Tires on Russian fighter planes: a practice that is becoming widespread?

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Now it’s the turn of a Russian Su-34 tactical bomber to be covered in tires. This solution, although representing a serious danger for aircraft in the event of an attack, seems to be becoming widespread within the Russian Aerospace Forces.

After the Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers, it is now the turn of a Su-34 Fullback tactical bomber to be covered with tires. This image (below) seems to confirm that this anti-drone solution is becoming widespread within the Russian Aerospace Forces. Unlike the Tu-95 and Tu-160, this Su-34 is almost covered in tires, including the ECM sensors located at the wingtips (part of the Khibiny ECM suite).

If the geographical position of the plane is not known, the presence of the tires indicates that the plane is at least in an area located 600 kilometers from a Ukrainian position. This distance is equivalent to the gap between the Engels-2 air base (Saratov oblast, Russia) and the first Ukrainian positions. However, this base had suffered a kamikaze drone attack on December 5, 2022 and the few planes still present have recently been photographed (via satellite) as being as covered with tires.

Note that it seems (the quality of the image does not allow 100% assurance) that the right reactor is not complete, or at least that parts of its nozzle are missing. It is therefore possible, like the two Tu-95s and potentially all the aircraft remaining on the Engels-2 base, that this protection will only be applied to aircraft which are not in a condition to fly, at least in the meantime repair or maintenance.

Finally, one thing is certain, if tires can provide partial and indirect protection in the event of an explosion next to the plane, this solution has a huge disadvantage: a tire burns very well! In fact, if one of the tires catches fire, the “protected” aircraft will be completely lost: a tire fire is extremely complicated to extinguish, toxic, with dense and very black smoke,… So let’s see if this solution is temporary or a risk taken by the Russian authorities.

John Walker Avatar