A new Russian spyplane skirted the airspace of eastern Ukraine today

A new Russian Air Force Tu-214R could be tracked as it flew close to the border with Ukraine.

Social media are going frenzy after a Russian Air Force Tu-214R was spotted and tracked on the Internet, by means of its ADS-B transponder signals detected by Flightradar24 collecting stations, as it flew from Kazan to Crimea and back, closely following the border between Russia and Ukraine on Jun. 18.

Built by the Kazan Aircraft Production Association’s (KAPO) and flown from the company’s airfield, the Tu-214R registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, is the second of the two examples of this kind of aircraft built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft.

It is equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden. Furthermore the aircraft is known to carry sensor packages to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions: the antennae of the Tu-214R can intercept the signals emitted by the enemy systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) so as it can build the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy forces: where the enemy forces are operating, what kind of equipment they are using and, by eavesdropping into their radio/phone communications, what they are doing and what will be their next move.

This kind of aircraft usually operate in this way: it either loiters/circles in a friendly or uncontested airspace at high altitude and at safe distance from the target(s) of interest or along the border of the enemy country.

The aircraft is probably not yet operational and the last images published on the Web show that the aircraft was not given the standard white paint color scheme yet.

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, along with minor differences with the first operative Tu-214R, RA-64511, serial number 42305011.

What the spyplane was doing along the border is difficult to say, even though it’s quite likely that it was testing some of its onboard sensor packages against real targets….those located in eastern Ukraine.

Differences Tu-214R

This is not the first time a Russian Air Force special mission aircraft appears on Flightradar24.com. Putin’s doomsday planes can often be tracked on the Internet.

Top image credit: Flightradar24 screenshot via @AirForceFreak74 (H/T for spotting the plane).


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Traveling along Israel’s Dead Sea shoreline years ago, I saw the contrail of a jet flying up what must have been the exact middle of sea that is Israel’s border with Jordan. If it was still within Israel, the difference would have been measured in mere yards.

    Perhaps we need to cool these reports of reconnaissance flights by both sides. It won’t stop them and only raises tensions that are already too high anyway. Russia wants to get attention for them, so the smart move is to quietly and inexpensively match them one for one but say nothing.

    Long ago, there was a confrontation at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. The USSR was blocking one of our patrols from entering East Berlin. We’d call up tanks. They’d called up tanks. When the American general in charge was notified, he asked how many tanks each side had. When he was told the numbers were the same he replied along the lines of, “Good, the Russians no more want a confrontation than we do.”

    Maybe that’s how we should treat this situation. Match them flight for flight but go no further than that.

    • The name of the game here is to *win* energy access and rights of sale to Europe and isolate Russia in the process. If we squeeze Ukraine some more we can get things at firesale prices. When I say we I of course mean a select few with vested interests. Common sense is not required when you only risk someone elses hand.

      The Tu204/214 airframe is tried and tested and pretty affordable. Not a bad effort VS the British saga of the Nimrod upgrade that was about 30 years in the making and then scrapped at the 11th hour.

    • not sure why you make that comparison…
      there’s nothing wrong with a country flying in IT’S OWN AIRSPACE, even if it is a spy plane or even a fighter plane. compare that with the countless illegal airspace violations the noble united states has been guilty of in syria the past year under the pretext of ‘fighting isis’ which is so sadly transparent, as it’s for nothing else than crawling close to assad for an a la ghadaffi like attack…

  2. It does what satellites are already doling every day. The Ukrainiandss were douing the same tthing with a much smaller aircraft last year. If the machines are still oiperable they could still be gathering elint. Buit why bother if ‘tthe internet’ is doing it for you?

  3. It flew over Crimea, so it violated Ukrainian airspace, not just skirted its border! We should not legitimize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea through bad wording.

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