Sudan Adds Precision Bomber to Arsenal

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DigitalGlobe imagery indicates that Sudan has acquired at least three Su- 24 (“Fencer”) supersonic precision bomber aircraft in recent months. The operational range of the Fencer is a little more than 600 kilometers, which would allow targeted air strikes from their current position in Wadi Seidna military air base into parts of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. (See Figure 1 for graphic on operational range.) The Fencer can also carry two external fuel pods that would extend the range and loiter time over a target area. The acquisition of aircraft with precision targeting capability could signal a change from rolling crude bombs out the door of an AN-24/26 transport to conducting targeted strikes.
 
As early as March 2013, one Su-24 bomber was parked in the engine testing apron in the operational area of Wadi Seidna, located 25 kilometers northwest of Khartoum. (See Figure 2.) Wadi Seidna supports most of Sudan’s fighter and bomber aircraft, i.e. Mig-29, Nanchang Q-5, SU-25, (probably non-operational MiG-23, MiG-17) and AN-24/26 transports. The positioning of Su-24 aircraft in the airbase’s operational area in June 2013 suggests the aircraft was already in use at that time. Since then the aircraft have been seen elsewhere in the operations area and later on a parking apron. (See Figure 3.) The appearance of one of the Su-24 on the runway with wings unswept suggests impending flight. Based on historic observations of Sudanese air force operations, Digital Globe Analytics concludes that initial technical checks and pilot proficiency training are probably underway. To date, three Su-24 aircraft have been observed at Wadi Seidna, most recently on August 24, 2013. 
 
Media reports state that Belarus sold 12 Su-24 aircraft to Sudan with an “end user certificate” that prohibits using the aircraft in Darfur.1 Passed in 2005, UN Security Council Resolution 1591 prohibits the Government of Sudan from acquiring aircraft for use in Darfur. The measure does not, however, expressly prohibit arms sales for use in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where Sudan has consistently conducted aerial attacks.2 SSP and DigitalGlobe will monitor air bases in the south for future deployments of this aircraft.