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    Russia launches full-scale production of new-generation warplane

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    Russia has started full-scale production of the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber at a Siberian aircraft plant, plane maker Sukhoi said on Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, January 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has started full-scale production of the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber at a Siberian aircraft plant, plane maker Sukhoi said on Wednesday.

    A company spokesman said up to 20 fighters could now be assembled simultaneously at the Novosibirsk Aviation Production Association (NAPO), but did not specify how many would be built each year.

    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 under 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.

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

    To date only a handful of pre-production models have been built. In mid-2004 Sukhoi announced that low-rate production was commencing and that initial aircraft would reach squadron service around 2008.

    In March 2006, Russia's then Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the government had purchased only two Su-34s for delivery in 2006, and planned to have a complete air regiment of 24 Su-34s operational by the end of 2010. A total of 58 aircraft will be purchased by 2015 to replace some of 300 Su-24s, which are undergoing modernization to prolong their service life.

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