Category Archives: Russia

The Belgian Air Force Has Released Footage Of The Russian Tu-160 Blackjack Intercepted Over The North Sea

Here’s one of the two Tu-160s as seen through the pilot’s JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System).

On Jan. 15, two Belgian Air Force F-16s intercepted two Russian Air Force Tu-160 bombers over the North Sea.

At around 11.51 LT, the two Belgian F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) reached the two Blackjack bombers off the Netherlands, in international airspace, carried out a VID (visual identification) and shadowed the Russian aircraft until these were handed over to the British Eurofighter Typhoons.

Here’s the route followed by the two Russian bombers:

On Jan. 17, the Belgian MoD released an interesting footage filmed through the pilots JHMCS that projects flight parameters (heading, speed, altitude, etc) and aiming data onto the helmet visor (in other words, in air-to-air role, pilots can cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets). For this reason, the short clip below provides some details about the altitude FL270 (27,000 feet) and speed (317 knots) of the Tu-160 during the intercept.

Enjoy.

Two Incidents Claimed by Russian Media Form Bizarre Conspiracy Theory About U.S. Support For ISIS in Syria

Russia suggesting attack on airbase in Syria is linked to U.S. Navy maritime patrol aircraft presence.

Syrian and Russian media outlets including the state-run Sputnik News have reported that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft flew in close proximity of the Russian Hmeymim (Khmeimim) airbase and Tartus naval facility in Syria during a recent attempted “swarm” attack by ISIS on Russian installations using thirteen improvised drones. The slant of the articles that appeared in Sputnik News on January 9, 2018 and in Almasdar News (AMN) on the same day suggest a connection between the attempted swarm attack, countered by the Russians, and the presence of the U.S. surveillance aircraft.

A quote published in the January 9, 2018 Sputnik article read, “This forces us to take a fresh look at the strange coincidence that, during the attack of UAV terrorists on Russian military facilities in Syria, the Navy reconnaissance aircraft Poseidon was on patrol over the Mediterranean Sea for more than 4 hours at an altitude of 7 thousand meters, between Tartus and Hmeymim.” The quote was attributed to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Another earlier incident from reports on December 30 and 31, 2017 claimed that, “US helicopters have evacuated Daesh leaders from several areas across the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor to the country’s northeast.” (Note: “Daesh” is an Arabic language reference often used interchangeably with ISIS or ISIL). The reports surfaced in both “PressTV” reports and in an Almasdar News (AMN) media and a Pravda report.

Syrian and Russian media outlets questioned alleged evacuation of ISIS personnel by U.S. helicopters. (Photo: SANA screen capture)

Taken collectively, the tenor of the reports seems to feed a conspiracy theory that the U.S. may be providing some level of tacit or clandestine support to select members of ISIS in Syria. The reports come following Russia’s announcement of the withdrawal of most of its forces from Syria during a Dec. 13, 2017 visit by President Vladimir Putin.

Why Russia, or at least some Russian and state-oriented Syrian news agencies, have continued the narrative of U.S. collusion or secret support of ISIS without specific factual evidence remains a mystery. It may be to associate some greater national influence with any ISIS success in the region, suggesting ISIS itself is not capable enough to plan and execute these operations. Some of the reports surfaced on various Russian social media pages, but appear to have been removed in subsequent days. In contrast a new report published on January 9, 2018 in the Almasdar News (AMN) seems to back pedal on conspiracy claims, quoting a U.S. statement from official Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway that said, “The US military is concerned that combat drone technology used by terrorists in attempted attacks on two Russian facilities in Syria is available on the open market.”

The latest Almasdar News report did go on to say, “It is the first time when Daesh terrorists have used modern guidance technologies on satellite GPS. The Russian security services are carrying out a probe to find out who supplied the drones to terrorists.”

Defense journalist Joseph Trevithick wrote in a January 9, 2018 report in “The War Zone” that, “The assertion that the United States and its allies are actually in league with ISIS, which it sees as indistinct from other groups in Syria opposed to the regime of dictator Bashar Al Assad, is a long-standing conspiracy theory. This is not the first time the Russians have made such allegations, either. The latest string of attacks on Khmeimim is particularly uncomfortable, though, coming after Putin’s triumphant victory tour to Syria and other countries in the region in December 2017.”

The template for conspiracy theories of U.S. support of insurgents is a persistent one since the 1985-87 Iran-Contra controversy of the Reagan era, when the U.S. was implicated in supporting Iranian arms sales despite an embargo. History can trace similar instances back through the Vietnam conflict and earlier, and as recent as alleged support of Afghan guerillas led by Osama Bin Laden during their war against the then-Soviet Union when the U.S. was implicated with helping construct a training base in Khost, Afghanistan in support of training Mujahedeen guerillas to fight the Soviets.

Dealing with the P-8 Poseidon flying not far from Latakia, this is far from unusual. The aircraft, launched from NAS Sigonella, Italy, can be frequently tracked online while gathering intelligence during missions off Syria. As someone has suggested, the U.S. Navy aircraft was possibly snooping around in the aftermath of the swarm of drones attack on Hmeymim airbase to get some details about it.

By the way, it’s also worth noticing that these days, the U.S. ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft seem to be interested in something else in the Crimea and Black Sea areas, considered the frequency of the sorties flown over there…

Defining Asymmetrical Warfare: Extremists Use Retail Drones to Attack Russian Air Base in Syria

One Aircraft Heavily Damaged in Most Recent in String of Low-Cost Insurgent Drone Attacks.

It is the definition of asymmetrical warfare: a fast-moving, lightly armed insurgency fueled by a radical doctrine uses simple weapons to attack a larger, seemingly more capable occupying force.

Taking inspiration from the doctrines of T.E. Lawrence, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, extremists in Syria have increased pressure on Russian forces in the region with another simple, innovative attack that heavily damaged at least one Russian aircraft and likely more. Previous similar attacks in the region around January 4 were reported to have killed 2 Russian servicemen.

Recent photos surfacing on social media attributed to Russian military journalist Roman Saponkov show the tail of what appears to be a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft damaged by an attack earlier this month.

Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo: Russian Air Force)

A report that surfaced on January 6, 2018 from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that was shared in several media outlets including the BBC says that Russian forces shot down several “unmanned aircraft” near Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia on Saturday in what appears to be the latest attack attempt by insurgents. In this week’s latest attack the Russians claim there was no damage to aircraft or personnel and their air defense systems were successful in intercepting the small, store-bought quadcopter drones usually used for cameras.

There has been a recent increase in attacks by improvised air-delivered weapons from remotely piloted aircraft on Russian installations in Syria. Additional insurgent attacks have been attributed to mortars. Some of the remotely piloted aircraft, in some instances commercial style quad-copter drones, have been modified to carry mortar rounds or grenades. Some grenade-bombs even used badminton shuttle cocks for improvised tail fin stabilizers. While this is not new, the frequency of the incidents and adaptability of the insurgents does seem to have increased.

According to some reports, recent attacks by insurgent drones damaged the tail of this Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer”. Actually, initial reports stated that the cause of the damage was a mortar attack (Photo: Roman Saponkov)

This increase in insurgent attacks comes just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian assets from Syria during a surprise visit to Hmeimim air base on December 11, 2017. Hmeimim air base is the primary launch facility for Russian tactical air operations in Syria’s Latakia province. The political move by Putin is reminiscent of the May 1, 2003 political gaff by then- U.S. President George W. Bush. President Bush made a media event out of landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and speaking in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished”, acknowledging the progress of the U.S. in the Global War on Terror in Iraq. Although Bush never said the mission was accomplished in his remarks on the USS America, the event is historically regarded as premature to meaningful change in the ongoing Iraq conflict. Putin may face similar criticism if a meaningful victory in Syria does not happen soon.

The Russian success in intercepting improvised camera drones being adapted to carry weapons is at least partially attributable to what may be their most sophisticated air defense system, the Pantsir S-2 integrated missile and gun vehicle.

The Russian Pantsir S-2 gun and missile integrated anti-aircraft system. (Photo: via YouTube)

The Pantsir S-2, an advancement from the earlier Pantsir S-1, uses a combination of a high rate of fire anti-aircraft gun and surface to air missiles combined with advanced targeting radar to both detect aerial threats and target both the guns and the missiles on the Pantsir S-2.

Pantsir S-2 is armed with two 2A38M, 30mm automatic anti-aircraft guns derived from the GSh-30 twin-barrel 30mm aircraft-mounted cannon. The cannon system on the Pantsir S-2 has a very high rate of fire from 1,950 to 2,500 rounds per minute depending on the length of the burst. The 2A38M cannon can engage targets up to 2,000 meters, over 6,000 feet, altitude. More importantly in the context of the improvised insurgent threats, the 2A38M can engage targets down to zero altitude effectively, a problem older Soviet-era Russian anti-aircraft systems like the ZSU-34-4 faced since the guns could not depress below a certain elevation making it impossible to hit very low altitude targets in close proximity.

The Pantsir S-2 also carries the new highly capable 57E6-E guided surface to air missile. The missile uses a bi-caliber body in tandem, one stage in front of the next, with a separate booster stage then in-flight stage. The newest versions of the 57E6-E are reported to have range of up to 20-30 kilometers with and reported engagement ceiling of 10,000 meters (approx. 33,000 feet).

While the new Pantsir S-2 provides significant protection from what appears to be the entire threat envelope from enemy fixed wing aircraft to improvised quad-copter bombs the hallmark of the insurgent adversary is adaptability. While Russia appears to be emerging in the lead of the conflict in Syria as Putin announces their withdrawal, one has to wonder what shift in insurgent tactics will follow their drone attack campaign.

The U.S. Air Force Releases New Video Showing F-15 Deployed To Lithuania Intercepting Russian Navy Su-30 Flankers Over The Baltics

The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from RAF Lakenheath have had some close encounters with the Russian fighters near the Baltics.

The U.S. Air Force will complete its fifth rotation as the lead nation for the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission on Jan. 8, 2018. On Jan. 5, videos documenting their efforts during their four-month deployment were publicly released.

In particular, the videos capture previously unreleased footage of RAF Lakenheath F-15s conducting “safe and standard intercepts of Russian Federation aircraft as part of the NATO peacetime air policing mission.”

Along with footage showing the U.S. Air Force F-15 pilots scramble during an exercise during the Baltic Regional Training Event at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, back in April 2014, the video compilation shows two encounters with the Russian Navy Su-30 Flankers.

The first one occurred on Nov. 23, and was initiated because the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file. The second one shows two Russian Navy Su-30s intercepted on Dec. 13, 2017. The second intercept was initiated for the same reasons: the Russian aircraft did not broadcast the appropriate codes required by air traffic control and had no flight plan on file.

The video compilation shows tw encounter on November 23 and another on December 13. According to descriptions posted by the military, both incidents involved two Russian fighters in international airspace near the Baltics. In both encounters, the F-15s were scrambled because the Russians did not broadcast the codes required by air traffic control and did not file a flight plan, the Air Force said.

“Intercepts are a regular occurrence, and U.S. Air Force pilots routinely conduct them in a safe and professional manner,” Lt. Col. Cody Blake, commander of the 493rd says in an interview included in the compilation. “Pilots from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron executed the intercept professionally and operated in international airspace in accordance with all relevant international flight regulations and safety standards.”

The Russian reaction to the video came on Saturday. According to the state-run RT media outlet, the Russian Ministry of Defense acknowledged that NATO F-15 jets had “approached” Su-30 fighter jets in two separate incidents – on November 23 and December 13 – near the Baltics, but said “the route of Russian fighter jets was agreed with the air logistics control units and was carried out in strict compliance with the international rules.” In both instances, F-15 fighters “approached at a safe distance, after which they changed course and flew away,” the statement added.

H/T Lasse Holmstrom for the heads-up

 

“We Always Managed To Get Behind US-led Coalition Fighter Jets Encountered Over Syria” Cocky Russian Pilot Says

“We always found ourselves ‘on their tails’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight.” Just the latest chapter of Russia’s hybrid warfare in Syria?

Close encounters between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria are nothing new. What’s new is the way this close-quarter Russian/U.S. shadow boxing incidents are reported from both sides: two incidents, one on November 23 and another one on December 13, made headlines in Russia and the U.S. with differing accounts of the nearly identical incidents and the reasons they happened.

For instance, dealing with the first one, according to the Russian version, a Sukhoi Su-35S was scrambled after a U.S. F-22 interfered with two Su-25s that were bombing an Islamic State target and chased the Raptor away. The Russian account was denied by the U.S. Central Command, that in an email to The Aviationist explained that there was no truth in the allegation:

“According to our flight logs for Nov 23, 2017, this alleged incident did not take place, nor has there been any instance where a Coalition aircraft crossed the river without first deconflicting with the Russians via the deconfliction phone line set up for this purpose. Of note, on Nov 23, 2017, there were approximately nine instances where Russian fighter aircraft crossed to the east side of the Euphrates River into Coalition airspace without first using the deconfliction phone. This random and unprofessional activity placed Coalition and Russian aircrew at risk, as well as jeopardizing Coalition ability to support partner ground forces in the area.”

Dealing with the second incident, U.S. officials told Fox News that a USAF F-22 Raptor stealth fighter flew in front of a pair of Russian Air Force Su-25 Frogfoot attack jets near Al Mayadin, Syria, “an area off-limits to Russian jets based on a long-standing mutual agreement”. In an attempt to force the Russian aircraft to change course, the American stealth jet cut across the front of the Russian jets, and released flares (a tactic known as ‘head-butting,’ meant to send a strong warning to an opposing warplane).

A Russian Flanker flying at MAKS 2017 (Jacek Siminski)

Needless to say, this time it was the Russians to deny the version of events: according to the Russian MoD the Su-25s were escorting a humanitarian convoy on the western side of the Eurphrates and it was the U.S. aircraft that crossed the deconfliction line. “A Russian Su-35 fighter jet, performing an air cover mission at an altitude of 10,000 meters, swiftly approached the F-22 from the rear, forcing the American aircraft to leave the area.”

“We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command told U.S. news outlet CNN recently. “It’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes.”

On Dec. 29, the state-run RT media outlet reported:

Russian pilots always managed to get behind US-led coalition fighter jets they encountered in the skies over Syria, a Russian ace said after receiving a state award from President Putin at the Kremlin.

When meeting our partners from the Western coalition in the air, we always found ourselves ‘on their tails’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight,” Russian Airspace Forces major, Maksim Makolin, said.

The so-called ‘lag pursuit’ when the nose of an attacking plane points at the tail of the opponent’s aircraft is considered the optimum location in an aerial fight. It allows the plane at the back a range of options, from increasing or maintaining range without overshooting to freely attacking, all the while remaining concealed in the blind spot behind the defending aircraft.

Makolin became one of the 14,000 Russian servicemen who received state decorations for their courage and professionalism during the two-year-long Russian campaign in Syria.

We have already discussed these close encounters, the tactical value of supermaneuverability vs stealthiness, the ROE, etc. In this case it’s only worth noticing there is no attempt to ease tensions, quite the contrary, as if certain statements were part of a hybrid warfare made of actual aircraft, as well as cyber warfare, proxy forces and propaganda. In this respect, if you are willing to learn more about “Russia’s campaign to mislead the public and undermine democratic institutions around the world,” I suggest you reading this report here.  “It reveals how the Russian government is conducting a major multi-pronged propaganda campaign to spread false information… […]”

Image credit: Dmitry Terekhov from Odintsovo, Russian Federation/Wiki