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The 27 Warplanes in Russia's Air Force

Artyom_Anikeev / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine will reach its second year in February, a fact which would have shocked most analysts at the start of the conflict. Many believed the war would last a few weeks at most, but it has become a war of attrition, with attacks and counter-attacks gaining some ground for each side, but most major events in the war involve long-range bombing and shelling of targets. Many are wondering whether President Vladimir Putin might choose to more aggressively deploy Russia’s massive air force to tilt the balance of power.

The Russian air force, a vital component of their military prowess, possesses a diverse and expansive array of aircraft tailored for distinct roles and capabilities. Despite the difficulties encountered following the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the Russian air force has upheld its operational efficiency and consistently updated its aircraft inventory. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for well over a year, but its advance has been stalled. Some analysts are speculating that President Vladimir Putin may soon take to the skies to push the balance of power in Russia’s favor as its air force has always been a strong means of projecting power. 

The Russian air force, a key element of Russia’s military power, boasts an extensive and varied fleet of aircraft designed for specific roles and capabilities. Despite the challenges faced after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian air force has maintained its operational effectiveness and continually modernized its aircraft inventory. (Also read: The World’s 13 Fastest Fighter Jets)

To identify all of the planes in active service in the Russian air force, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the 2023 report World Air Forces from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked aircraft by the number of units in active service. We excluded combat helicopters and trainer aircraft from this list. Supplemental data regarding the type of aircraft, how many units are in active service, and how many are on order came from FlightGlobal. Data on each aircraft’s first flight came from various military and historical sources.

Combat aircraft are indispensable to the Russian air force’s strategic vision, with both multi-role and specialized platforms. The Sukhoi Su-27 and its derivatives, the Su-30, and Su-35, are the primary air superiority fighters in the inventory. The Su-27, a highly capable and maneuverable aircraft, has proven its efficiency in various operations since its introduction in the 1980s. 

The MiG-29 and MiG-35 are another set of vital combat aircraft in the Russian air force, serving in various roles that include air policing, interception, and ground attack. Both aircraft are known for their maneuverability and speed. To compare, here are the most expensive planes in the U.S. Air Force.

Apart from fighter and attack aircraft, the Russian air force also has strategic and tactical transport as well as aerial refueling. The Ilyushin Il-76 and Antonov An-124 are heavy-lift transport planes that perform strategic airlift, while the Ilyushin Il-78 offers air-to-air refueling for long-range missions.

Rounding out Russia’s fleet are its long-range bombers like the Tupolev Tu-95, Tu-160, and Tu-22M, which are integral to Russia’s nuclear deterrence and strike capabilities. These bombers are capable of carrying nuclear and conventional cruise missiles, ensuring Russia’s ability to project power across vast distances.

Overall the Russian air force boasts a diverse array of active aircraft and is known as one of the strongest in the world by sheer numbers, capable of maintaining strategic balance domestically and abroad. 

Here is a look at all the planes in active service in the Russian air force.

Source: Dmitry Potashkin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

27. Su-57 Felon
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 1
> First flight: January 2010
> On order for the Russian air force: 75

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Source: Artyom_Anikeev / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

26. An-22 Antei
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 3 (tied)
> First flight: February 1965
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

25. Il-18 Coot
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 3 (tied)
> First flight: July 1957
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

24. Il-80 Maxdome
> Type: Special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 3 (tied)
> First flight: March 1987
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

23. Tu-154 Careless
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 3 (tied)
> First flight: October 1968
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

22. An-124 Ruslan Condor
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 4 (tied)
> First flight: December 1982
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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21. Antonov An-140
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 4 (tied)
> First flight: September 1997
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

20. Tupolev Tu-214
> Type: Special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 4 (tied)
> First flight: January 1989
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

19. Tu-134 Crusty
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 6
> First flight: July 1963
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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18. Antonov An-148
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 15 (tied)
> First flight: December 2004
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

17. Tu-160 Blackjack
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 15 (tied)
> First flight: December 1981
> On order for the Russian air force: 50

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

16. An-30 Clank
> Type: Special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 16
> First flight: August 1967
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: Oleg Elkov / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

15. Il-78 Midas
> Type: Tanker
> Active in Russian air force: 19
> First flight: June 1983
> On order for the Russian air force: 31

14. Il-20/22 Coot-A
> Type: Special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 30
> First flight: July 1957
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

13. An-72 Coaler
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 31
> First flight: August 1977
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: andDraw / iStock via Getty Images

12. Tu-95 Bear
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 47
> First flight: November 1952
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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11. Let L-410 Turbolet
> Type: Transport
> Active in Russian air force: 53
> First flight: April 1969
> On order for the Russian air force: 2

10. An-12 Cub
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 59 (tied)
> First flight: December 1957
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

9. Tu-22M Backfire
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 59 (tied)
> First flight: August 1969
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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8. An-26 Curl
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 115
> First flight: May 1969
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

7. Su-34 Fullback
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 127
> First flight: April 1990
> On order for the Russian air force: 17

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6. MiG-31 Foxhound
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 129
> First flight: September 1975
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

Source: Nordroden / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

5. Il-76 Candid
> Type: Transport, special mission
> Active in Russian air force: 135
> First flight: March 1971
> On order for the Russian air force: 20

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

4. Su-25 Grach Frogfoot
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 197
> First flight: February 1975
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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3. MiG-29/35 Fulcrum
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 240
> First flight: October 1977
> On order for the Russian air force: 31

Source: Kharkhan_Oleg / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

2. Su-24 Fencer
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 273
> First flight: July 1967
> On order for the Russian air force: N/A

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. Su-27/30/35 Flanker
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Active in Russian air force: 353
> First flight: May 1977
> On order for the Russian air force: 27

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