Tag Archives: Synthetic Aperture Radar

Russian Tu-214R intelligence gathering plane exposed! First photo of the new spyplane during test flight lands on the Web.

Evgeny Volkov is the name of the photographer who took the first picture of a flying Russian Tu-214R known to date.

The image Evgeny has uploaded to the Russianplanes.net portal, shows the Tu-214R carring registration number RA-64511, serial number 42305011, serial number 511, built by the Kazan Aircraft Production Association’s (KAPO) and flown at the company’s airfield.

Although some sources say that the plane will serve as an airborne command post, the two Tu-214R being built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense, will be also ELINT (Electronic Intelligence)/ SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) platforms.

Indeed, the aircraft features the same types of external bulges of other very well known intelligence gathering planes, as the U.S. RC-135 or the Israeli B-707 with the Phalcon system.

The aircraft depicted in the image made its first flight in December 2009 and it is expected to complete the flight testing phase by 2013.

The second example, registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, serial number 514, is currently in final assembly shop at KAPO and it is scheduled to enter service in 2014.

A special Tu-214 version, designated Tu-214ON, fitted with four photographic and three TV cameras, synthetic aperture radar and a linear-scanning infrared sensor, was developed to perform monitoring and observation flights under the Open Skies Treaty.

The Tu-214ON (registration RA-64519) attended MAKS 2011 airshow.

Photo: U.S. F-22 Raptors landing at Moron airbase, Spain, on their way to the Persian Gulf.

The following pictures, taken by Antonio Muñiz, show the F-22 Raptors from Holloman landing at Moron airbase, in Spain, on Apr. 17, 2012.

As already explained with many exclusive details, the six 49FW F-22As were on the first leg of their scheduled deployment to the Gulf. The stealth fighters departed again for their final destination, Al Dhafra, in the UAE, on Apr. 20.

Even if the aircraft have not received the Block 3.1 upgrade (that makes the F-22 capable to perform air-to-ground missions), the deployment of the most advanced U.S. fighter in the region is believed to be a clear message to Iran amid concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and territorial disputes between the ayatollah regime and the United Arab Emirates over three islands in the Gulf.

In the meanwhile, in the last few hours, media outlets have been reporting the news that some of the American F-22 Raptor pilots have asked to be reassigned to other types of aircraft, because of the oxygen-deprivation problems with the fifth generation stealth fighter.

Image credit: Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta

Exclusive: What nobody else will tell you about the U.S. F-22 stealth fighters deployed near Iran

Update May 2, 2012 16.05 GMT

The news that multiple F-22 stealth fighters were deployed “near Iran” has already been reported by the most important media outlets all around the world.

However, nobody has been able to provide some important details that could be useful to better understand the scope of this overseas deployment: when did the Raptors deploy? How many aircraft were deployed? Where?

And, above all, are those plane capable to perform strike missions in addition to the standard air-to-air sorties?

Thanks to the information provided by several sources, The Aviationist is able to fill the gaps, provide a more accurate view of the deployment and debunk some myths that fueled the media hype.

The six F-22 Raptors currently at Al Dhafra, UAE, belong to the 49th Fighter Wing, based at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. They flew as “Mazda 91″ to Moron, Spain, on Apr. 17 and departed again for their final destination on Apr. 20.

Since they spent some 4 days in Spain, during their stay, the stealthy planes were photographed by several local spotters that were able to provide the exact list of all the examples involved in the deployment:

#04-4078, #04-4081, #05-4093, #05-4094, #05-4098, #05-4099.

If they were not willing to let the world know of such deployment they would not make a stopover in Spain, during daylight.

They are all Block 3.0 (or Block 30) examples meaning that neither of them has received  the latest upgrade (Block 3.1) that has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter.

Therefore they are hardly involved in any build-up process in the region, since their role in case of war on Iran would be limited to the air-to-air arena: mainly fighter sweep (missions with the aim to seek out and destroy enemy aircraft prior to the arrival of the strike package), HVAA (High Value Air Asset) escort and DCA (Defensive Counter Air).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Considered the limited effectiveness of the Iranian Air Force, it is much more likely that the F-22s involved in any kind of attack on Iran would be those of the 3rd Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska, that was the first U.S. Air Force unit to receive the Block 3.1 planes and has already started training in the air-to-surface role.

Furthermore, the deployment is among those scheduled several month in advance and this is not the first time the F-22 deploys in the United Arab Emirates. In November 2009, some 1st Fighter Wing’s Raptors from Langley AFB, flew to Al Dhafra, to train with the French Air Force Rafales and the RAF Typhoons during exercise ATLC 2009. The episode is quite famous because in late December of the same year the French Ministry of Defense released the captures taken by the Rafale’s OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) showing an F-22 in aerial combat. In fact, although the U.S. Air Force pilots told that their plane was undefeated during the exercise, the French were killed once in six 1 vs 1 WVR (Within Visual Range) engagements versus the F-22 (the other 5 ended with a “draw”) and one Raptor was claimed as killed by a UAE Mirage 2000 during a mock engagement.

Here’s the famous capture released at the time and published for the first time by Air & Cosmos magazine.

Image credit: French MoD via Air & Cosmos

RAF’s E-3D AWACS fleet grounded by a mystery fault

Media outlets in the UK have today reported of a press release from the British Ministry of Defense according to which the RAF’s fleet of seven E-3D AWACS aircraft has been grounded due to a technical issue discovered during routine maintenance.

The report doesn’t explain what the actual problem is (The Sun reported it as a crack in the dome) but it must be a major one to ground a whole fleet of such important planes nor it says if this fault is likely to affect all other E-3s or Boeing 707 derived aircraft in other U.S., NATO or other air forces service.

U.S. AWACS provide homeland security and air space management “services” to U.S. and allied planes in Afghanistan and all around the world.

The press release has been very keen to point out that there is no affect on operational capability as there are other aircraft that can perform the same task.

However, the only other aircraft in RAF inventory with similar capabilities is the Sentinel R.1, the air segment of the Airborne STand-Off Radar (ASTOR) system, that has proved to be particularly effective in Libya. The Sentinel use a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) to detect and track enemy ground forces so it is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) asset that, unlike the E-3, is not specialized in AEW (Airborne Early Warning) whose primary role is to detect, identify and track enemy aircraft (and guide fighter planes to intercept them).

Indeed, E-3D AWACS will be among the most important assets of the air contingent destined to ensure the security of this year’s London Olympic Games. Provided that the flight ban is lifted.

Once further details are released The Aviationist will provide an update.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti

Image credit: RAF /Crown Copyright

Video: F-22 Raptor in action during Red Flag 12-3

As reported by Wired’s Danger Room, the F-22 Raptor has finally achieved the full combat readiness.

The latest (software) upgrade (Block 3.1) has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter that remained grounded for several months in 2011 following “hypoxia-like” symptoms experienced by Raptors pilots in 12 incidents since 2008.

Since the first modified planes were delivered to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, those that took part to the Red Flag 12-3 at Nellis AFB, Nevada , belonging to the 27th FS from Langley AFB, Virginia, did not feature the Increment 3.1 and could only play the air-to-air role.

The following interesting HD video shows the 1st FW planes at work during the most recent Flag.