Aerospace Forces

31 Red with Tarantul(?) at Buturlinovka

In mid-2000’s an ambitious plan for the development of dedicated electronic warfare(EW) version of Su-34 featuring Kavkaz EW suite, that was to be known as Su-34P, was ditched in favour of simpler and more versatile solutions. (Letter P was to signify its purpose and stood for Pomekhovyi. Appropriately, the Russian word pomekh means to interfere or jam.)

In early 2007 a contract was signed between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Kaluga Research Institute of Radio Engineering(KNIRTI). The latter was to start research and development on a less complex but undoubtedly capable L700 EW suite. As it transpired during a court dispute between the two in 2011, this top-secret project was code-named Tarantul (Trantula). The suite consists of one large centreline mounted pod and up to four additional wing mounted pods. For all intents and purposes, Su-34 with Tarantul EW suite seems comparable to the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G airborne electronic attack(AEA) aircraft.

L700 works by detecting radar emissions or pulses of electromagnetic fields(EMF), together with the position and frequency band of the emitter. After such data is processed, L700 responds with appropriate jamming countermeasures. Testing and development of the jamming pods was apparently going well, but their subsequent integration with Su-34’s mission systems and sensors proved more challenging and problematic. As a result, its acceptance has been delayed and photographs and/or videos of in-service L700 equipped Su-34 were unheard of until couple of days ago.

On 2 February, 2017, popular Russian arms website topwar.ru published a short five minute video(see below) of Su-34s at Buturlinovka Airbase. At 0.41 seconds mark, parked 31 Red Su-34 can be seen with one large centreline mounted EW pod and two wing mounted L175V/L265V Khibiny pods (adopted in early 2014). This would suggest that the L700 suite is undergoing pre-acceptance trails or in service with Russia’s Aerospace Forces – which has not been officially confirmed as of yet.

Main image: still taken from the topwar.ru video featured above. All rights topwar.ru(c)2017.