September 2, 2006:
After seven years of work, Russia has put the first two Su-25SM ground attack aircraft into service. Six more will be delivered before the end of the year. In 1999, Russia decided to upgrade 80 of their Su-25 aircraft to the SM standard. In addition to extending service life by ten years or more, the Su-25SM have new electronics that permit the aircraft to use smart bombs and missiles. The navigation system has been upgraded, to include GPS and more automation. Many improved components were installed, to reduce maintenance manpower needs by a third.
Currently, Russia plans to keep 80 or so SU-25s in service until the 2030s. This will probably require one more round of refurbishment. The Su-25 is a 17 ton aircraft that carries a 30mm twin-barrel rotary cannon (with 250 rounds) and up to five tons of bombs and missiles (including air-to-air missiles). The twin-engine, one seat aircraft has a combat radius of 380 kilometers and a top speed of 900 kilometers an hour. It's the Russian equivalent of the U.S. A-10, which has received similar upgrades to prolong its service life.