Su-27s and smaller Mikoyan MiG-29s can deliver 50 French-made bombs every month


April 13, 2024



The Ukrainian air force’s best fighters—its Sukhoi Su-27s—are lobbing the air force’s best new weapons: French-made glide-bombs.

A video that circulated on social media on Friday depicts one of the air force’s twin-engine, supersonic Su-27s—one in a flight of two—dropping an AASM-250 Hammer at high altitude somewhere near the front line of Russia’s 26-month wider war on Ukraine.

It’s news that the Ukrainians have modified their Su-27s to carry the 550-pound French bombs with their GPS guidance and 43-mile maximum range. But it’s not surprising. The Su-27s already are compatible with Ukraine’s American-made Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range glide-bombs and AGM-88 anti-radar missiles; the Su-27s alongside Mikoyan MiG-29s are the air force’s multi-role strike-fighters.

What the Su-27s offer over the MiG-29s is range and speed. A 16-ton MiG ranges 500 miles with a dash speed of 1,500 miles per hour; a 26-ton Sukhoi ranges 800 miles with a dash speed of 1,600 miles per hour.

The extra range and speed, plus the Su-27s’ 62,000-foot ceiling—3,000 feet higher than the MiG-29s’ ceiling—should make the 1980s-vintage heavyweight fighters potent glide-bombers.

A winged, unpowered bomb such as a JDAM-ER or AASM-250 gets its energy from its launching plane. The higher and faster the plane is traveling, the farther the bomb will range. Out of the four jet types currently in active Ukrainian service, the Su-27 might be the best type for the French Hammer.

It helps that there might be more than 40 Su-27s remaining in Ukrainian service: 24 pre-war jets minus 13 the Russians have shot down plus 33 stored Su-27s Ukrainian technicians may have returned to flightworthiness. Today there might be nearly as many Su-27s as MiG-29s in the Ukrainian inventory.

A steady supply of Hammers somewhat compensates for the Republican blockade of U.S. aid to Ukraine—a blockade that has throttled Ukraine’s supply of JDAMs. Still, the 50 glide-bombs a month the French have pledged, while much better than nothing, are too few bombs to match the hundred or more KAB glide-bombs the Russians can drop every day.

There are signals the Republican aid-blockade might end soon, however. After six months of Republican intransigence, support for the Ukrainian war effort actually is climbing in U.S. polls.

Disgraced former president Donald Trump, whose whims dictate Republican policy, said Friday that he was okay with further aid to Ukraine as long as that aid is structured as a loan. A loan, it’s worth pointing out, that likely would be forgivable—and thus not really a loan.

The point is, it’s possible more JDAMs will be arriving in Ukraine possibly this summer. That could multiply by several times Ukraine’s monthly stock of precision munitions—and keep those 40 or so Su-27s, plus a similar number of MiG-29s, busy lobbing bombs at Russian targets 40 miles away.


David Axe – Forbes Staff. Aerospace & Defense.  He is a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina.  Axe founded the website War Is Boring in 2007 as a webcomic, and later developed it into a news blog.  He enrolled at Furman University and earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2000. Then he went to the University of Virginia to study medieval history before transferring to and graduating from the University of South Carolina with a master’s degree in fiction in 2004.