Key point: Except for a brief, limited Su-57 test run in the latter stages of the Syrian Civil War, the Su-34 is widely regarded as the most technologically advanced aircraft to be deployed by the Russian Air Force (VKS) in Syria.
Russia's Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft is again in the headlines after successfully completing an aerial refueling exercise under “extreme” conditions.
Zvezda, the official television channel of Russia's Defense Ministry, has published video footage of the exercise. The clip, though only a brief highlight reel, shows an Il-76 refueling probe extending toward a Su-34. A slightly longer YouTube video of the same event depicts the moment when the probe attaches to the Su-34. This recent exercise is to be distinguished from others of its kind in that the Su-34 not only refueled under harsh weather conditions but did so while fending off intermittent jamming attempts.
The Su-34, NATO reporting name “Fullback,” was introduced in 2014 and continues to be in high demand throughout the Russian armed forces. Most recently, Russia's Central Military District has begun assembling its second Su-34 squadron after forming its first in early 2018. “Currently, we have begun the process of forming the second Su-34 squadron within our regiment. We have received eighteen of these units since 2018, and plan to receive another six by the end of 2019.”
As previously explained by The National Interest, the Su-34 concept is actually quite old. Development began as early as the 1980’s, but stalled from a lack of funding in the aftermath of the 1990’s Soviet collapse. The Su-34 program was revived in earnest only by 2005, with many of its core components verging on obsolescence.