Three years after deciding to start production, the Russian Air Force received the first two production models of the Su-34 fighter-bomber. The original plan was to put 24 aircraft into service by 2010. It was hoped that they would eventually be able to buy a hundred. Apparently one goal of undertaking serial production was to encourage foreign purchases. No luck there yet.
The 45 ton Su-34 is a replacement for the 43 ton Su-24 bomber, which is beginning to show its age (over twenty years). There are 300 Su-24s on the books, but most of these are not fit for service. The Su-34 is most similar to the U.S. F-15E (a two seat fighter bomber version of the 31 ton F-15C.), and is yet another variant of the 33 ton Su-27. The Su-34 has a full set of defensive and offensive sensors (radars, targeting cameras, laser designators) and electronic warfare gear, and can carry eight tons of missiles and smart bombs. The aircraft can be refueled in the air.
By 2013, Russia now plans to have 32 Su-34s in service, at a cost of $36 million each (less than half the cost of an F-15E). Meanwhile, some of the more recently built Su-24s are being upgraded as the Su-24M2. Most of the 1,400 Su-24s built are over 25 years old, and many have been grounded several times recently because of age related problems. Prototypes of the Su-34 has been in the air for several years, and earlier versions of two seater Su-27 bombers were known as the Su-32.