Russia’s most advanced spyplane has deployed to Syria again

After the first tour of duty in February 2016  the Tu-214R has returned to Latakia. To spy on Daesh (and also on the U.S. F-22s?)

The Tu-214R is the most modern Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft.

Equipped with sensors to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions as well as with all-weather radar systems and electro-optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground the special mission aircraft, the aircraft can fly multiple intelligence gathering missions: it can intercept and analyse signals emitted by targeted systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) while collecting imagery that can be used to identify and pinpoint the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden.

Built by KAPO (Kazan Aircraft Production Association) and flown from the company’s airfield in Kazan, 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 (the other being serialled RA-64511), deployed to Latakia airbase in Syria, between Feb. 15 and 29, 2016.

Interestingly, RA-64514 has not finished with Syria yet: on Jul. 29, the aircraft flew from Moscow to Syria, where it landed at 3.23AM LT, as the ADS-B tracking show.

Tu-214R route. Screenshot from

The aircraft, that 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, will probably spy on Daesh while testing some of its onboard sensor packages: the aircraft is believed to be still under development and the Syrian battlefield has already been used as a real testbed for new weapons systems by the Russian Aerospace Forces since Moscow started the air war in Syria back in October 2015.

Actually, there is someone who believes the Tu-214R spyplane and other systems deployed by the Russians to Syria might be used to collect data that might be used to “characterize” the F-22’s signature at specific wavelengths.

According to an article published by Sputnik News, Maj. Jahara ‘Franky’ Matisek of the US Air Force, for instance, Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) and S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) anti-aircraft systems were deployed to Syria specifically to spy on the F-22, whose role imply a certain interconnection with other assets.

According to Matisek, these anti-aircraft systems could be “sniffing” the emissions of the F-22s and other NATO aircraft could be used to “[improve] tracking algorithms, air defense capabilities, and [enhance] the understanding of coalition weapons that are engaging in close air support and precision air strikes.”

Anyway, Syria aside, the spyplane has been pretty active in Europe as well: on Jul. 5, the aircraft flew an interesting mission along the borders of Finland, Estonia and Latvia, similarly to what happened on Jun. 18, 2015, when the aircraft flew from Kazan to Crimea and back, closely following the border between Russia and Ukraine (a mission profile that caused some concern back then).

Tu-214R Finland

As already explained, this kind of aircraft usually loiters/circles in a friendly or uncontested airspace at high altitude and at safe distance (but within range of the onboard sensors) from the target(s) of interest or along the border of the enemy country.

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.


  1. Envy? Over inferior Russian electronics and a less sophisticated airframe and its twin powerplants? I doubt it. Actually, I know it. Not in a million years!

  2. No, these aircraft have pretty nothing much to give up… they basically are a bunch of very powerful and sensitive sniffers, sensors and receivers, exactly like their US counterparts the Russians keeps intercepting over the Baltic. And no, F-22 isn’t ELINT/SIGINT aircraft so don’t expect it to play the same role the other way around. So if the U.S ever want to have any real “good look” at one of these, they’d have to grab one and take it to pieces exactly like the Chinese did on one of U.S EP-3 back in 2001.
    And well, I don’t think that anyone knowledgeable enough will agree with your statement above and gives you the desperate reassurance you’re asking for.

    • The plane has passive as well as ACTIVE sensors. You don’t know what you are talking about.

      And F-22? It can collect electronic signals intel from its onboard sensors. Strike 2! Keep trying.

    • You are correct if the aircraft passively collects data. That aside it is probably running SIGINT runs to eavesdrop on American and european EOB comms applied to operations

  3. The Tu214R was sent to Khmeimim as the action heats up quickly in Syria,
    especially around Aleppo. The west’s darling “moderate” terrorists are
    in full offensive, after rebuilding their weapons, and munitions stocks
    during the ceasefire months.
    On August 1st a Mi8 rescue helo was downed near Saraqeb in Idlib province, after a humanitarian mission in Aleppo, by “moderate” terrorists of Jaish al-Fatah.
    All 3 crew members, and 2 officers from RRCS were killed.
    In good wahhabist tradition the terrorists abused the corpses of the dead.
    Moussa al-Omar, a brit based “oposition journalist” had the insolence to remark that “Helicopter pilots and passengers killed. If only the Russian sister had survived, the Syrian’s joy would have been doubled.”

  4. Some new Russian equipment is quite good compared with stuff from previous years, mainly most the the stuff that is improved are copies of captured Aircraft, Cruise Missiles, Abraham Tanks and any equipment they can lat there hands on, Cruise Missiles shop down in the Iraq War where shipped to Moscow, same with aircraft, electronics, space equipment, Tanks, you have no idea how big the espionage is from Russia and China, think of the Billions they save in R & D costs.

Comments are closed.