Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria

A Russian Air Force Tu-214R is about to land at Latakia, Syria.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. In other words, a quite advanced spyplane.

As we have already explained here in the past, it is a special mission aircraft 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.

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.

The aircraft is built by KAPO (Kazan Aircraft Production Association) and flown from the company’s airfield in Kazan.

On Feb. 15, the Tu-214R registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, the second of the two examples of this kind of aircraft built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense, flew from Kazan to Latakia airbase, Syria.


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With its ADS-B transponder signals broadcast in the clear and detected by Flightradar24 collecting stations, the aircraft could be tracked as it followed the eastern corridor from Russia, to the Caspian Sea and then to Syria via the Iranian and Iraqi airspaces. It’s not clear whether the aircraft has already been delivered to the Russian Air Force, even though it is quite weird that a developmental aircraft is deployed abroad (unless the reason is testing it at war in a real scenario…).

While it was still under development, the same Tu-214R aircraft flew what appeared to be an operative mission on Jun. 18, 2015, when it flew from Kazan to Crimea and back, closely following the border between Russia and Ukraine, most probably testing some of its sensors against real targets.

Previously, the aircraft was spotted flying near Crimea.Interestingly, while over the Caspian Sea, approaching the Iranian airspace, the Tu-214R performed a couple of 360° turns at 33.000 feet (weird, while enroute): maybe it was working on the diplomatic clearence to enter Iran?


Image credit: Rimma Sadykova/Wiki


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.


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            2) 0,1 (clean) 0,9 in full air to ground configuration rcs (0,4 in air to air configuration) vs 3,5 square metres clean ! ( 5-6 square metresa t least in operational configuration)
            3) true supercruise capability 1,5-13 depending on configuration vs no supercruise
            4) 3 times more fuel efficiency in subsonic ( an su 35 in supersonic is a nonsense)
            5) best irst in the world and excellent radar in air to air role
            6)much better weapons
            7)true sensor fusion
            8) jsut 15% of mass is alloy, rest is composite: much better trust to weight ratio and rcs reduced also by core material, not just external shape and ram
            9) most reliable and efficient engine in the world, with trust to weight ratio inferior just to f22

            In real wworld scenario su35, most heavy fighter in the world act like a sitting dick, while typhoon engage in air to air always in same way: supersonic, at high G,flying higher then any sukhoy and at least on par with f22: typhoon can decide if engage or not in bvr,su 35 has no engines, no aerodinamics, no weapons to decide if be engaged or not : it isgoona to be destroyed 90% of times; th other 10% typhoon has no missiles left: this scenario gonna be much worst with introducing of meteor missile for typhooon, not mentioning aesa…

    • Curious thing, UK has already deployed its RC-135W, which performs the same missions…British guys must be looking for ISIL radars too then…
      Seriously, the comment section lately is flooded with stupidity, does people even think before posting?

    • Maybe they don’t really care.
      Look at the fact. Hundreds of bombings, killer drones, special ops and ISIS is still standing (same for Al Qaida). I assume that they have adapted their tactis to the situation.

    • IS has many kinds of communications equipment to listen to, thanks to the foreign states that support it and the other “Syrian opposition” groups.

  1. This mission is a direct consequence of violation “The Treaty on Open Skies” by Turkey.

  2. First AWACS, now this… Something tells me the presence of these systems has very, very little to do with fighting terrorists. Well, depending on your (current) definition of the word, of course.

  3. Through the looking glass towards selective finger pointing, or who is in violation to agreements.

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