Like the Buccaneer, the SU22 was designed as a high speed, medium range, low level ground attack / recce aircraft. The main design difference between the two being that the SU22 was never intended for carrier operations and from the outset had a limited air-to-air capability. Although its origin can be traced back to the basic SU7 aircraft of the 1950’s, the design was continuously developed emerging as the variable geometry (Swing-wing 30:63) SU17 / 22, the most modern and powerful Warsaw Pact fighter bomber. The NATO code name for the type was “Fitter”.
The design exemplifies two key traits synonymous with Russian military equipment; the twin virtues of Simplicity & Robustness, both in the physical construction of the aircraft as well as its operation. The intent was to have trouble free use under the most demanding operating and environmental conditions combined with ease of maintenance. Both the airframe and the Lyulka AL-21 F-3 engine more than met this challenge! The SU22M-4 is the final export version of the type and represents the pinnacle in the evolution of the design. It is still widely used in Europe and the Middle East, being broadly compatible to a Tornado GR1 although lacking the latter’s all-weather capability. Like the Tornado it is equipped with a laser range finder designator and terrain following radar and could be equipped with bombs, guided missiles & rockets in addition to the installed twin 30mm canon for the air to surface attack role.
Air-to-air threats were countered via rockets, guided missiles and canon in addition to the extensive ECM and chaff / flare systems. HHA operate one SU22M4, its supersonic capability and ten hardpoints enabling a variety of threat simulation profiles to be flown. Our aircraft is the only one of its type being operated by a civilian company and was acquired from the German Air Force.
Initially delivered on the 26-11-1986 as “629” of the NVA (East German Air Force), it served with 2/ MFG 28 (2nd Squadron, Naval wing 28) at Laage until it was prematurely retired on the 2-10-90 as a result of the collapse of the East German regime.
The German MoD had decided not to keep the SU22 on its inventory, and as a result the East German Squadrons were disbanded and the aircraft was placed in airworthy store under the new squadron code “25+29”. However, the aircraft was still very much a potent strike aircraft in use all over the world, so the German Test and Evaluation Centre (WTD –61) at Manching acquired seven of the type for technological evaluation purposes. Our SU was one of these and became “98+14” with its new owners on 23-9-1991. The aircraft were test flown and maintained by former NVA personnel, with major servicing being undertaken by the Polish aircraft facility WZL-2 at Bydgoszcz. West German pilots and ground crews were rapidly brought up to speed on the type and the evaluation of its systems lasted until September 1998.
After extensive negotiations HHA acquired the aircraft on the 14 January 1999 when it was flown to our maintenance facility at RAF Scampton. When delivered, the aircraft had accrued only 767 flight hours in 743 flights and became the youngest & lowest houred aircraft in our fleet.
The SU22M4 is currently in storage in HHA’s RAF Scampton, undergoing regular anti-det maintenance and custodial ground runs. The aircraft, its systems and spares are maintained in such a condition that it can readily be reactivated to flight status, should a contractual tasking arise which requires the performance and flight envelope of the SU22 platform.
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