Key Point: While they differ on their weapons choices and their subsystems, both planes are broadly similar.
The Su-25 is one of the most visible signs of the Russian Air Force’s might. Since its debut during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, the Su-25 has seen service in every conflict involving Soviet or Russian forces, from Chechnya to Georgia to Syria.
Observers have often compared it to the A-10, but that comparison misses some of the nuances of how they are employed. Regardless, the Russian defense ministry plans to keep the Su-25 around in the foreseeable future. But how does it plan on accomplishing that goal?
The development of the Su-25 roughly mirrors that of the A-10. The Soviet Air Force saw the need for a survivable low-level attack aircraft to supplement its current attack fleet. Before the Su-25, Soviet attack aircraft relied on speed for survivability. Aircraft like the Su-17, Su-22, MiG-23BN, and MiG-27 all had only one engine and no armor (the latter being redesigns of the MiG-23 airframe for ground attack).
Combat experience in Afghanistan showed that such configurations were vulnerable to ground fire when conducting missions at low altitude. Armor and two engines needed to be added to improve survivability at the cost of speed.
Enter the Su-25, an aircraft built from the ground up to conduct ground attacks at low altitudes and speeds. It featured significant armor on the bottom and the front of the aircraft and had two heavy duty engines for increased survivability. The design featured straighter wings than those used on fast jets, allowing for better maneuverability and increased lift at the lower speeds the Su-25 was expected to operate at.