MOSCOW, October 20 (Itar-Tass) — The military investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee (SK) for the Belogorsky garrison has opened a criminal case under Article 351 of the RF Criminal Code – “violation of the rules of flights or preparation for them” in connection with the Thursday morning crash of the Su-24 frontline bomber, the press service of the SK Chief Military Investigation Department told Itar-Tass.
“It was preliminarily established that about 07:15 MSK on Thursday a Su-24 plane crashed and caught fire during landing at the airfield of military unit 62266, located in the Amur region. The crew, consisting of two pilots, was killed,” the department noted.
“An investigation was immediately dispatched to the air crash site. Forensics officers of the SK military investigation department for the Eastern Military District also went to the scene to render them practical and methodical assistance,” the department said.
“Fire fighting crews continue to work at the accident site at present. After they end the operation, military investigators with a forensic medical expert and other specialists will start examining the scene,” the press service noted. “Documentation concerning the organisation of flights is currently being seized at the military unit. The military investigation authorities consider it premature at the present time to make any conclusions about the crash causes.”
The Sukhoi Su-24 (NATO reporting name: Fencer) is a supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft developed in the Soviet Union. This variable-sweep wing, twin-engined two-seater carried the USSR’s first integrated digital navigation/attack system. It remains in service with former Soviet air forces and various air forces to which it was exported.
The Su-24’s fixed armament is a single fast-firing GSh-6-23 cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition, mounted in the fuselage underside. The gun is covered with an eyelid shutter when not in use. There are eight external hardpoints (two under the inner wing glove, two swivelling pylons under the outer wing, and four on the fuselage) for a maximum warload of 8,000 kg (17,600 lb), including various nuclear weapons. Two or four R-60 (NATO AA-8 'Aphid') infrared missiles are usually carried for self-defence.
Initial Su-24s had basic electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment, with many Su-24s limited to the old Sirena radar-warning receiver with no integral jamming system. Later-production Su-24s had more comprehensive radar warning, missile-launch warning, and active ECM equipment, with triangular antennas on the sides of the intakes and the tip of the vertical fin. This earned the NATO designation “Fencer-C,” although again it did not have a separate Soviet designation. Some “Fencer-C” and later Su-24M (“Fencer-D” by NATO) have large wing fence/pylons on the wing glove portion with integral chaff/flare dispensers; others have such launchers scabbed onto either side of the tailfin.
About 1,400 Su-24s were produced. Substantial numbers of ex-Soviet Su-24s remain in service with Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Roughly 415 are currently operational with Russian forces, split 321 with the Russian Air Force and 94 with the Russian Navy. On 19 December 2008 a Su-24M bomber crashed near the southwest Russian city of Voronezh. A source in the Russian Defence Ministry said that according to preliminary information the crash was caused by a malfunction in the aircraft’s flight control system, after which the pilots ejected. The Russian Air Force considers eventually replacing the Su-24 with the Sukhoi Su-34 or another more advanced aircraft.