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.
One of the conditions for accepting Sukhoi Su-7B into service in 1961 was the requirement for Sukhoi to develop an all-weather variant capable of precision air strikes. Preliminary investigations with S-28 and S-32 aircraft revealed that the basic Su-7 design was too small to contain all the avionics required for the mission. OKB-794 was tasked with developing an advanced nav/attack system, codenamed Puma, which would be at the core of the new aircraft.
In 1962-1963, Sukhoi designed and built a mockup of S-6, a delta wing aircraft powered by two Tumansky R-21F-300 turbojet engines and with a crew of two in a tandem arrangement. The mockup was inspected but no further work was ordered due to lack of progress on the Puma hardware.
In 1964, Sukhoi started work on S-58M. The aircraft was supposed to represent a modification of the Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor (factory designation S-58). In the meantime, revised Soviet Air Force requirements called for a low-altitude strike aircraft with STOL capability. A key feature was the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds at low altitude for extended periods of time in order to traverse enemy air defenses. To achieve this, the design included two Tumansky R-27F-300 afterburning turbojets for cruise and four Kolesov RD-36-25 turbojets for STOL performance. Side-by-side seating for the crew was implemented since the large Orion radar antennae required a large frontal cross-section. To test the six-engine scheme, the first Su-15 prototype was converted into S-58VD flying laboratory which operated in 1966-1969.
The aircraft was officially sanctioned on 24 August 1965 under the internal codename T-6. The first prototype, T-6-1 was completed in May 1967 and flew on 2 July with V.S. Ilyushin at the controls. The initial flights were performed without the four lift engines, which were installed in October 1967. At the same time, R-27s were replaced with Lyulka AL-21Fs. STOL tests confirmed the data from S-58VD that short-field performance was achieved at the cost of significant loss of flight distance as the lift engines occupied space normally reserved for fuel, loss of under-fuselage hardpoints, and instability during transition from STOL to conventional flight. So the six-engine approach was abandoned.
On 7 August 1968, the OKB was officially tasked with investigating a variable geometry wing for the T-6. The resulting T-6-2I first flew on 17 January 1970 with Ilyushin at the controls. The subsequent government trials lasted until 1974, dictated by the complexity of the on-board systems. The all-weather capability was achieved - for the first time in Soviet tactical attack aircraft - thanks to the Puma nav/attack system operating in conjunction with Orion-A attack radar, Relyef terrain radar, and Orbita-10-58 computer. The crew was equipped with zero-zero Zvezda K-36D ejection seats.
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A pair of Russian Su-24Ms in flight (2009).
The first production aircraft flew on 31 December 1971 with V. T. Vylomov at the controls, and on 4 February 1975, T-6 was formally accepted into service as the Su-24. About 1,400 Su-24s were produced.