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What Sort of Plane is the Sukhoi 17?
The Su 17 is an interesting aircraft. I would say that it is either a CAS aircraft that can dogfight or a mix between a multi-role fighter and a ground attack plane. Given that multi-roles are a decent compromise between ground attack and dogfighting but lack some of the abilities that pure air superiority fighters feature, you should realize that the combination of some characteristics that a decent, but not great, air to air fighter has with some of the characteristics that make a good to great ground attack plane results in a plane with air to air abilities that are mediocre at best.
The Su 17 has 2 heatseeker missiles and two rocket pods like the AJS Viggen. However, I would say the Viggen is more of a multi-role with a focus on ground attack and high speed at the cost of some manuveurability. I find it does not the replace the a10, and I prefer a regular f16 to it; even though the f16 has less armor and starts out a bit weaker at the beginning of the match. The Su 17, on the other hand, I find to be a adequate replacement for the Su 25. Especially if you want a higher speed ground attack plane, but want more weapons than the 2 to 4 bombs provided by the MiG 29.
Operating the Su17's Variable Sweep Wings
The key to operating the Su 17 is using the two wing modes at the correct time. The first mode has the wings forward for max wingspan. With the wings forward, you have maximum manuveurability, but lower speed. This mode has 64% turning power and a speed of 305 knots. The second mode is with the wings swept back. This increases your speed to 355 knots, but drops your turning power to 49%.
The main use of the swept back wing configuration is to travel across the map. You will need all the manuveurability you can get in a dogfight, so you won't want to be in the swept wing mode when fighting air to air. Especially since your plane is only marginally better at turning than a CAS plane, and only with the wings swept forward. With wings swept back, you are the least manuveurable thing in the sky. You can do a decent job of intercepting craft with the wings back, but unless they are an A10 or a wounded fighter fleeing home, you might have trouble finishing them off without sweeping the wings forward.
When you are doing ground attack, you will also want the wings spread out as your slower speed and great manuveurability will help you engage targets on the ground. The one exception to using the high speed configuration for combat is when you are doing a high speed attack against a target. Sweeping the wings back and burning like a bat out of hell to get a quick gun sweep at a hostile plane from the sides or behind, or more likely, to book it across the map to the last, mostly dead, hostile FOB and strafe it with rocket pods before the enemy can counter are examples of offensive uses of the swept wing mode and are a highly effective technique under certain specific circumstances.
Lastly, don't try to land with the wings swept back. And taking off with the wings back is not advisable unless you have a lot of runway and/or the stol upgrade. I realize this is all probably obvious, but the Su 17 is currently the only craft with this mechanic in the game and so it seemed worth covering.