As world powers have continued to innovate throughout decades and centuries, from the early first world war till today, millions of armaments came into existence from each side and were retired. Each with a successor of its own, within every passing decade. From rifles and hand grenades to submarines and aircraft. However, the turning point at which many inventions became indispensable today and rose to their prominence was during the first Cold War. Although the objectives, uses, and end users of some of these technologies have changed now, some remain still in service today. The Soviet SU25 is one of the exceptional examples of those technologies.
The SU-25: A Russian Close Air Support (CAS) platform.
Since the early 1980s, the Sukhoi SU-25, known by its NATO reporting name as “Frogfoot” has served the CAS and strike interests of the Soviet/Russian air force, as well the air forces of several other nations around the world. At its core, the SU-25 is a design comparable mostly in its battlefield applications to the equally-storied Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. A ground attack platform of the United States air force. Despite its decades-old origin, the SU-25 continues in a front-line operational role even today. It has been consistently and adequately modernized for the rigors and dangers of the modern battlefield. With its support still in place, the SU-25 may continue to fit its role for a decade or more due to the lack of any proper replacements.
The development of what became the SU-25 could be traced as far back as 1968, following various design studies culminating in the T-8 Testbed.
The first Soviet air force group stocking the SU-25 was made operational in 1981 when NATO recognized the aircraft as the “frogfoot”. Production of the SU-25 began in 1978, out of Tbilisi, Georgia.
Wings, Design and Weapon Systems:
The wings have ten pylons for carrying a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons systems, selected accordingly to the mission. The air-to-ground missiles include the KH-23, KH-25ML, and KH-29L. The air-to-air missiles carried on the small outboard pylons are the R-3S and the R-60. The aircraft can be fitted with UB-32A pods for 57mm S-5 Rockets, B-8M1 pods for 80mm S-8 Rockets, S-24 240mm guided rockets, and SU-25 330mm guided rockets. The SU-25 can be armed with 350kg-670kg laser-guided bombs, 500kg incendiary devices, and cluster munition.
The aircraft’s twin-barrel gun, a 30 millimeter AO-17A, is installed on the underside of the fuselage on the port side. The gun is loaded with 250 rounds of ammunition and is capable of firing at a burst rate of 3,000 rounds a minute. SPPU-22 gun pods can also be installed on the underwing pylons. The pods carry the GSH-23 23mm twin-barrel guns, each with 260 rounds of ammunition.
The aircraft is equipped with integrated navigation and aiming suite, including ASP-17 BTS-8 Gun / Bomb Sight with an AKS-750S camera installed in the nose unit. The nose unit also houses a Klyon PS Laser Rangefinder and Target Designator, manufactured by Urals Optical and Mechanical Plant. The electronic warfare suite includes an SPO-15, Sirena-3 Radar and Warning Receiver, and a Gardeniya Radar Jammer. The ASO-2V decoy dispenser can deploy chaff and flares for protection against radar and infrared-guided missiles. A development resulting after its usage in the Afghan War. It has been estimated that a total of 1320 SU-25s have been manufactured since. Around roughly 25 countries are still flying or have flown the very aircraft. However, the SU-25 saw the most extensive combat service during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan where its close-support capability was then put through use. Its operational service in this theater led to its future upgrades and modifications which improved the type as a whole. The aircraft proved to be tough ad reliable even in harsh combat sorties and climate conditions. As a strategic nature, Russia uses the SU-25 in all its wars. In the first and second Chechen wars, it suffered an overall loss of 11 of these aircraft. In the 2008 Russian-Georgian war both sides used the same aircraft in the same way, with only 4 losses. And on 3rd February 2018 in Syria, a Russian SU-25 was shot down over Idlib by rebels using a MANPAD.
Currently, as you are reading this, the SU-25 is being used in the ongoing war in Ukraine by both sides. As an important piece in the first line of offensive and counter-offensive. As the war has since progressed, the Russian airpower has suffered significant losses of helicopters and SU-25s. And while Russia has lost 9 SU-25s, Ukraine has lost 10 of these aircraft.
The Russian air warfare doctrine is different from that of NATO, and both aren’t comparable. Since NATO has implied its air superiority through ‘Counter aviation’, Russia uses a concept of ‘active defense’ whereby perceiving any civilian or military aircraft as threats or interference and responding simultaneously. To both deter and deny the opposing side’s capability, whilst reinforcing its own. In conclusion, Russia’s SU-25 and NATO’s A-10 Warthog are both very similar concepts. Not only are they both rugged and reliably cost-effective. But they both manage to find their own worth and use it on every battlefield.
Mahmeen Babur is a professional security consultant who works at Hataff Security Systems (HSS) and provides extensive security services to various entities and infrastructures.