We (Almost) Get to The Bottom of Another Strange Russian Road Camera Incident.
The Russians made dash cam video famous, and while this one wasn’t taken with a dash cam, it only continues the lore of weird and interesting Russian road sightings.
Someone – we aren’t exactly certain who – posted photos of a Russian Sukhoi Su-34 (NATO code name “Fullback”) twin-engine, two-seat tactical strike aircraft being towed along a Russian highway. If the aircraft were on a trailer, that may not be such a big deal. But this Su-34 is being pulled along on its own landing gear tires. Only in Russia…
As you can see from the photos, the wings have been removed, presumably for transport, although leaving them on would have made the photos even more noteworthy. Also worth noticing are the mission markings on the nose of the aircraft. This Su-34 has seen some action. It is possible, based on the aircraft’s markings and its “bort” or nose number, that this particular aircraft may have been one of at least four deployed to Bassel Al-Asad International airport in Latakia, Syria in late 2015. We’re not certain this is accurate, but the bort number series and the overall grey upper surfaces and lower light blue surface both match the markings of the Su-34 Syrian “class of 2015”.
One member of the inner circle at TheAviationist.com, a man we’ll call “Alex”, who has been most helpful with all of our efforts in Russia, in person and on social media, did some digging and used his Russian language skills to tell us more.
According to what Alex found out through Russian language Facebook posts, the Russians are, “Moving not airworthy airframes from Buturlinovka to Voronezh before snow covers roads”.
Voronezh, or “Voronezh Malshevo” as mentioned by Alex, is home to at least several Su-34s and this airframe may be moving there for some type of extensive airframe maintenance or to be used as a training airframe for maintenance and ground crews. Another one of our trusted Russian contacts, we’ll call him “Ivan” (what else?) told us, “I think the rumor is this aircraft will become a training instructional airframe at Voronezh.
In addition to Alex’s investigation, one of our correspondents, Stefano D’Urso, found out that, “Someone posted the same photos on Twitter.” Stefano mentioned that, “in the comments I found a link to an article related to the mishap, so I did a quick check on Google Maps and I found that Buturlinovka and Lipetsk are only 200km apart, with Voronezh being in the middle.” D’Urso, who is somewhat a master of internet research, went on to confirm the likelihood of the aircraft’s deployment to Syria. So that information is almost certainly accurate.
The accident that this aircraft was involved in, as discovered by Stefano D’Urso, took place on September 6, 2019. Even more interestingly, a report in the Russian news agency TASS said that, “The pilot’s error resulted in the collision over the Lipetsk region, a special commission is now studying the details of the accident, which will particularly determine the extent of responsibility of each of the crews.”
So, it looks like we may have our answer in the mystery of the superhighway Sukhoi sighting. We also have one more reason why reporting on Russian aviation is always so fascinating and full of interesting surprises.