Category Archives: Russia

RAF Typhoons to deploy to Romania to provide Air Policing in the Black Sea region

British Typhoons heading to southeastern Europe to provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) from Romania.

On Mar. 27, the UK MoD (Ministry of Defence) has announced that four Typhoon combat planes, belonging to the 3 (Fighter) Squadron will fly from RAF Coningsby to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in southeast Romania, to support NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission from May to September 2017.

During QRA tasks Typhoons typically fly with two 2,000-lt drop-tanks (although this option will likely not be needed for Romania, as noted by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly), four Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs), four AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs), along with the internal Mauser 27 mm cannon.

With the deployment to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, the Royal Air Force will become the first air arm to support NATO air policing mission to reassure local allies in the Black Sea region that is frequently “visited” by NATO  intelligence gathering and maritime patrol aircraft as well as Russian combat planes, some of those buzz U.S. warships and spyplanes operating in the area.

Some NATO members provide air policing tasks for allies that lack aircraft and radars to do so autonomously (Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia).

NATO has been protecting the Baltic skies since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance. The Baltic air policing mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. Slovenia’s airspace is covered by Hungary and Italy. Albania is covered by Greece and Italy.

The Italian Air Force covers Albania (sharing the task with the Hellenic Air Force) and Slovenia (with the Hungarian Air Force) and is currently supporting Icelandic Air Policing mission in Iceland; NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. It is supported by various air forces on a rotational basis and covers Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) headquartered at Ramstein, Germany oversees the NATO Air Policing mission with 24/7 command and control from two Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs); one in Torrejon, Spain, and one in Uedem, Germany. CAOC Uedem is responsible for NATO Air Policing north of the Alps and CAOC Torrejon for the south. The CAOC decides which interceptors will be scrambled according to the location of the incident.

The mission of patrolling the skies along NATO’s eastern border was intensified following the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The arrival of the British Typhoons is the last of a series of measures “to deter a Russian aggression over the Black Sea.

Image credit: Eurofighter / Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd

The Russian Knights Look Exceptional in their New Su-30s. Let’s Have a Look at Their First Display at LIMA 17.

Russian Aerobatic Team Shows Precision and Performance in Brand New Su-30s.

The LIMA 17 air show in Malaysia on Mar. 21-25th is the largest air show of its kind in the Asia/Pacific region.

As already reported here, this year’s show included the first performance of the Russian Knights in their new Sukhoi Su-30SM (NATO: “Flanker-C”) aircraft.

The Russian Knights flew four Su-30SMs at LIMA 17, having just received the aircraft after last year’s show season. Before 2017 the team flew the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-27UB aircraft, a prior generation version of the heavily upgraded new Su-30SM.

The flight demonstration began with some exceptionally well-practiced diamond formation flying by the Russian Knights. During the diamond maneuvers the team displayed excellent symmetry, especially during difficult rolling maneuvers when the outside and inside aircraft in the formation fly different profiles to maintain position. While the Russian Knights fly wider aircraft spacing than the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, their synchronization was impressive in the new Su-30SMs.

Weather conditions including broken, low overcast meant the Russian Knights flew a relatively low altitude demonstration routine mostly below the cloud cover. The high humidity in Malaysia made for spectacular vapor clouds under hard maneuvering by the Sukhois.

The team will eventually fly six of the aircraft, but only four demonstrated in Malaysia. At the end of the formation flying routine two of the Su-30SMs detached from the diamond to perform solo and opposing solo maneuvers. During this part of the show the first two aircraft landed and deployed their drag chutes, adding spectacle to the routine.

Landing with drag chute (credit: Suman Sharma, Chindits Defense)

At the end of the routine one aircraft demonstrated the vectored-thrust, super-maneuverable capability of the Su-30SM. This performance is unique to any flight demonstration team since it showcases the SU-30SM thrust-vectoring and canard wing capabilities. This included ultra-high angle of attack maneuvers and the impressive low-speed, pivoting turns combined with “cobra” style pitch-ups unique to the Sukhoi demo routines.

Russian Knights commander, air force Colonel Andrey Alekseev told media outlets in a press conference prior to the show, “It is the great honor for us to represent [the] Russian Air Force with the ‘best-in-the-world’ Su-30SM fighters here in Malaysia.”

In what seemed like major export marketing push for Sukhoi and UAC (United Aircraft Corporation) the Royal Malaysian Air Force also performed solo demonstration flights of their Su-30MKMs in subdued, tactical color schemes. One of the demo pilots identified as Royal Malaysian Air Force Colonel Gborg, gushed about the Su-30MKM, telling reporters, “This is the best fighter I have flown in my 20-year career!” Sukhoi/UAC supported the flight demonstrations with a marketing booth in the aviation industry exhibition hall throughout the show.

Two Pacific-Asian based aerobatic teams also flew at LIMA 17 making this a major show. The Tentera Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara’s Jupiter team flying the small, elegant KAI KT-1 Woongbi Korean-built single-engine turboprop, basic training aircraft and the South Korean Black Eagles jet team flying KAI-T50B advanced supersonic trainer flew along with the Russian Knights during the show.

Top Image credit: Sputnik News. Video by This Is Flight (@tif_live)

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Watch the first solo display training of the new Su-30SM of the Russian Knights aerobatic team at LIMA 17. At dusk.

Sunset Supermaneuverability: Mesmerizing footage.

The “Russian Knights” aerobatic team have brought their new Su-30SM jets at the LIMA 17 exhibition currently underway in Malaysia.

The participation in Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition represents the world premiere of the “Russian Knights” flying the new supermaneuverable multirole combat aircraft delivered in Fall 2016.

The Su-30SM is a multirole derivative of the Su-27 Flanker. It’s a special variant of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI fighters equipping by the Indian Air Force and the Su-30MKM fighters flown by the Royal Malaysian Air Force produced by the Irkut Corporation for the Russian Air Force that has also extensively used the aircraft in the air war over Syria.

The Su-30SM a 4+ Generation twin-engine, two seat supermaneuverable multi-role aircraft equipped with improved avionics, the Bars-R radar and a wide-angle HUD (Head Up Display).

The new aircraft’s supermaneuverability has allowed the team, that previously flew the Su-27 and Su-27UB aircraft, to develop a new flying demo.

The following footage by Miezan Bohor shows one of the four aircraft practicing the solo display over Langkawi at desk. The almost constant use of afterburners lets you observe the thrust vectoring exhaust nozzles at work in the darkness.

And here is the solo display rehearsals on Mar. 20:

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Russia to start building its next generation flying wing stealth bomber to replace the Tu-22, Tu-95 and Tu-160 aircraft

About four years ago, Russia’s next generation stealth bomber’s conceptual design was given the official approval. Now it looks like there is a go ahead to build the new aircraft.

Developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau since 2009, PAK DA (Advanced Long-Range Aviation Complex) is the new bomber that Russia plans to field starting in 2023 to replace Moscow’s aging fleet of Tu-95 Bear, Tu-22M3 Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers.

According to the latest update by the state-run Sputnik news media outlet, the new strategic bomber is expected to make its first flight sometime before 2021, with the first deliveries starting a couple of years later even though this seems to be rather optimistic, considered that back in 2013, the plan was for the PAK DA to enter production stage by 2020 with the first bomber in active service by 2025-2030 timeframe.

Anyway, the stealth bomber will be a flying wing design and subsonic: unlike the American X-51, Falcon HTV-2 and other hypersonic development programs on which U.S.’s perspective strike capability could be based, the new Russian bomber will not even be supersonic. The loss in speed will be compensated with advanced stealth, electronic capabilities and an artificial intelligence-guided missile.

“It is impossible to build a missile-carrying bomber invisible to radars and supersonic at the same time. This is why focus is placed on stealth capabilities. The PAK DA will carry AI-guided missiles with a range of up to 7,000 km. Such a missile can analyze the aerial and radio-radar situation and determine its direction, altitude and speed. We’re already working on such missiles,” Russian Aerospace Forces Commander Viktor Bondarev was quoted as saying by the Russian newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta.

The Russian flying-wing will be capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles as well as conventional and smart-guided bombs. A 2016 report mentioned that the PAK DA was expected to have a range of 6,740 nautical miles. It will also be able to carry 30 tons of weapons.

An unmanned “sixth-generation” strategic bomber based on the PAK-DA that could come around 2040-2050 was also rumored years ago and, based on last year’s statements, Russia has already started working on both 6th and 7th Gen. combat planes.

Still, whether Moscow will be able to operate the new stealthy bomber (and/or a next generation radar-evading 6th or 7th generation tactical plane) in the near/medium future is hard to say.

The optimistic claims surrounding the abilities of the new aircraft types being developed, their sensors and weapons will have to be backed by facts: indeed, unlike the U.S., that have been operating 5th Gen. aircraft (the F-22 and, with more difficulties, the controversial and troubled F-35), stealth aircraft and active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for years, so far, Russia has not been able to operate a next generation stealth aircraft nor AESA radar system (both ones are still at the testing stage).

Let’s not forget that the 5th generation T-50 PAK-FA has yet to be formally inducted into active service by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Furthermore,  all the most futuristic programs (including the already mentioned F-35) have proved to be subject to various development issues, cost overruns and delays.

As already explained here in the past, Sukhoi might base its 6th Gen. on the PAK-FA and upgrade the design throughout the years similarly to what they have done with the Su-27 and subsequent supermaneuverable Flanker variants up to the Su-35S.

This means that the PAK-FA will probably become a 5++ Gen. thanks to the planned upgrades and be the base for Russia’s 6th Gen. fighter sometime in the future.

Meanwhile, let’s wait for the PAK-DA that seems to be pretty cool based on the concept art you can find on the Internet.

Beware, top image shows PAK-DA concept (credit: militaryrussia.ru via Sputnik News). The artwork can’t be considered an official image and it may not depict the plane as it is intended to be.

U.S. WC-135 nuclear sniffer airplane has left the UK heading towards Norway and the Barents Sea

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix has launched from RAF Mildenhall earlier today for a mission towards northern Europe and the Barents Sea. Interestingly, an RC-135W spyplane has launched from the same base on the same route. What’s their mission?

As you probably already know, on Feb. 17, 2017, U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer,” serial number 62-3582, deployed to RAF Mildenhall, UK, using radio callsign “Cobra 55.”

Whereas it was not the first time the Constant Phoenix visited the British airbase, the deployment to the UK amidst growing concern about an alleged spike in iodine levels recorded in northern Europe fueled speculations that the WC-135 might be tasked with investigating the reason behind the released Iodine-131.

In fact, along with monitoring nuclear weapons testing, the WC-135 can be used to track radioactive activity, as happened after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986 and Fukushima incident back in 2011, by collecting particles and chemical substances in the atmosphere, days, weeks, or sometimes even month after they were dispersed.

Whilst the reason of the deployment has yet to be confirmed (actually, there are still contradictory reports about the spike in Iodine-131) the WC-135 has departed for its first mission since it arrived at Mildenhall: on Feb. 22, at around 11.50LT, the nuclear “sniffer” aircraft has departed for a mission towards Norway and the Barents Sea.

The WC-135C (radio callsign “Flory 58”) was supported by two KC-135 tankers (“Quid 524” and “525”)suggesting it had just started a very long mission and somehow accompanied, along the same route, by an RC-135W (“Pulpy 81”) and another Stratotanker (“Quid 513”).

It’s hard to guess the type of mission this quite unusual “package” has embarked on: investigating the alleged iodine spike? Collecting intelligence on some Russian nuclear activity? Something else?

Hard to say.

For sure, once the aircraft reached Aberdeen, eastern Scotland, they turned off their transponder becoming invisible to the flight tracking websites such as Flightradar24.com or Global.adsbexchange.com that use ADS-B, Mode S and MLAT technologies to monitor flights: a sign they were going operational and didn’t want to be tracked online.

H/T to @CivMilAir for the heads up and details