Tag Archives: Sukhoi Su-27

U.S. spyplane aggressively intercepted by Russian Su-27 over the Baltic Sea

It looks like a Su-27 Flanker performed a reckless intercept on a U.S. RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 7, a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace was intercepted over the Baltic Sea, off Kaliningrad Oblast, by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet.

According to the Pentagon, the Russian plane buzzed the American spyplane and then performed two close high speed passes: a “reckless” and “unprofessional” behaviour according to U.S. officials.

Needless to say, the Russians deny the American report of the two planes near colliding during the intercept.

Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the RC-135U was intercepted after the Russian radars detected an unidentified airborne target over the Baltic, flying with its transponder switched off, towards the Russian border.

According to the Russian MoD, no emergency situation was registered during the close encounter and the intercept mission went as routine.

The Su-27 reached its target, flew around it several times, identified it as an RC-135U and reported its tail number to the ground control: more or less the same procedure NATO or U.S. planes follow when the intercept and shadow Russian spyplanes in northern Europe.

However, unless very slow-moving aircraft are intercepted, fighter jets usually don’t need to fly around the aerial target “several times”: they approach the target from astern and slowly get closer until the pilots can visually read the serials, registration etc.

Multiple passes are usually flown when interceptors can’t fly as slow as their targets and perform several passes to identify the aircraft and get all the details they need to transmit to the ground radar.

This is not the first time Russian pilots are accused to perform unsafe intercept missions on NATO or US planes: last year a Russian Su-27 Flanker performed a dangerous intercept putting itself within 10 meters of Swedish ELINT plane. Earlier a U.S. RC-135U spyplane and Russian Su-27 were involved in one of the most dangerous aerial encounters since the Cold War in the skies north of Japan.

The RC-135U is one of the most secretive U.S. surveillance planes: deployed at RAF Mildenhall, in the UK, it provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information, performing signal analysis by means of a wide variety of commercial off-the-shelf and proprietary hardware and software, including the Automatic Electronic Emitter Locating System. It’s pretty clear why the Russian are unhappy when one of these planes flies in the vicinity of their bases.

One more detail worth a note is the fact that the Russians say the U.S. plane was flying with its transponder switched off: Russian spyplanes, that regularly fly with no transponder near Sweden have raised concern among Swedish authorities.

Aircraft flying without transponder in international airspace close to airliners routes and airports are not visible to the civilian air traffic control radars therefore they can pose a threat to civil planes unaware of their presence.

Still, the Mode-S transponder could be detected by ADS-B receivers according to Flightradar24.com (although it’s unclear whether the aircraft kept the transponder switched on during the whole mission, including the part of its flight when it was intercepted).


Image credit: Andrey Zinchuk / Airforce.ru

H/T to Lasse Holmstrom and Erik Arnberg for providing more details about this story.


Russian next generation stealth fighter to fall victim to the Russian financial crisis?

PAK-FA may suffer significant cuts.

Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Yuri Borisov, has recently announced that the PAK-FA programme may be halted or adjusted, due to the dire conditions of Russia’s economy, affected by the Ukrainian crisis and the subsequent (proxy war and) EU sanctions.

Initially, the Russian Air Force was expected to procure more than 150 PAK-FA next generation stealth fighter jets, with the first examples to be delivered to the active squadrons in 2016. In December 2014, the RuAF plans was to receive the first 55 fighters by 2020.

However, as announced by Russia’s MoD last month, the production will be slowed down and the initial order cut to 12 jets: the nation’s economy has deteriorated and the aircraft troubled development and increasing costs have persuaded the Russian Air Force to retain their large fleets of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-27SM and Su-35S to obviate to the reduced amount of frontline next generation fighter jets.

Indeed, the PAK-FA program seems to be quite costly, because of the troublesome childhood of the new Russian fighter and the problems associated with the fighter’s powerplant.

According to the Polish media outlet Altair, the production is to be started next year, and the Russian Air Force would stop the production after the first 12 examples are acquired for a period of operational tests. This would serve two purposes: first of all, it would enable the Russian MoD to plan the procurement of Su-30SM and Su-35 jet fighters to eventually save some money. Secondly, that period would be used to test the PAK-FA’s operational capabilities, and possibly to get rid of any of the problems that could emerge during the initial field operations.

Sukhoi planned to sell some 400 fighters to the Russian and the Indian Air Force; figures that seems to be well above the current sales forecast: India has considerably reduced the requirement from 200 to no more than 130-145 jets, and has recently expressed concerns over the raising costs, delays and technical issues that have plagued the 10.5 billion USD FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft), that is based on the PAK-FA aircraft.

Image credit: Sukhoi via Airforce.ru


Russian Tu-22 bomber scares NATO air defenses flying at supersonic speed over the Baltic Sea for the first time

The latest close encounter between NATO and Russian planes over the Baltic Sea was  different.

Early morning on Mar. 24, NATO and Swedish QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) interceptors were scrambled  to identify and shadow a formation of two Russian Air Force Tu-22M Backfire bombers escorted by two Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

As usual, the aircraft were flying with no FPL, no transponder, in international airspace. But, unlike all the previous events the leading Tu-22M bomber was flying at supersonic speed!

As a consequence of the high-speed of the Russian planes, the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets, providing BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) duties from Siauliau airbase, Lithuania, had to perform a supersonic run to intercept and escort the Tu-22s and accompanying Su-27s.

According to our sources, this was the very first time a Russian Air Force plane flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad Oblast was flying abeam Latvia, within the Riga FIR (Flight Information Region), heading towards Denmark and the Scandinavian peninsula at supersonic speed.

The Backfire decelerated to subsonic speed and rejoined with the rest of the formation that was picked up by a flight of two Su-27s from Kaliningrad that relieved the other two Flankers.

Although the Russians did not violate any rule, their flying without transponder, without establishing radio contact with any ATC agency, may pose dangers to civilian aviation. Even more so, if the bombers or their escort jets fly at supersonic speed or aggressively react to aircraft that are launched to intercept them.

Some analysts believe the purpose of the flight was provocative: Moscow has recently warned Denmark that if it joins Nato’s missile defense shield, its navy will be a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear attack.

As a side note, on the afternoon on Mar. 24, the Italian Typhoons were scrambled again to perform another supersonic interception of two Su-27 Flanker returning to mainland Russia from Kaliningrad: the pair that had been relieved by the second flight of Flankers earlier on the same day.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for providing additional details.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team /Wikipedia


Stunning HD video: flying the Russian Su-34 Fullback bomber

Taxi, take-off, aerobatics and a bit of air combat from the cockpit of a Russian Su-34 Fullback.

The following series of videos is pretty impressive: with English subtitles, the footage brings you inside the cockpit of a Russian Su-34 Fullback bomber during a training sortie.

Filmed with cameras installed inside the cockpit and attached to the fuselage, the 4-part documentary includes a sort of dogfight with a Su-27: to be honest, the lighter and more maneuverable Flanker does not seem to react too much to the attacking Su-34; it’s a sacrificial victim rather than a real opponent.

Nevertheless, the clips are interesting and provide some interesting details about the Russian attack aircraft that is becoming a frequent visitor of the Baltic region.

Here below is the first clip. At the bottom you find the links to the remaining ones.

Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.


Italian Typhoon jets have intercepted a Russian Air Force Il-78 tanker over the Baltic Sea

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoon interceptors have had their first close encounter with a Russian jet since taking over the lead nation role within NATO Baltic Air Patrol.

On Jan. 30, two Italian Air Force Typhoons deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, to provide Air Policing in the Baltics region, were scrambled to identify and escort a Russian Air Force Il-78 Midas flying close to NATO Baltic States airspace, Latvia’s Military said on its official Twitter account.

Although no further details about the mission have been disclosed, it looks like the Russian Il-78 shadowed by the Italians was not one of the tankers that supported the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers on their 19-hour mission to the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week, but it was probably only flying a training sortie over the Baltic Sea.

Still, the air policing mission marks the first intercept mission by the Italian F-2000s (as the Typhoons are designated within the Aeronautica Militare) on Russian planes since the Italian Air Force took over the lead role of BAP on Jan. 1.

Russian Air Force missions in the region often require NATO jet fighters on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at several airbase in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, to perform Alert Scrambles, to intercept Il-20 spyplanes, Tu-22M Backfire bombers and Su-27 fighter jets. Such close encounters have become a bit more frequent since Russian invasion of Crimea and subsequent international crisis over Ukraine.

Image credit: Eurofighter