Analysis: Russian fighter aircraft Mi-29 Fulcrum and Su-24 Fencer deployed in Libya

According to pictures released on the Official U.S. government website, May 26, 2020, Russian fighter jets were recently deployed to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground. Analysis of pictures by military experts of Air Recognition editorial team has shown two types of fighter aircraft, including Mig-29, NATO reporting name Fulcrum and Su-24 NATO reporting name Fencer.

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Russian fighter aircraft Mi 29 Fulcrum and Su 24 Fencer deployed in Libya analysis 925 001 Picture showing a Russian fighter jet Mig-29 Fulcrum deployed in Libya. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

The Russian fighter aircraft including Mig-29 Fulcrum and Su-24 Fencer arrived in Libya, from an airbase in Russia, after transiting Syria where it is assessed they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin. “The world heard Mr. Haftar declare he was about to unleash a new air campaign. That will be Russian mercenary pilots flying Russian-supplied aircraft to bomb Libyans,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command.

The Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO name Fulcrum) is a fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft designed and manufactured in Russia. Developed in the 1970s by the Mikoyan design bureau, it entered service with the Russian Air Force in 1983, and remains in use by the Russian Air Force as well as in many other nations.

Armament for the MiG-29 includes a single GSh-30-1 30 mm cannon in the port wing root. This originally had a 150-round magazine, which was reduced to 100 rounds in later variants. Original production MiG-29B aircraft cannot fire the cannon when carrying a centerline fuel tank as it blocks the shell ejection port. This was corrected in the MiG-29S and later versions. Three pylons are provided under each wing (four in some variants), for a total of six (or eight). The inboard pylons can carry either a 1,150 liter (300 US gal) fuel tank, one Vympel R-27 (AA-10 "Alamo") medium-range air-to-air missile, or unguided bombs or rockets. Some Soviet aircraft could carry a single nuclear bomb on the port inboard station. The outer pylons usually carry R-73 (AA-11 "Archer") dogfight air to air missiles, although some users still retain the older R-60 (AA-8 "Aphid"). A single 1,500-litre (400 US gal) tank can be fitted to the centerline, between the engines.

Russian fighter aircraft Mi 29 Fulcrum and Su 24 Fencer deployed in Libya analysis 925 002
Picture showing a Russian fighter jet Su-24 Fencer deployed in Libya. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

The Su-24 front-line attack aircraft/interdictor is manufactured by the Sukhoi Design Bureau Joint Stock Company, based in Moscow, and the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association, Novosibirsk, Russia. The Su-24M entered service in 1983, a development of the Su-24, known by the NATO codename "Fencer". The first production Su-24 went airborne on December 31st, 1971.

More than 1,400 of the aircraft were produced in all variants. Today, the Russian Air Force operates 400 upgraded Su-24M/M2 aircraft, but these are being replaced by the Su-34 and are due for complete withdrawal from service in 2020.

The Su-24's fixed armament is single fast-firing GSh-6-23 cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition, mounted in the fuselage underside. The gun is covered with an eyelid shutter when not in use. The armament includes various nuclear weapons. Two or four R-60 (NATO AA-8 'Aphid') infrared missiles are usually carried for self-defence by the Su-24M/24MK.