Category Archives: Russia

The Polish Air Force Takes Delivery Of Its First Gulfstream G550 VIP Aircraft

The Polish Air Force has received its new G550, the first post-Soviet VIP aircraft.

The first of the new Polish Air Force’s G550 VIP jets (with the second one expected to be received in mid July, and with the first operational flights to take place in the autumn) has landed at the Warsaw Chopin International Airport on Jun. 21.

The delivery of the aircraft is a tangible effect of the effort made by the Polish government to replace the aging VIP transport fleet, until now consisting of Tu-154M and Yak-40 post-soviet jets.

The introduction of the G550 paves the way for this airframe being also considered in other applications in the Polish Air Force, such as MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) or ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms. The Polish MoD is currently pursuing Płomykówka (ISR) and Rybitwa (MPA/ASW aircraft) programmes, and G550 may seem to be a viable candidate in both cases.

The first Polish Air Force G550 is greeted after landing at the Warsaw Chopin International Airport on Jun. 21.

Alongside the procurement of G550s, the Polish MoD also eyes the procurement of three Boeing 737 aircraft, which would act as the medium-sized platform.

Notably, the 737 has been selected without any tendering procedure, which has created major legal controversies in Poland and in the EU.

The MoD’s justification is that time had a critical relevance since the PLN 540 million, reserved in the FY2016 budget for that purpose, were only available until the end of March this year. This was the main argument supporting the single source procurement procedure: as the Polish MoD officials claimed, if the 737 aircraft were not contracted early this year, the potential acquisition would be delayed for several years. The opposition was not happy, as the MoD spent PLN 2 billion, without any tender, in 19 days, favoring a single manufacturer.

Coming back to the post-soviet VIP aircraft, the initiative to have the aforesaid aircraft replaced is someone an effect of the Smolensk incident in which a Polish Tupolev Tu-154M has crashed, killing the Polish President and numerous government officials. Following the tragedy, the 36th Special Airlift Regiment was disbanded and transformed into the 1st Airlift Base unit. Moreover, most official flights were served by two leased Embraer E-175 operated by the LOT Polish Airlines.

According to the official statements made by the Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz during the reception ceremony, G550’s purpose would be to “provide safety for the people elected by the nation.”

The received aircraft has been named after the Polish Prince, Józef Poniatowski. During his speech Macierewicz additionally referred to the aircraft as if it was a sign of an ideological transition, from post-soviet, into western, modern chapter of the Polish history.

The head of the MoD is also known for making statements that may seem to be ridiculous. This time, it was no different, as Macierewicz publicly admitted that the Tu-154M aircraft that crashed in Smolensk could have been rigged and monitored by the Russians remotely, which seems to be a far-fetched claim.

Even though the official investigation of the Smolensk crash has ended a long time ago, pointing to erroneous training and recklessness as the reasons for the tragedy, the current Polish government claims that the crash was purposely caused by Putin, and it was a sort of attack/special forces operation to kill the Polish President.

The first G550 taxies at Warsaw Chopin International Airport.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

Sweden Protests As Russian Fighter Buzzes Swedish Spyplane Over The Baltic Sea

A Russian fighter flies within 2 meters a Swedish Air Force spyplane, causing the Swedish minister of defence to condemn the behaviour as “unacceptable”.

In what is just the latest in a long series of close encounters over the Baltic Sea on Jun. 19, a Russian Su-27 Flanker flew dangerously close to a Swedish Air Force S102B flying an intelligence gathering mission over the Baltic Sea.

Most of times such intercepts, that have occurred in international airspace for decades, are just routine stuff: the fighter in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is launched to perform a VID (Visual IDentification) run on the spyplane; the interceptor reaches the ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) plane and follows it for a few minutes before returning to base.

However, according to the reports, the behaviour of the Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled to intercept the Swedish or US spyplanes over the Baltic Sea off Kaliningrad Oblast is often a bit too aggressive and not compliant with the international procedures that would recommend the interceptor to keep a safe distance from the “zombie”: usually, 50 to 150 meters.

Indeed, according to the Swedish MoD, during the intercept on Jun. 19, the Russian Flanker allegedly flew within 2 meters (!) of the spyplane. Provided that was the distance between the two jets, the risk of collision was pretty high.

The Swedish Air Force operates a pair of Gulfstream IVSP aircraft, known in Swedish service as S102B Korpen, used for ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) purposes. The aircraft, based on the American Gulfstream business jet but equipped with eavesdropping sensors, routinely conduct surveillance missions in the Baltic Sea.

One of the Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen aircraft (credit: Johan Lundgren/Försvarsmakten)

According to Swedish Air Force officials, during those sorties, the Korpens fly in international airspace, with their transponders turned on, and regularly transmit their position to the relevant civilian air traffic control agency, both domestic and, if needed, foreign ones.

Reports of barrel rolls, aggressive maneuvers, etc. involving Russian interceptors and NATO/allied aircraft (or viceversa) have become a bit too frequent: there is a significant risk these close encounters may one day end with a midair collision, with the consequences that everyone can imagine.

Top image: file photo of a Su-27 over the Baltic Sea as seen from a Portuguese P-3 Orion

H/T Erik Arnberg for the heads up!

 

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New Video Shows Close Encounter Between NATO F-16 And Su-27 Flanker Escorting Russian Defense Minister Plane Over The Baltic

Exciting moments over the Baltic Sea as a Polish F-16 shadows a Russian VIP plane sparking the reaction by an escorting Su-27 Flanker.

Zvezda has just released some interesting footage allegedly showing a NATO F-16 approaching Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu’s plane while flying over the Baltic Sea.

According to the first reports and analysis of the footage, the F-16 (most probably a Polish Air Force Block 52+ aircraft supporting the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Lithuania – hence, armed) shadowed the Tu-154 aircraft (most probably the aircraft with registration RA-85686) carrying the defense minister en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad when one armed Russian Su-27 Flanker escorting Shoigu’s plane maneuvered towards the NATO aircraft, forcing it to move farther.

Some minutes later, the F-16 left the area, according to the reports.

Similar close encounters occur quite frequently in the Baltic region.

We have published many articles in the past about Russian aircraft coming quite close to both NATO fighters in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty and U.S. spyplanes: indeed, the latest incident comes a day after the Russian defense ministry said an RC-135 U.S. reconnaissance plane had aggressively and dangerously maneuvered in the proximity of a Russian fighter jet over the Baltic. The ministry said at the same time that another RC-135 had been intercepted by a Russian jet in the same area.

Business as usual….

H/T Lasse Holm for sending this over to us.

 

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The Finnish Air Force Has Just Released Some Really Cool Photos Of Russian Combat Aircraft Intercepted Over The Baltic

Beriev A-50, Ilyushin Il-22, Sukhoi Su-24, Sukhoi Su-27, Sukhoi Su-34 and Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft, were photographed by the Finnish Hornets. First appearance of a Blackjack over the Baltic.

The Finnish Air Force has been quite busy lately intercepting and escorting Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace, over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, in the vicinity of Finland’s airspace.

For instance, on June 14 and 15, several air assets, including Beriev A-50, Ilyushin Il-22, Sukhoi Su-24, Sukhoi Su-27, Sukhoi Su-34 and Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft, flew close to the Finnish airspace, forcing the Finnish Air Force to scramble its F/A-18 Hornet on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) in order to intercept the Russian aircraft.

The photographs in this post were taken by the Finnish F/A-18 pilots during such intercept missions.

Beriev A-50 (Finnish Air Force)

An Il-22 escorted by a Su-27 Flanker (Finnish Air Force)

A pair of Fencers shadowed by a Finnish F/A-18 Hornet (Finnish Air Force)

A two-seater Flanker (Finnish Air Force)

A Su-34 Fullback (Finnish Air Force)

 

 

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Russian Video Of Captured U.S. F-5 Tiger Jet Dogfighting Against MiG-21 in Tests Raises Question: Do They Still Operate American Jets?

Russia Operated Captured U.S. Aircraft for “OPFOR” Evaluation.

As we have reported previously, it is no secret the U.S. has made and still make use of captured or otherwise acquired Russian aircraft for test, evaluation and training purposes including the development of U.S. radars, countermeasures and early warning systems (earlier this year we published some really rare images of a Russian Su-27 Flanker dogfighting with a U.S. F-16 inside Area 51…)

Has Russia done the same with U.S. aircraft? Absolutely.

The RT video below contains some quite famous footage of a Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter formerly stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam being operated in Soviet markings against a MiG-21 (NATO codename “Fishbed”). The aircraft was seized along with “several US military aircraft”, taken to the USSR and used in a test and evaluation project to determine the capabilities of the F-5 series compared to Warsaw Pact aircraft.

Bien Hoa Air Base was overrun by Communist forces on Apr. 25, 1975 as the Vietnam War (referred to as the “American War” in Vietnam) neared its end.

A number of F-5A and F-5E aircraft attributed to the 522nd Fighter Squadron were left behind intact at the air base. Because the F-5E version of the aircraft had only flown for the first time three years earlier in 1973 and was being marketed to other Western user nations it was of significant interest to the Warsaw Pact.

Was the F-5 a threat to the Russian mainstay MiG-21? This video shows testing to answer that question in Russia.

At least one of the F-5s, in Soviet markings, was tested in opposing forces simulation with the MiG-21 as shown in this video.

Soviet pilots from Chkalov’s Russian Flight Test Center near the Volga River, a facility similar to the secret test ranges at Tonopah and Edwards AFB, were reportedly impressed by the performance of the F-5 against the MiG-21. Interestingly, Soviet engineers assumed the MiG-21 was more advanced but the F-5 won every time in the simulated air combat carried out in USSR. According to some reports the Russian pilots who flew the F-5 against the MiG-21 were named Vladimir Kandaurov, Alexander Bezhevets and Nikolay Stogov. The findings of these fly-offs and simulated combat were said to contribute to the development of the MiG-23 for the Russians, an aircraft that was imported to several Arab nations friendly with the USSR.

Noteworthy, the F-5 was so similar to the MiG-21, it was used as

Another curious development from behind the Iron Curtain was this photo of a what seems to be a McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom aircraft (or mock-up) under a tarp at the famous Zhukovskiy airfield near Moscow. The photo is allegedly from Aug. 11, 1971. It includes a French-built Mirage aircraft, also under cover, parked next to it. The massive Myasishchev M-4 Molot strategic bomber in front of the F-4 and the Mirage add some scale to the image.

An F-4 Phantom II and a French Mirage III sit under cover behind a Russian Myasishchev M-4 heavy bomber in Russia. (International Air Power Review Photo)

There have also been some interesting hoax aircraft flown in the Photoshop air force with Russian markings. The most famous is an F-14 Tomcat said to be taken from the Iranian Air Force following the fall of the Shah of Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1978. While the photo looks convincing and the story is certainly plausible, most analysts agree it is faked.

A Photoshopped image of a Grumman F-14 with fake Russian Markings. Internet contributors contended the aircraft went to Russia from Iran for testing but the story proved to be untrue and the photo manipulated. (The Aviation Forum)

Perhaps the most interesting question is, does Russia own current frontline U.S. tactical aircraft as a part of its opposing forces unit? Are there Russian-marked F-16s or F-15s flying somewhere in Russia? The answer is, likely no.

The U.S. has been careful about the distribution of tactical aircraft to nations that may realign with Russia from the U.S. if their strategic alliances shift. And while relations with Russia and the U.S. have been much more open since the end of the Cold War there are still many reasons why the U.S. and Russia are vigorous about maintaining security about their respective combat aircraft.

Have you ever heard reports or rumors about American aircraft in the hands of the Russians? Let us know.