Tag Archives: ELINT

Why Is A Swedish ELINT Aircraft Operating Off Lebanon and Syria These Days?

A Swedish Air Force heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP aircraft used to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) missions has joined the long list of ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defence), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyse enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.

Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

Top image: Peter Bakema/Wiki and @ItaMilRadar

Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria

A Russian Air Force Tu-214R is about to land at Latakia, Syria.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. In other words, a quite advanced spyplane.

As we have already explained here in the past, it is a special mission aircraft equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden.

The aircraft is known to carry sensor packages to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions: the antennae of the Tu-214R can intercept the signals emitted by the enemy systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) so as it can build the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy forces: where the enemy forces are operating, what kind of equipment they are using and, by eavesdropping into their radio/phone communications, what they are doing and what will be their next move.

The aircraft is built by KAPO (Kazan Aircraft Production Association) and flown from the company’s airfield in Kazan.

On Feb. 15, 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, flew from Kazan to Latakia airbase, Syria.

LX9203

Image credit: Flightradar24.com

With its ADS-B transponder signals broadcast in the clear and detected by Flightradar24 collecting stations, the aircraft could be tracked as it followed the eastern corridor from Russia, to the Caspian Sea and then to Syria via the Iranian and Iraqi airspaces. It’s not clear whether the aircraft has already been delivered to the Russian Air Force, even though it is quite weird that a developmental aircraft is deployed abroad (unless the reason is testing it at war in a real scenario…).

While it was still under development, the same Tu-214R aircraft flew what appeared to be an operative mission on Jun. 18, 2015, when it flew from Kazan to Crimea and back, closely following the border between Russia and Ukraine, most probably testing some of its sensors against real targets.

Previously, the aircraft was spotted flying near Crimea.Interestingly, while over the Caspian Sea, approaching the Iranian airspace, the Tu-214R performed a couple of 360° turns at 33.000 feet (weird, while enroute): maybe it was working on the diplomatic clearence to enter Iran?

 

Image credit: Rimma Sadykova/Wiki

 

Russian Tu-214R intelligence gathering plane exposed! First photo of the new spyplane during test flight lands on the Web.

Evgeny Volkov is the name of the photographer who took the first picture of a flying Russian Tu-214R known to date.

The image Evgeny has uploaded to the Russianplanes.net portal, shows the Tu-214R carring registration number RA-64511, serial number 42305011, serial number 511, built by the Kazan Aircraft Production Association’s (KAPO) and flown at the company’s airfield.

Although some sources say that the plane will serve as an airborne command post, the two Tu-214R being built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense, will be also ELINT (Electronic Intelligence)/ SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) platforms.

Indeed, the aircraft 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.

The aircraft depicted in the image made its first flight in December 2009 and it is expected to complete the flight testing phase by 2013.

The second example, registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, serial number 514, is currently in final assembly shop at KAPO and it is scheduled to enter service in 2014.

A special Tu-214 version, designated Tu-214ON, fitted with four photographic and three TV cameras, synthetic aperture radar and a linear-scanning infrared sensor, was developed to perform monitoring and observation flights under the Open Skies Treaty.

The Tu-214ON (registration RA-64519) attended MAKS 2011 airshow.

Spring Flag Media Day in pictures

Here are a few more interesting pictures of the Spring Flag Media Day held on Apr 17 at Decimomannu airbase. For the air display of the Exercise some assets of the Trapani-based Opfor visited Deci:
MM722 1-15 AV8B+ I GrupAer
MM7034 50-50 Tornado ECR 155 Gr
MM7266 F-16B 18 Gr
MM7269 F-16B 18 Gr
MM55514 SF260EA 207 Gr (this latter was reported in Deci on Apr 10 too even if SF260EA were based in Alghero as “special players”).

















Extremely interesting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk marking on an F-16 of the 142 Filo of the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Force). For more info visit the following link.

Spring Flag Media Day report (debrief part 2)

The Media Day of the Spring Flag 2008 was focused on the press conference that provided lots of information about this year’s edition of the exercise.
Here’s a summary of the main figures of the Spring Flag:
SF08 was a Joint, Interdepartmental, International Exercise, integrated with some Government Agencies and with the Red Cross. During the two week, medium-scale air operations were conducted from two DOBs (Deployable Operating Base), Deci and Trapani. This is one of the main differences between the SF07 and this year’s edition: in order to create a more realistic scenario, the aircraft were not all based on the same airport. Because of the current financial constrainsts, this year’ SF did not host the field hospital, kitchen and all the logistic assets that during 2007 edition were based in Decimomannu. Unlike last year, when JFACC (Joint Force Air Component Command) managed all the air ops, this year the JFACC split in a DCAOC (Deployable Combined Air Operations Center), deployed to Bari-Palese airport, that managed the coalition forces, and CAOC5 that from its usual homebase in Poggio Renatico, managed the opposing forces (“opfor”). 52 Italian and 23 foreign assets (and 1.968 people) attended the exercise, performing all range of missions; among the most interesting sorties the SF08 encopassed also Intelligence gathering missions, Combat SAR (CSAR), Slow Mover Interception (SMI) and Urban CAS (Close Air Support). In order to test the handling capabilities of the airport, an ATOC (Air Terminal Operation Center) was established in Deci and operated for 8 days with 12 people providing check-in and boarding services and handling some 600/800 passengers per day.
Tactical sorties were launched in 1 daily window during the first week and 1 night window during the second week. As already reported in this site, the air campaign was affected by the bad weather conditions that interested during both weeks the Mediterranean region:the Coalition forces logged 212 missions out of 373 planned sorties (63%). The Opfor based in Trapani were less affected by the meteorological conditions and flew 119 sorties out of 137 planned (87%).
According to Gen. Iacomino, CinC of the COFA (Comando Operativo Forze Aeree, Air Forces Operative Command) all the aims of the exercise were achieved; last but not least the goal to enable journalists providing a complete media coverage of the event “in order to show to the citizens the importance of a certain kind of training to prepare the Italian Air Forces, the other Armed Forces and allied ones to operate efficiently and efficaciously in Peace Support Operations”. 120 journalists and photographers of the most important Italian and foreign television, newspapers, magazine and agencies attended the Spring Flag 2008. The journalist’s figure is particularly important for the Italian Air Force that today considers the media operators as active players that “orbit” around the air ops and must have access to the information needed in a timely way. But not only. In current scenarios, especially in areas of crisis, a journalist can also be the subject to rescue with a complex CASEVAC mission, like displayed during the Media Day air display or on Apr 8 CSAR event.

David Cenciotti

In order to read the previous posts about the Spring Flag published on this site click here and scroll down: Spring Flag 2008 posts

More pictures will be uploaded soon.