Meet Russia A-10: The Sukhoi Su-25 (2022)

Meet Russia A-10 Sukhoi Su-25: Lighter and more agile than the beloved warthog, Russia’s Frogfoot is just as versatile and deadly as its American cousin. At the height of the Cold War, the world’s two superpowers fielded a new pair of aircraft, identical in both power and purpose.

One was America’s venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known affectionately as the Warthog. Its Soviet cousin, which originally appeared in 1981, was the Sukhoi Su-25 Grach. While the Soviet call sign “Grach” means “stop”, the USSR’s adversary NATO gave the Su-25 a much less imposing designation: “Frogfoot”.

The A-10 became a legend – an iconic aircraft that could turn the tide of battle with the strafing blast of its 30mm GAU-8 cannon, and still flies over the skies of Iraq and Syria today. But make no mistake: its Russian counterpart is a formidable beast, too.

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Soviet stop
During World War II, the Soviet Air Force pioneered a close air support strategy with robust ground attack aircraft such as the Ilyushin Il-2. The Soviet Union developed the propeller-driven Ilyushin Il-2 ‘Sturmovik’ as a heavily armored ‘flying tank’ that could take a lot of punishment as it blasted Nazi tanks with cannons, rockets, and bombs. . These aircraft were used heavily during the major tank battle at Kursk in 1943, where they had a terrible psychological effect and destroyed a number of German vehicles.

IL-2 at the Battle of Kursk, 1943.
However, by the late 1960s, the Soviet Union was in desperate need of a dedicated ground attack aircraft to replace the Sukhoi Su-7B, a low-level fighter that could perform air-to-air missions with other fighters. Designed for combat. So, in 1969 Sukhoi began developing the T8, which made its first flight six years later as the Su-25. The Frogfoot was designed to destroy enemy armored vehicles if the Cold War suddenly heated up, and these aerial terrorists were expected to wreak havoc on the northern German plains where major tank battles were expected. was

The 1970s was when the United States Air Force began its A-X close air support aircraft program that would develop the Warthog. The USSR was watching America closely, and evidence of this eagle-eyed raccoon is seen in self-righteousness. The Russian aircraft shares a number of features with the A-10, including a powerful main autocannon for taking out armored vehicles, an armored cockpit enclosure, and 11 hardpoints for mounting a range of weapons. . Even differences, such as the more conventionally aerodynamic shape of the frog foot, hint at some curbed design notes—in this case from the A-10 stateside competitor, the Northrop YA-9.

However, by the late 1960s, the Soviet Union was in desperate need of a dedicated ground attack aircraft to replace the Sukhoi Su-7B, a low-level fighter that could perform air-to-air missions with other fighters. Designed for combat. So, in 1969 Sukhoi began developing the T8, which made its first flight six years later as the Su-25. The Frogfoot was designed to destroy enemy armored vehicles if the Cold War suddenly heated up, and these aerial terrorists were expected to wreak havoc on the northern German plains where major tank battles were expected. was

The 1970s was when the United States Air Force began its A-X close air support aircraft program that would develop the Warthog. The USSR was watching America closely, and evidence of this eagle-eyed raccoon is seen in self-righteousness. The Russian aircraft shares a number of features with the A-10, including a powerful main autocannon for taking out armored vehicles, an armored cockpit enclosure, and 11 hardpoints for mounting a range of weapons. . Even differences, such as the more conventionally aerodynamic shape of the frog foot, hint at some curbed design notes—in this case from the A-10 stateside competitor, the Northrop YA-9.

The Frogfoot is smaller, faster, and more nimble with a curb weight of 14,900 lbs less than the 47,090-lb. A-10. Its twin turbojet engines give the aircraft a maximum speed of 606mph.

During the test, the T8 defeated the Ilyushin Il-102 to become Russia’s new ground attack aircraft. Renamed SU-25, its production began in 1978. The following year, the Soviet Minister of Defense, Dmitry Ustinov, asked why the Air Force was testing aircraft in Russia when there was “an ideal testing ground with harsh environmental and real combat conditions.” The ideal testing ground was Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union Babrik was pitting Carmel’s communist government against mujahideen rebels.

Two prototype Su-25s underwent actual combat testing in the early days of the Soviet-Afghan War. In just a few weeks, Frogfoot began to prove its worth. Once the Su-25 entered service, the USSR deployed another 50 Frogfoots to support troops during the Eight Years War. Soviet Frogfoot pilots flew nearly 60,000 sorties, including free-falling and laser-guided bombs, missiles, and unguided rockets.

The Froggyft’s most impressive weapon, though, was its Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 30mm autocannon, capable of firing 2,500 to 3,000 rounds per minute. This cannon weighs considerably less than the A-10’s formidable gun. The Su-25 has a nose-mounted laser range finder that aids target acquisition, allowing the cannon’s high-explosive and depleted uranium armor-piercing shells to find their mark. For devastating strafing runs in Afghanistan, the Su-25 was sometimes fitted with wing-mounted 23 mm cannon pods that wreaked havoc on the battlefield.

Lesson learned
The Su-25’s ability to survive air scraps was unmatched by other Soviet aircraft. That’s because, like the A-10, the Frogfoot has a welded titanium armored compartment—up to 25 millimeters thick in places—that surrounds the bottom of the cockpit to protect the pilot from anti-aircraft ground fire.

But this advantage will not last.

The problem was that the Frogfoot’s twin engines were too close together. While they can continue to operate independently if one is damaged, a fire from a damaged engine will quickly do the same to the other. Although a steel firewall and fire suppression system improved things, the Su-25 could not turn the tide of the war, as the CIA-supplied Stinger surface-to-air missiles targeted Afghan fighters. Helped.

Nevertheless, the aircraft undoubtedly emerged as a significant addition to the Soviet Air Force. In the following years, it would be adopted by more than a dozen countries and adapted to conflicts in Central Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East in the coming years.

Since 1978, more than 1,000 Su-25s have been built with many variants. Modern Su-25s have an impressive array of countermeasures including a missile approach warning system, chaff and flare launchers, and an infrared jammer to confuse enemy missiles. Because the aircraft can both deliver and receive a punch, countries such as Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, and many former Soviet states also use Frogfoots.

Destroyed an Iraqi Su-25 in the Gulf War.

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force became the first non-Warsaw Treaty nation to operate the Su-25. Iraqi Frogfoots performed well against Iranian armor and only one of the approximately 70 jets was destroyed by Iranian air defenses. However, the Su-25 will not fare so well in the Persian Gulf War. The Iraqi Frogfoot squadron suffered heavy losses not in the air but on the ground, with the overwhelming air superiority of the US-led coalition blowing up the planes before they could take off. Two Iraqi Frogfoots who managed to fly in the plane were overrun by F-15Cs and destroyed.

Russian Frogfoots saw action again during the Chechen Wars of the 1990s and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. This time, both sides used Su-25s to provide air support during the fighting in South Ossetia. Despite the Russian success, Georgian anti-aircraft defenses downed three Russian Su-25s. This accelerated efforts to upgrade Russia’s Su-25 fleet.

The future of Frogfoot
Since late 2015, a dozen modern Russian Su-25SMs have been operating over Syria during Russia’s military intervention. As USAF A-10s support the Iraqi military, Russian Frogfoots are conducting close air support operations against ISIS and rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime. Russian news agencies have reported that Su-25s have dropped more than 6,000 bombs.

But in April 2016, Russia withdrew its Su-25 from Syria and replaced them with Mi-28 helicopters. These helicopters have a significant advantage over the Su-25—an onboard missile jamming system, which was only available on the Su-25s. In October 2016, it was first reported that Su-25SM3s, upgraded with missile jamming systems, were again in Syria – possibly just another “ideal testing ground”.

Bulgarian Su-25K

Russia built the last Su-25 in 1992. And yet, a quarter-century later, the idea of ​​restarting the program is gaining momentum. Meanwhile, the US Air Force has pushed hard for the Warthog’s retirement, despite its battlefield effectiveness and popularity, to offset the cost of the new F-35 (another military program in the balance).

Another badass plane
But Frogfoot’s future is clear – at least in the short term – with work progressing steadily on the Su-25SM program, which is expected to continue into 2020. The Russian military can expect support from the Su-25 for many more years.

While the A-10 may have a larger gun, a larger fuel tank and a greater range of ammunition, the smaller, simpler, and cheaper Frogfoot is lighter, faster, more agile, and has a longer range. After nearly 40 years in service, none of these Cold War rivals have yet been operational.

 

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