Russian military aircraft successfully completed a supersonic flight into the stratosphere, the Interfax News Agency reported Friday. The Sukhoi-34 flight was part of a tactical exercise conducted by Russia's Eastern Military District in which planes practiced bombing runs in teams of two.
“The pilots completed exercises in air navigation, takeoff, and landing at airfields in night conditions, and flying in a given, specific route to a specific area,” said Eastern Military District spokesman Alexander Gordeyev. The supersonic flight broke the sound barrier, traveling faster than the speed of sound. Supersonic speed refers to any speed more than five times faster than the speed of sound, or 798 mph.
The new Sukhoi-34 bomber started mass production in 2008, with 70 planes making their way to Russia’s military by 2015. The bombers have the ability to carry a wide range of missiles capable of engaging targets backward or head on. Each plane holds a high capacity gun capable of firing 1,500 rounds per minute and armed with 180 rounds of ammunition. The Sukhoi-24 also carries guided and unguided bombs and rockets, including some that navigate with lasers. The fuel tanks of the bombers have greater capacity than other Russian aircraft, and two people can fit in the cockpit as opposed to the usual single pilot planes.
The Russian air force has rebuilt dramatically after a post-Soviet Union lull in the 1990’s. Most recently, Russia has been utilizing bomber planes in its campaign to back the Syrian regime by bombing rebels in Aleppo. The air force usually employs a much lower tech Su-25 Frogfoot in Syria. The Frogfoot is a much lower flying jet than the Sukhoi-34 and is primarily used to drop bombs while drifting as low as possible.