Attrition: Old But Deadly

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March 25,2008: Russia lost a Su-25 ground attack aircraft on March 20th, when an 80mm unguided rocket the aircraft had just launched, exploded prematurely, causing the aircraft to crash. The Su-25 [VIDEO] is similar to the American A-10. The single seat, 20 ton Russian aircraft carries up to 4.4 tons of missiles and bombs, in addition to a 30mm cannon. The most recent versions are also equipped with electronic countermeasures and a fire control system that can handle the latest Russian air-to-ground missiles and smart bombs. The Su-25 entered service in 1981, and can operate over a thousand kilometers from its base, if it uses drop tanks. About a thousand were built, and the Russia still has about 200 in service. About ten other countries operate some of them as well.

This was the first loss of an Su-25 in two years. The Su-25 gained considerable combat experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The aircraft was considered a success, and its pilots like it.

Russian quality control in munitions manufacture has long been a problem. There are a higher number of dud shells, bombs and rockets and, as in this accident, munitions that will detonate prematurely. The S-8 80mm rockets are similar to the U.S. 70mm rockets. The S-8 was introduced about two decades ago, and it may turn out that the one involved in the accident was nearly as old. In the last year, Russia has been allocating much more money for fuel, and munitions for training. But that would mean the oldest stuff would be used up first. It's a Russian tradition to not throw away old munitions unless you absolutely have to.Russia is trying to change that, and improve quality control in all manufacturing sectors. But that takes time, and the time hasn't arrived yet.

 


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