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    3rd serial Su-34 fighter-bomber to take to the skies in November

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    The third serial-production Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber will make its maiden flight in November 2007, the manufacturer said Tuesday.

    NOVOSIBIRSK (Siberia), March 6 (RIA Novosti) - The third serial-production Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber will make its maiden flight in November 2007, the manufacturer said Tuesday.

    Designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-34s will replace the Su-24 Fencer frontline bombers. Experts said the new bomber has the potential to become the best plane in its class for years to come.

    "We are working on three Su-34 aircraft at present and one of them is almost ready for delivery," said Fyodor Zhdanov, general director of the Chkalov Aircraft Production Association in Novosibirsk, in West Siberia.

    "The third serial aircraft is expected to take to the skies in November this year," the official said.

    Russia's Air Force received its first two Su-34 fighter-bombers last December.

    The $36 million Su-34 fighter-bomber is a two-seat strike aircraft equipped with twin AL-31MF afterburning turbojet engines. It is designed to deliver high-precision strikes on heavily defended targets in any weather conditions, day or night, and fields weaponry that includes a 30mm GSh-301 cannon, up to 12 Alamo or Archer AAMs, ASMs, and bombs

    Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov said Tuesday that Russia will need about 200 Su-34s, to be on active duty in the next 30-40 years along with modernized Su-24s, which are expected to be gradually replaced over the next 20 years.

    Mikhailov said the Air Force is planning to buy six Su-34s in 2007 and continue purchasing 10 new aircraft every year starting in 2008.

    Speaking about the future projects, Zhdanov said that the Chkalov plant will also participate in the manufacture of Russia's fifth-generation multi-role fighter designed by the Sukhoi Bureau.

    "The final assembly of the aircraft will be made in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, but we will be responsible for assembling the cockpit [for the new planes]," the official said.

    Russia has been working on the design of a new advanced fighter, which is supposed to replace the existing fleet of MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker aircraft, for the last three years, and its first test flights are expected to start in 2009.

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