Since then, the RuAF contingent has launched more raids, some of those conducted by the six Su-34 Fullback bombers, the most advanced tactical jets in the Russian inventory, deployed to Latakia just a couple of days before they were used for the first time in combat.
The following interactive map by @Radicalenzyme shows the location of all the known attacks so far.
As the RuAF Su-24s, Su-25s and Su-34s deliver their unguided and guided munitions on ISIS (and, according to some reports, Free Syrian Army) targets there is some concern that the lack of coordination with the US-led coalition may cause some trouble sooner or later.
Considered the number of sorties launched by the coalition (from 1 to 6, according to the daily reports by U.S. CENTCOM) the risk of mid-air between Russians and U.S. planes is still quite low. Beginning on Oct. 2, Su-30SMs have appeared next to the attacking Russian planes: they are equipped with good air-to-air radars, useful to have an idea of the “picture.”
According one of our sources with deep knowledge of Operation Inherent Resolve, who wishes to remain anonymous “with a growing presence of Sukhois across Syria and little notification, we can’t completely rule out that different packages will one day come a bit too close each other. Can you imagine what happens the first time an escort plane supporting a strike package starts tracking a Russian plane, or vice versa? The best solution is to divide the Syrian airspace into different areas and assign them to the different parties.”
Provided the pictures are genuine and taken in Syria in the last couple of days, they would really prove a Russian expeditionary force has already arrived in the country and started flying from an Assad-controlled airbase near Damascus as reported by some Israeli media outlets.
Recent reports claimed Russia was in talks to sell Damascus some MiG-29s but the rumors were refuted by MiG CEO Sergei Korotkov.
If the pictures are real, the current makeup of the Russian detachment would include attack planes (Su-34), as well as some air-superiority ones (MiG-29 and Su-27) and UAVs (Pchela 1T – a drone with a of range 60 km).
Whether the Russian Air Force operations against ISIS in Syria are coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition that daily conducts air strikes in the country is unclear. Let’s hope they talk each other, otherwise one of the next days the Su-27s may make a close encounter with a stealthy US F-22 providing kinetic situational awareness to other coalition combat planes.
The following clip was aired by Zvevda, the Russian TV network owned by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Filmed with GoPro cameras inside and/or outside Russian Air Force Yak-130s, Mi-28s, Ka-52s, Su-27s, Su-34s, Su-25s and Mig-29s the footage shows the biggest ever Victory Day parade over Red Square, on May 9, from a privileged point of view.
The Pentagon protested for the “reckless” and “unprofessional” behaviour of the Russian pilot who buzzed the U-Boat (as the RC-135U is nicknamed in the pilot community) and flew dangerously close to the American aircraft.
Few days ago, a former RC-135 aircraft commander who flew the S, U, V, W, and X models, sent us an email and gave his point of view about the “U-Boat” intercept. Here’s what he explained to us:
“About the RC-135U intercept last week, the absence of a transponder signal is a non-issue. Having flown many of these missions, we used the concept of “see and avoid” where the pilot flying is responsible for avoiding all traffic conflicts, much like a VFR flight plan without flight following.
Given that the intercept took place in VMC there is simply no merit in the Russian accusations that the U-Boat was flying without an active transponder and therefore a dangerous risk.
The close proximity is equally moot.
Prior to the end of the Cold War interceptors from a variety of nations managed to get into tight formation with RC-135s and EP-3s. Smaller airplanes like MiG-21s made it easy. The challenge with the larger airplanes like the Su-27 and MiG-31 is the sheer size of the interceptor as it moves in front of any portion of the intercepted plane.
At least the Su-27 pilot has excellent all-around visibility to see where the back end of his own airplane is as he maneuvers adjacent to the RC-135.
The U-Boat crew took video of the intercept, which has not been released but shows the precise extent of how close the FLANKER really was. Recent movies taken by a PRC aircraft that was intercepted by a JASDF F-15CJ suggests that the Eagle was very close—until the camera zooms out and shows the Eagle was 70-100 feet away from the wingtip….
Finally, although the number of Russian reactions to Western recon flights has been increasing recently, for 15-20 years (certainly from 1992 through 2010) there were almost no reactions on a regular basis. As such, what passes for dangerous and provocative today was ho-hum to recon crews of my generation (although we weren’t shot at like the early fliers from 1950-1960).”
Russian warplanes usually deployed to Chkalovsk, Kaliningrad’s largest airfield, located 9 km northwest of Kaliningrad and able to accomodate bombers and interceptors. However, the base is being repaired and all the activities have moved to Chernyakhovsk were QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is provided by Su-27 Flankers. Single ones since, unlike NATO planes that operate in pairs during air policing missions, Russian planes are scrambled singularly.
According to a rough translation provided by some readers and Twitter followers, the service aired by Zvezda (a Russian nationwide TV network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense) explains that, while securing the western borders of the motherland, Russian pilots constantly train for air-to-air combat, flying several daily sorties.
“There are sufficient resources are on duty to defend from any intruder.”
The interviews with pilots do not unveil anything special; still, the footage is interesting as it shows the flight ops in Kaliningrad: something you don’t see too often.
H/T @oplatsen and @alcebaid for the help with the translation