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Sukhoi Su-34 is much bigger than you think – pilots can enjoy some comfort features

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Posted May 21, 2019

If you‘re not that into planes, Sukhoi Su-34 may look like an ordinary jet fighter for you. However, it is a large twin-engine twin-seat, all-weather supersonic medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft. Although it took off for the first time back in 1990 it is in active service in Russian Air Force since 2014. And it is so big that pilots can enjoy some comfort features that are unavailable in normal jet fighters.

Sukhoi Su-34 is much bigger than you think – inside there is a toilet and a galley for making food. Image credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Russian military doctrine dictates that every weapon has to cover a lot of roles. This is why Su-34 looks like a jet fighter and can perform air-superiority missions, but also works like a medium-range bomber. And that is why it is so big. How big?

Well, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor also has two engines, but is purely an all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft. Its length is 18.92 metres and wingspan – 13.56 m. Meanwhile Su-34 is 23.34 metres long and has a wingspan of 14.7. Although this doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, it is a good example how different roles are reflected in physical properties of these planes. It is also why there is a little bit more space inside of Su-34.

Just like any other military aircraft, Su-34 spends most of its time moving from one base to the other. Actual missions are quite rare, but planes have to remain active. Ferry range of Su-34 is 4000 km. This airplane, obviously, can be refuelled mid-air, which means that pilots quite often spend hours without landing. It is exhausting task, but they do get to use some comfort features of this airplane.

Su-34’s pilots are sitting side by side, which is more comfortable and frees up a lot of space in the back of the cabin. Image credit: Dmitry Terekhov via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

First of all, the cabin is quite wide, which allows pilots to sit side by side. This eases communication and makes travelling a little bit easier. This arrangement also means that both pilots are enjoying the same visibility. Behind the seats there is a small galley – crew can make some snacks and a hot beverage using these amenities. Of course, you cannot really cook meals here, but you can heat up some food. But you know what happens if you eat and drink too much, right?

But fear not, Su-34 has a toilet. Of course, it is not what you’re used to seeing in commercial airplanes, but at least it’s there. Su-34’s toilet is small and kind of open, but most military airplanes don’t have any toilet whatsoever. During long ferry flights it does provide some psychological comfort, which is something military pilots definitely need. It improves their working conditions, allows for some rest and reduces stress.

Of course, Sukhoi Su-34 is still not a comfortable airplane to travel in. There are no flight attendances, selection of movies or place to really stretch your legs. However, pilots enjoy what they have – a small galley, toilet, climate control and unbelievable view.

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