The Sukhoi Su-24M is a Soviet supersonic attack aircraft with variable sweep wings. It was introduced in 1974 and has been in service since then. In fact, many of these supersonic twin-jet aircraft are being modernized to extend their service life for probably a couple more decades.
Viktor Zalevsky, staff sergeant of the 59th separate motorized infantry brigade, published photos of Ukrainian forces and equipment in the Kherson region. Kherson city has just been liberated in an astonishing blow to Russian forces. Kherson was the only regional center that Russia managed to occupy since February 24th. Interestingly, among Zalevsky’s pictures was this – Su-24M of the Ukrainian Air Force:
What’s so unusual about this attack aircraft? Well, its camouflage seems a bit off. The coat of arms of Ukraine and the Ukrainian flag seem to be fine, but the rest of the plane is covered in a strange dark gray colour. This kind of camouflage is not characteristic of the Ukrainian Air Force. In the Ukrainian Air Force, planes are painted with pixelated camouflage. This is usually done during an upgrade or maintenance, because previously planes in Ukrainian forces were just light gray or with green camouflage.
So what is going on? Nobody could donate Su-24Ms to Ukraine – only Belarus and Ukraine use them in Europe. Therefore, this particular Su-24M is believed to have been pulled out from storage.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine had about 120 Su-24s. Some of them were already not suitable for flying. In 2019, it was reported that Ukraine has 23 such combat-ready Su-24s. It is possible that a few were left in storage and are now being revived for the defense of the country.
The Sukhoi Su-24M is 22.53 m long and has a wingspan of 17.64 meters when its wings are fully extended (remember – variable sweep). There are 2 pilots working in its cockpit. The Su-24M can reach speeds in excess of 1,600 kph. with its wings closer to its fuselage. The Su-24M has hardpoints for about 8 tons of various bombs and missiles.
Russia also has a number of Su-24 aircraft and used them extensively in the war against Ukraine. Open-source intelligence group Oryx has calculated that Russia has already lost at least 8 Su-24s – this was calculated from publicly released videos and photos alone, which means that the real number is likely higher. As many as four of them were destroyed at the Saki air base in Crimea in early August in an apparent drone attack.
It is worth noting that Russia declared that the Ukrainian Air Force was destroyed about 2-3 weeks into this invasion. And yet Ukrainians are still flying and Russia did not manage to establish air superiority over this country.
Sources: Focus.ua , Wikipedia.