The “Grach”, the “Hunchback”, and the “Humpback Horse” are all affectionate names that pilots have come up with for one aircraft: the CAS (Close Air Support) Su-25 strike plane, yet behind the humorous names and the innocent appearance hides a dangerous war machine. Few aircraft can carry as much weaponry as the Su-25, which has a legendary reputation. There have been reports of the “Grach’s” receiving over a hundred bullet holes from AA (anti-aircraft) fire and still making it back to base unassisted. This year, several of these strike aircraft were subject to modernizations, and upgraded aircraft were put into service in the hottest region in Russia – the southern Caucasus region. Our reporter, Chermen Ulubiev, visited the airbase in the Caucasus region and he will tell us more about the reincarnation of the legendary Su-25.
In the 30 years that have passed since it entered service, the Su-25 remained relatively unchanged. But now, the avionics have been upgraded, a satellite navigation (GLONASS) system has been installed, and a fire control unit has been added. These upgrade have tripled the efficiency of the strike aircraft. “The cockpit is now equipped with a new multi-function LCD display, a new sight, and a new targeting system”, stated Oleg Yanchuk, a senior pilot. The Su-25 is capable of engaging aerial targets at close to medium ranges, from up to 1500 meters away. The aircraft can be equipped with up to 32 different kinds of weapons, ranging from the traditional automatic cannon to bombs and missiles with pin-point accuracy. This aircraft has been participating in various armed conflicts since 1981. The aircraft take off and land almost every minute, and therefore the flight navigators on the ground carry a huge responsibility, as in the cse of equipment failure only they can coordinate with the pilots. For example, just now one of the aircraft had a malfunction of the landing gear. The flight navigators immediately notified the pilot, who re-opened the landing gear and was able to land safely.
The Su-25’s are closely followed by helicopters. The pilots spend two hours a day, four times a week in the sky. In a short amount of time, the pilots, mechanics, and engineers must orient themselves with the new military tech, such as the Mi-35 gunship that arrived at the air base just over a month ago. The Mi-35 is replacing its older brother, the Mi-24, and unlike its predecessor, it features an advanced thermal imaging sight which allows it to operate both during the day and at night. The pilots state that the nature of warfare is changing, which is why it is crucial to be prepared to repel enemy attacks at any time and during any types of weather conditions. The Mi-35 is ready to handle these tasks with its night vision and thermal imaging equipment, and an integrated GLONASS satellite navigation system. The night vision and thermal imagining equipment allow the crew to identify targets at ranges exceeding 4 km. The Mi-35 is crucial to the Army due to its ability to carry troops, which the Army’s main attack chopper, the Mi-28N, cannot do, and has earned it the name “the heavily armed APC that can fly”. For now, the air base has only two Mi-35 helicopters, but more will be arriving soon, which is when the real training will begin for the pilots, including flying at night and conducting live-firing exercises in the mountains.