The Su-24 returned in 1988 to cover the Soviet withdrawal, but by this point the Su-24M had mostly replaced the standard Su-24s.

Further Improvements
The Su-24 has many subsequent variants. Development of the first upgrade, the Su-24M, began in 1979. The Su-24M introduced the Kayra-24 FLIR/LD (a modified version of the one on the MiG-27), which allowed the Su-24M to carry a wide variety of TV and laser-guided munitions. The Su-24M also introduced both a probe and drogue for in-flight refueling. The SPO-15 RWR was upgraded to the SPO-15S and the unnamed MAW system was replaced by the LO-2 MAW. While the original Su-24s were never exported, it did attract significant international demand. An export version of the Su-24M was built, designated the Su-24MK, which differed from the M only in IFF equipment. This variant was widely exported to nations in the Middle East and North Africa. Su-24MKs have seen some minor indigenous modifications during their service lives. The Su-24M/MK can be seen as a counterpart to the F-111E and Tornado IDS.
The last attack Su-24 variant is the Su-24M2. Originally called the Su-24bis, this upgrade was developed in 1999, first flying in 2003. It features an avionic overhaul to accommodate the most modern Russian AGMs, ARMs, and AShMs as well as cruise missiles. Self-defense was upgraded through improved ECM as well as integration of R-73s and a HMD. Fianlly, all airframes with this upgrade would be overhauled to extend lifespan by 2400 hours. This variant entered service with the Russian Air Force in 2004 and the Algerian Air Force in 2003 (Algerian Su-24M2s are sometimes designated Su-24M2Ks, since they are based based on the Su-24MK). This can be seen as a contemporary of the F-111F and later Tornado IDS variants.
Finally, there are some specialized Su-24 variants. The Su-24MR is a reconnaissance/ELINT variant based on the Su-24M. Some have additionally been upgraded to Su-24M2R standard with the upgrades of the Su-24M2. The export variant is the Su-24MRK, which similar to the Su-24MK only differs in IFF. The Su-24MP is a designated ECM/SEAD aircraft, and was never exported.

Specifications

Spoiler

Airframe
Length: 22.7m
Wingspan, unswept: 17.6 m
Wingspan, swept: 10.4 m
Wing area, unswept: 55.2 m^2
Wing area, swept: 51.2 m^2
Height: 6.2 m
Empty weight: 22,300 kg
Loaded weight: 36,000 kg
MTOW: 39,700 kg

Propulsuion
2x AL-21F-3
Max thrust, dry: 7.2 kN each
Max thrust, wet: 13.2 kN each
Max total thrust, WEP: 26.4 kN
Max TWR: 1.18
Internal fuel capacity: 10,860 L
External fuel capacity: 2x3000 L, 1x 2000L

Avionics
Orion-A PD radar
Detects and tracks moving or stationary ground vehicles
TP-23E IRST
(same IRST as MiG-23ML(A/D))
Chaika bombsight/E-O sight
Terrain-following radar
Advanced autopilot systems
SPO-15 RWR
MAW (name unknown?)

Flight Performance
Max speed, sea level: 1,400 km/h (Mach 1.13)
Max speed, 17km: 2,120 km/h (Mach 2.0)*
*some sources say Mach 1.35 is maximum, this is a safety limit programmed into the autopilot that could be overridden in an emergency
Max climb rate: 150m/s
Max g-load: 6g (safety limit, no ordinance on wings)

Armament
Built-in:

GSh-6-23

The GSh-6-23 is the fastest-firing cannon ever produced. It has a maximum theoretical fire rate of 12,000 RPM and a maximum recorded fire rate of 10,000 RPM, but is typically limited to 6-8,000 RPM in service to reduce overheating and jamming issues. It is chambered in 23x115mm and has the same muzzle velocity as the GSh-23L of around 700m/s.

6-barrel 23x115mm rotary cannon
500 rounds
Fire rate: 8,000 RPM
Muzzle velocity: 700m/s

Suspended:
Up to 8,000kg of payload across 4 under-wing and 4 under-fuselage hardpoints. Carriage limits on the port and starboard are identical, so I will only be listing 5 hardpoints. Note this data is from the Su-24M, so some may be slightly off, I have attempted to correct any inconsistencies. Note weapons types not in War Thunder, such as cluster bombs, ARMs, and nuclear bombs are not included in the following list.

Front center pylon:

SPPU-6

Gunpod containing GSh-6-23 and 400 rounds. Steerable 45deg downwards and outwards by the pilot. However, this functionality isn’t modelled in War Thunder on for example the SPPU-2 found on numerous Soviet aircraft, so unlikely to be modelled for the SPPU-6.

6-barrel 23x115mm rotary cannon
400 rounds
Fire rate: 8,000 RPM
Muzzle velocity: 700m/s

4x FAB-100
1x FAB-250M54
4x FAB-250M62
1x FAB-500
1x FAB-1500

Rear center pylon:
1x PTB-2000 (2000L fuel)

Side fuselage pylons:
5x FAB-100
3x FAB-250M54
5x FAB-250M62
2x FAB-500

Wing root pylons:
1x SPPU-6
1x Kh-23

1x Kh-25MR

Radio-guided (MCLOS) variant of the Kh-25 with 140kg warhead

1x or 2x S-25
1x S-24
2x B-13 (5x S-13 each)
2x B-8M (20x S-8 each)
2x UB-32 (32x S-5 each)
6x FAB-100
3x FAB-250M54
6x FAB-250M62
3x FAB-500
1x FAB-1500
1x PTB-3000 (3000L fuel)

Wing pylons:
1x Kh-23

1x Kh-25MR

Radio-guided (MCLOS) variant of the Kh-25 with 140kg warhead

1x or 2x R-60*
*R-60Ms used from 1985. I would be opposed to them being added to the base Su-24 to allow it to be at a BR where it is more effective as an attack/strike aircraft. Save the R-60Ms for the Su-24M.
1x S-25
1x S-24
1x B-13 (5x S-13)
1x B-8M (20x S-8)
1x UB-32 (32x S-5)
6x FAB-100
2x FAB-250
1x FAB-500
Note due to space limitations, fuselage pylons cannot necessarily all carry full loads

The Su-24 in game

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The Su-24 would be an excellent strike aircraft for BR 10.7. It would be very similar to the F-111A. While the Su-24 doesn’t have quite the same payload capacity as the F-111, it has superior air-to-air armament with the GSh-6-23 and R-60s. Additionally, the Su-24 can carry its full load without interfering with the wing sweep. The maximum payload of the F-111A and Su-24 at full sweep are much closer.

Pros:

  • GSh-6-23 is fastest-firing gun ever built. With one built-in and 3 gunpods, the Su-24 can output a whopping 32,000RPM for 96kg/s downrange, nearly double the previous record for War Thunder
  • Heavy bomb load
  • Great top speed
  • Swing-wing design gives surprising maneuverability for the aircraft’s weight
  • Surprisingly good acceleration and climb rate with no external ordinance
  • Wide variety of unguided rockets, including the powerful S-24 and S-25, highly effective for CAS
  • Guided AGMs
  • Kh-25MR has explosive mass exceeding even the AGM-12C Bullpup
  • CCIP and CCRP for bombs and rockets
  • R-60s much more effective than F-111’s AIM-9Bs
  • Advanced RWR and MAW
  • Orion radar can detect stationary or moving ground targets
  • IRST to help queue R-60s
  • If APP-50As made available, 120 large-calibre countermeasures
  • WSO acts as second pilot due to duplicate flight controls- may slightly increase survivability

Cons:

  • GSh-6-23s run out of ammo quickly- 500 and 400 rounds provide 3.75 and 3 seconds firing time, respectively
  • GSh-6-23 have low velocity, making them difficult to aim especially for an unmaneuverable aircraft such as the Su-24
  • Max payload lower than F-111 or Tornado IDS
  • Very heavy aircraft with poor acceleration and maneuverability
  • Lacks quantity of rockets found on the F-111A
  • Only MCLOS guided weapons
  • If APP-50A not made available, only has a measly 24 countermeasures
  • Orion radar (as far as I can find) not capable of detecting airborne targets

The Su-24 would likely be played very similarly to the F-111A or Tornado IDS WTD61, being a high-speed bomber for ARB. It may be able to surprise enemies in a head-on, delivering the heaviest burst in the game with gun pods equipped. It would also be relatively effective as CAS for GRB, packing any of the many rocket options available. However, much like real life, the Su-17s, MiG-27s, or Su-25s would likely still be more effective for this role due to their more effective guided weaponry.

Gallery

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Development


Early drawing of the S6


T-58VD (modified Su-15) used to test the T6-1’s lift-jets


The T-58M

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The T6-1 prototype in early 1967

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First flight of the T6-1

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The T6-1 now sits at the Central Air Force Museum near Moscow

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The T6-2 along with the T10-1, the first Su-27 prototype

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More T6-2, this time with bombs

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T6-3 with PTB-3000 fuel tanks

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T6-3 fires a Kh-23

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Fencer-A with UB-32 rocket pods

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Fencer-C at minimum and maximum sweep. The small triangular protrusions just behind the intakes are the antennae for the SPO-15 RWR

Systems
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Orion-A attack radar (top) and RPS-24 terrain-following radar (bottom). These were intended for use on the Su-7B, but were far too large, even for an underfuselage pod.

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The cockpit

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GSh-6-23, the fairing rotates out of the way when the cannon is fired

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Su-24M with APP-50A countermeasures with 48 per pod. This wasn’t commonly fitted to the Fencer-C, but it was occasionally and I believe it should be available in-game, since 24 countermeasures would be insufficient especially when combined with MAW.


The SPPU-6 can angle down and to the side, though this functionality will likely not be present in-game since it isn’t present on the similar SPPU-2

General
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Models of Su-24 and F-111A showing just how similar they are in appearance. Hopefully this doesn’t cause confusion in sim…


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Just some views of Su-24s

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An Su-24 refuels another Su-24

Sources

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“Sukhoi Su 24 Fencer Soviet Swing Wing Bomber”- Yefim Gordon

Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer"

Sukhoi Su-24 Avionics | Secret Projects Forum

Sukhoi Company (JSC) - Airplanes - Military Aircraft - Su-24МК - Historical background

cmano-db.com

ODIN - OE Data Integration Network

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I want this so much lol

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