Aircraft

What is the Su-25 aircraft?

The twin-engine jet aircraft was developed in the Soviet Union and is being used by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Known by the NATO code Frogfoot and manufactured in Russia, the Sukhoi Su-25 jet aircraft offers a low-level ground attack.

The Su-25 is designed to defeat small mobile and stationary ground targets and to engage low-speed air targets at the forward edge and in the nearest tactical and operational depth.

Variants of the Su-25 are operational with many other nations, notably the Ukrainian Air Force also uses the Su-25.

Ukrainian pilots have been seen flying so low that they skim the tops of trees in footage that shows how they use their expert skills to evade Russian surface-to-air missiles.

The aircraft is seen flying incredibly low, almost clipping the tops of the trees, in order to avoid detection from Russia's warplanes and evade air defence systems.

Specifications

Introduced in July 1981 and manufactured by Russian-based Sukhoi Design Bureau, the close-support aircraft offers a single-seat just for the pilot.

There has been more than 1,000 built with variants of the aircraft that are operational with the Russian Air Force, the Russian Naval Aviation forces, Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, North Korea, Peru, the Slovak Republic, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine. 

  • Length: 15.53m (50ft 11in, including nose probe)
  • Wingspan: 14.36m (47ft 1in)
  • Height: 4.8m (15ft 9in)
  • Maximum speed: 975 km/h (606 mph, Mach 0.79)
  • Combat Radius 375km

The Su-25 can climb at the rate of 58m/s. The combat radius and ferry range of the aircraft are 375km and 7,500km respectively. The normal range of the Su-25 is 750km, while its service ceiling is 7,000m.

Watch: Fighter pilots in Ukraine flying low enough to graze the trees.

Weapons

The jet's wings have 10 pylons for carrying a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon systems depending on the selected mission.

The Russian 'Frogfoot' jet is capable of carrying 9,000lbs of bombs, rockets, and missiles.

  • Air-to-ground missiles such as Kh-23 (NATO codename AS-7 Kerry), Kh-25ML (AS-10 Karen) and Kh-29l (AS-14 Kedge).
  • Air-to-air missiles carried on the smaller outboard pylons are the R-3S (AA-2D Atoll) and the R-60 (AA-8 Aphid)
  • The aircraft can be fitted with UB-32A pods for 57mm S-5 rockets, B-8M1 pods for 80mm S-8 rockets, S-24 240mm guided rockets and S-25 330mm guided rockets.
  • The Su-25 can be armed with 350kg-670kg laser-guided bombs, 500kg incendiary devices and cluster bombs.
  • The jet's 30mm AO-17A twin-barrel gun, is installed in the underside of the fuselage on the port side. It is armed with 250 rounds of ammunition and is capable of firing at a burst rate of 3,000 rounds a minute.
  • SPPU-22 gun pods can also be installed on the underwing pylons. The pods carry the GSh-23 23mm twin-barrel guns, each with 260 rounds of ammunition.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that began in 2014. 

The Su-25 has been notably used by both sides of the conflict. 

Ukrainian forces were not the first to show off the low-flying aircraft to be caught on film during the conflict, as the Russians were also seen using the tactic as well.

The reason why both of these military forces are using this low-flying aircraft is that both sides offer effective surface-to-air weapons which can bring down planes and helicopters, and eliminate the emerging threat from drones.

Russian SAM systems forced the jets to fly low, both sides also used small shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPAD's (Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems) – Ukraine also had access to US-made Stinger missiles and UK-made Martlet.

The Russian 'Frogfoot' jet is capable of carrying 9,000lbs of bombs, rockets, and missiles, and was crucial to the part of the invading troops' air strategy in Ukraine.

On 12 June, three Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 assault aircraft were shot down by Russian air defense systems and fighter aircraft in a single day, according to Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov, an official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

However Russian forces have not gone without loss, in May, it was reported that Russian air force Major General Kanamat Botashev, was killed after his Su-25 fighter jet was shot down by Ukrainian forces using a Stinger missile.