Operating from Engels and Modzok airbases in southwestern Russia, the aircraft had to cover a distance close to 3,000 km. According to some sources, the aircraft were thus supported by several Il-78M aerial refuelers on their way to the targets and back: actually, it’s not clear whether the Backfire could be refueled since the retractable probe in the upper part of the nose was reportedly removed as a result of the SALT negotiations, but it can be reinstated if needed.
Under the newly signed agreement with Iran, Russian bombers will be able to cut their flight time by 60%, saving money and increasing the ops tempo: the current distance to Syria is roughly 900 km, meaning that more bombs can be loaded in the round-trip mission from Iran.
Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, that has been the headquarters of the Russian aircraft since October last year was unable to accommodate the large (34m wingspan) Russian supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic bombers.
Up close and personal with the Raptor pilots fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Filmed at Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE, this clip shows F-22 pilots with the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, preparing to launch at night for a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in the modernized U.S. Air Force Raptor multirole jets.
Here’s how the F-22s that take part in the air war on ISIS look at night through the Night Vision Goggles.
The clip in this post shows airmen assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare their aircraft and refuel U.S. F-22 Raptors using a KC-10 Extender tanker during an aerial refueling mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Jul. 13, 2016.
The above image was posted by the helicopter serving the South West of England.
Although we have recently posted an image taken from the thermal camera used by the EC-135 of the British National Police Air Service, based at Filton Aerodrome, of one of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets that deployed to RAF Fairford to take part in the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow, you don’t happen to see this kind of footage too often.
You can even spot the vapors of the fuel coming out of the dorsal refueling receptacle used by the Raptor multirole jet after the AAR (Air to Air Refueling) operation.
The F-22 refueled in the video are the most up-to-date Raptors in service with the U.S. Air Force. Assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the modernized Raptors brought extended capabilities in the fight against Daesh since their arrival in theater back in April: the Alaskan Raptors can now drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs while previously they were limited to carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bay.
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 Flightradar24.com ADS-B tracking show.
Tu-214R route. Screenshot from Flightradar24.com
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.
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).
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.