Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Mystery deepens as “unidentified Mig-29 Fulcrum” locks on a Turkish F-16 again

It has happened again….a Turkish Air Force F-16 was locked on by an “unidentified” Mig-29.

As already reported, on Oct. 3 and 4 October the Turkish airspace was violated by Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-24 aircraft in the Hatay region.

During the first incident, the Russian Su-30SM (initially referred to as a Mig-29 by the Turkish military) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds before the aircraft departed the Turkish airspace. As explained, this was a rather unusual incident: violations occur every now and then, but usually aircraft involved in the interception do not lock on the “target” in order to prevent dangerous situations.

Well it happened again on Oct. 5 and, to make the whole story more mysterious, it looks like the aircraft was identified as a Mig-29 from an unidentified nation/air force.

Accoridng to the Turkish General Staff, the Mig-29 locked on at least one of 8 TuAF F-16s performing CAP (Combat Air Patrol) on the border with Syria. What is more, the lock on lasted four minutes and 30 seconds.

Considered that the Russian Air Force has not deployed Mig-29s to Syria and assuming that the Turkish Air Force has properly identified the aircraft harassing its F-16s on border patrol, it’s is safe to believe the aircraft involved in the last incident was a Syrian Mig-29 “visiting” the TuAF aircraft in CAP station (as already done in the past).

In both the Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 incidents what is also quite surprising is the length of the lock on: both the Su-30SM and the Mig-29 (provided these were involved in the two close encounters) used their radars to paint the Turkish planes possibly exposing to several intelligence gathering platforms details about their systems. Indeed, if the Mig-29 is a very well-known weapons system, the emissions of the RuAF Su-30SM N011M Bars-R radar can be considered extremely interesting to both the TuAF, Israeli AF and NATO planes with ESM (Electronic Support Measures) capabilities.


By the way, what is probably a Boeing 737 Peace Eagle airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft can be spotted every now and then on circling at high altitude over southern Turkey, most probably monitoring the movements of the Russian and Syrian planes while collecting some intelligence data as well.


That said, why are the Turkish unable to determine nationality of the Mig? With all the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft focusing on the airspace of northwestern Syria it is at least weird that a positive identification of the aircraft was not achieved. And isn’t it strange that the one later IDed as a RuAF Su-30SM was initially referred to as an “unidentified Mig-29”? Maybe the Russian Su-30SMs (the only aircraft belonging to the Russian contingent that have not been repainted with the Red Star insignia yet) and the Syrian Mig-29s are flying missions along the border with Turkey together making identification more difficult? Unlikely, considering once again the amount of allied AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft in the vicinity.

Anyway, close encounters do not only involve Turkish and Syrian/Russian aircraft.

In the last few days U.S. F-16s from Incirlik came within 20 miles of RuAF Su-34s: reminder that the airspace over Syria is becoming incresingly “hot.”

Many thanks to Guglielmo Guglielmi for discovering the Turkish E-7 on FR24 and to Arda Mevlutoglu for sending us some heads-up about this developing story.

U.S. F-16s came within 20 miles from Russian Su-34s in Syria

CBS News was given access to CENTCOM radar image showing U.S. and Russian planes not too far one another: yellow aircraft are Russian,  green ones are American.

Some “close encounters” between U.S. and Russian aircraft operating over Syria have already occurred in the last few days according to Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the American air campaign in Iraq and Syria, in an interview given to CBS News

U.S. F-16s out of Incirlik, Tukey, first picked up the Russian planes (Su-34s in the animation shown in the video linked below) on their radars. The RuAF jets closed to within 20 miles from the F-16s, a distance where the American pilots could visually identify them by means of their targeting pods.

20 miles away

How the sort-of engagement is not specified but according to Lt. Gen. Brown, the Russians have come even closer than that to his unmanned drones.

Click here to watch the CBS News video.

Yesterday, Turkey reported two violations of its airspace by Russian aircraft out of Latakia Syria. Newsworthy, in one of the incident, a Mig-29 (that the RuAF has not deployed to the theater) or a Su-30SM (reports are still contradictory), locked on a Turkish F-16 for more than 5 minutes.

Image credit: CENTCOM / CBS News

Russian Su-30SM, Su-24 violate Turkish airspace. Flanker locks on TuAF F-16 for +5 minutes

It looks like a Sukhoi Su-30SM deployed to Syria has had a close encounter with Turkish Air Force F-16s past the Syria-Turkey border.

Russian planes deployed to Syria violated the Turkish airspace twice in the last couple of days.

According to NATO, the violations occurred “on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in the Hatay region. The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings. In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.”

Some more (sometimes contradictory) details appeared on the Turkish media outlets: although the first reports said the aircraft (initially IDed as Mig-29 Fulcrums – a type flown by the Syrian Air Force and not deployed in theater by the RuAF) breached into the Turkish airspace for 5 miles, according to Ankara, the Russian Su-30SM multirole plane violated Tukey’s airspace by “only” some hundreds of meters and returned to Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force out of 10 flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol) near the border.

Furthermore, it seems that the Russian Su-30SM (as said, initially referred to as a Mig-29, before it was determined it was a Flanker-derivative multirole jet) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

According the Russians, the violation was due to a “navigation error”: quite funny considered the type of navigation systems equipping a modern Su-30SM.

Although the navigation error can’t never be ruled out a priori, considering the equipment carried by a 4++ Gen. aircraft, and that it was flying next to a “danger zone” there’s reason to believe that the two pilots on board were perfectly aware of their position.

What is even more weird is the fact that the Russian plane locked the Turkish F-16s for such a long time: instead of turning back the RuAF Sukhoi was ready to fire (or to respond to fire).

Almot no details are currently available about the Su-24 Fencer violation.

As explained when a Turkish RF-4 was shot down by a Syrian coastal anti-aircraft battery after violating the Syrian airspace in 2012, aircraft entering a foreign airspace should not be fired upon but warned, intercepted and eventually escorted outside the violated airspace.

In 2014, a Syrian Mi-17 was shot down by a TuAF F-16, while in 2013 it was the turn of a Syrian Mig-23. But now the Turkish F-16s defending Ankara borders face a different threat….

Image credit: Russian MoD


First ever swing role course on the T-346 prepares Italian Air Force pilots to the Typhoon and Tornado

The Italian Air Force has recently begun training its first Eurofighter and Tornado pilots on the Alenia Aermacchi T-346A at Lecce airbase, in southeastern Italy.

At the beginning of September, the Italian Air Force has launched the very first training course on the T-346A (M-346 “Master”) at 61° Stormo (Wing) based at Lecce-Galatina.

The course, that started 6 months ahead of schedule, is a swing role class held by 212° Gruppo (Squadron) and attended by four Italian pilots who will convert to the Typhoon and Tornado combat fleets upon successful completion of the training, which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).

M-346 air-to-air two

The four Italian pilots will be trained for 9 months in accordance with a new “experimental syllabus” designed by the squadron’s Instructor Pilots (IPs) in the last months and currently based on 170 training events, 50 percent of those carried out in flight and the remaining 50 percent in the simulator.

In fact, with the “Master,” the training syllabus can be split 50-50 between ground and air segment: half of the flight hours is flown in the simulator and the remaining half is flown on the actual plane with a significant cost reduction. Indeed, thanks to an integrated training system (ITS), student pilots can attend ground lessons and practice the training missions in extremely realistic simulators several times before their knowledge and skills are evaluated by an IP, both at the sim and in flight.

M-346 break

The T-346A is a LIFT (Lead-In Fighter Trainer) with impressive performance, cutting edge human-machine interface and a lot of interesting technologies such as a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft.

The plane itself is just the air segment of the ITS that includes ground-based facilities, academics, simulators, and mission planning and debriefing stations developed to fill the gap between the flight schools and the operational unit and to prepare the pilots to operate Gen. 4th and 5th multirole aircraft in high-threat/high performance environments.

M-346 Simulator

Indeed, while current pilots are being prepared for the Typhoon or Tornado aircraft, in the near future, courses will be aimed at training attendees destined to the F-35 Lightning II.

Besides the Italians, pilots from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, are going to undertake the LIFT course with the T-346A at Lecce, along with the Polish Air Force pilots whose first of 16 pilots will start training on the Master with the ItAF in November.

The Polish Air Force is expected to take delivery of the first of 8 M-346A, selected in 2014, by the second half of 2016.

M-346 air-to-air

Watch this video: did a Russian Su-24 Fencer drop a cluster bomb over Aleppo?

Is it a cluster bomb, illumination flares or something else?

The following video shows a Su-24 Fencer (a Russian Air Force one based on reports) dropping *something* on Aleppo.

Since these shouldn’t be illumination flares that do not burst but burn for a few minutes and whose use in daylight conditions it’s at least weird, the one depicted in the footage appears to be the series of exploding cartridges of a cluster bomb.

Watch by yourself:

In particular, according to some of our readers, these could be submunitions of an RBK-250 or 500 cluster bomb.

Once ejected from the RBK container incendiary ZAB-2.5 fall down burning. In this case, there is only a quick mid-air burst that could be the visual effect of the ignition of the ZAB 2.5Ms rocket: once accelerated by the rocket, the submunitions can penetrate in the ground and then explode (from 0 to several minutes after the impact).

However, there is no evident sign of impact of the incendiary submunitions with the ground, therefore it could be a cluster bomb for anti-personnel shrapnels or flechettes (or something else, like mines or even leaflets). Any other guess?


H/T @JulianRoepcke for discovering this video and @BabakTaghvaee for the analysis