The Su-25SM (Stroyevoy Modernizirovannyi) is an “affordable” upgrade programme for the Su-25, conceived by the Russian Air Force (RuAF) in 2000. The programme stems from the attempted Su-25T and Su-25TM upgrades, which were evaluated and labeled as over-sophisticated and expensive. The SM upgrade incorporates avionics enhancements and airframe refurbishment to extend the Frogfoot’s service life by up to 500 flight hours or 5 years.
The Su-25SM’s all-new PRnK-25SM “Bars” navigation/attack suite is built around the BTsVM-90 digital computer system, originally planned for the Su-25TM upgrade programme. Navigation and attack precision provided by the new suite is three times better of the baseline Su-25 and is reported to be within 15 m (49 ft) using satellite correction and 200 m (660 ft) without it.
A new KA1-1-01 Head-Up Display (HUD) was added providing, among other things, double the field of view of the original ASP-17BTs-8 electro-optical sight. Other systems and components incorporated during the upgrade include a Multi-Function Display (MFD), RSBN-85 Short Range Aid to Navigation (SHORAN), ARK-35-1 Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), A-737-01 GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Karat-B-25 Flight Data Recorder (FDR), Berkut-1 Video Recording System (VRS), Banker-2 UHF/VHF communication radio, SO-96 Transponder and a L150 “Pastel” Radar Warning Receiver (RWR).
The R-95Sh engines have been overhauled and modified with an anti-surge system installed. The system is designed to improve the resistance of the engine to ingested powders and gases during gun and rocket salvo firing.
The combination of reconditioned and new equipment, with increased automation and self-test capability has allowed for a reduction of pre- and post-flight maintenance by some 25 to 30%. Overall weight savings are around 300 kg (660 lb).
Su-25SM weapon suite has been expanded with the addition of the Vympel R-73 highly agile air-to-air missile (albeit without helmet mounted cuing and only the traditional longitudinal seeker mode) and the S-13T 130 mm rockets (carried in five-round B-13 pods) with blast-fragmentation and armour-piercing warheads. Further, the Kh-25ML and Kh-29L Weapon Employment Profiles have been significantly improved, permitting some complex missile launch scenarios to be executed, such as: firing two consecutive missiles on two different targets in a single attack pass. The GSh-30-2 cannon (250 round magazine) has received three new reduced rate-of-fire modes: 750, 375 and 188 Rounds per Minute. The Su-25SM was also given new BD3-25 under-wing pylons.
The eventual procurement programme is expected to include between 100 and 130 kits, covering 60 to 70 percent of the RuAF active single-seat fleet, as operated in the early 2000s. By 2020, 80 aircraft are to be modernised to SM version. By March 2013, over 60 aircraft are to be upgraded. In February 2013, ten new Su-25SMs were delivered to the Air Force southern base, where operational training is was conducted.
Report early 2016
While some believe that the Russian Air Force (RuAF) has used its assets deployed to war-torn Syria in a decisive manner to demonstrate an effective use of air power to achieve political results, there has been no noticeable influence on the ground situation during the first two months of operations. Given the strength of the main militant groups under Russian attack (including Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, known as the official al-Qaeda affliate in Syria) and the huge swathes of territory under their control, the nation’s air campaign could take many months to degrade the anti-Assad forces. Moreover, the somewhat limited offensive capabilities of Assad’s land forces will not achieve significant territorial gains in the foreseeable future.
As of December 4 2015, the RuAF composite air brigade stationed at Latakia Basel alAssad airport, dubbed Hmeimim Air Base by the Russians, had flown 3,389 combat sorties; 128 more were flown from bases in Russia. Between September 18 and 20, 12 Su-24M Fencer and four Su-34 Fullback bombers, 12 Su-25SM/Su-25UB Frogfoot attack aircraft and four Su-30SM Flanker Mass raids flown between November 17 and 20 also involved eight Su-34s based at Krymsk in Russia flying 16 combat sorties. The majority of Russian fixed-wing operations during the first two months of the campaign were pre-planned, against fixed targets with a known position. Only a small proportion of the sorties were of search-and-destroy type, necessitating loitering in a pre-assigned zone while waiting to receive updated targeting information from the combat control centre.
Bombers tasked with pre-planned missions generally operated at an altitude above 16,000ft to avoid the engagement zones of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and manportable air defence (MANPAD) systems.
The most common types of unguided weapons being employed are the 250kg and 500kg general-purpose free-fall bombs (OFAB-250-270 and FAB-500M-62 respectively), deployed by the Su-24M, Su-34M and Su-25SM. Other unguided weapons include the 500kg BetAB-500 penetrator bombs used against underground bunkers or shelters and the 500kg OFZAB-500 high-explosive fragmentation incendiary bombs.
Russian reports suggest the use of unguided weapons in the prevalent good weather found in Syria during October and November, combined with the accurate targeting systems of the Su-24M (upgraded with the SVP-24 targeting system) and the Su-34, resulted in a reasonable hit accuracy. However, the definition of reasonable is subjective.
Only 15% of the total munitions used by the Russian Air Force so far are precision-guided. Types used by the Su- 34 include the KAB-500S GPS-guided and KAB-500Kr EO-guided bombs, while the Su-24M has been seen carrying Kh-25ML laser-guided missiles.
Other guided weapons deployed by the Russian brigade are the 1,500kg KAB- 1500LG laser-guided bomb and the 500kg RBK-500SPBE-D cluster bomb. The latter contains 15 infrared-guided sub-munitions used against armoured targets.
During the first two peaks of Russian air activity in mid and late October, the Latakia-based aircraft conducted between 48 and 96 sorties per day. This statistic might not seem particularly impressive until you consider that there are 32 combat jets assigned to Latakia, about 28 of which are in combat-ready configuration at any moment, meaning that every serviceable aircraft few no less than three combat sorties per day.
Combat air operations intensified after the Sinai-based affiliate of IS publicly claimed responsibility for downing the Russian MetroJet Airbus A321 airliner over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. Between November 17 and 20 the Russian brigade few 100 sorties each day.