Tag Archives: Russia

Russian Tu-22M Backfire bombers escorted by Su-27 Flankers simulate night attack on Sweden.

Erik Arnberg, a reader of The Aviationist, brought to my attention an episode that occurred on the night of Mar. 29, 2013, when Russian military aircraft simulated a large scale bomb run on Sweden.

The episode got much media attention among the Swedish media outlets on Apr. 22, when more details about the simulated attack surfaced.

According to the Svenska Dagbladet, after midnight on Mar. 29 (Good Friday), the Swedish radars detected six fast planes coming from the east, originating from the St. Petersburg area and overflying the Gulf of Finland.

The route the aircraft were flying was far from being suspect: Russian bombers periodically fly across the Baltic Sea to reach the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, located between Lithuania and Poland.

However, on Mar. 29, the two Tu-22M3 Backfire heavy bombers, capable to carry cruise missiles and nuclear weapons, and their four Su-27 Flanker fighter jets escort got dangerously close to the Swedish airspace and, at 2 AM local time, they skirted Gotland island, some 30-40 kilometers off the Swedish territorial waters.

After they carried out their mock attacks (on targets in the Stockholm area and Southern Sweden, according to Swedish military sources who talked to Svenska Dagbladet) they turned back and returned towards Russia.

The episode is similar to those Soviet Union’s exercises typical of the Cold War, when bombers carrying the typical Red Star flew quite close to the Swedish airspace boundaries and got intercepted by Swedish interceptors. Such “visits” ended in 1992 but returned in 2011 when Putin resumed the long-range flights of its strategic bombers.

Although some Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers flew over the Baltic Sea in the last year, what’s unusual in Mar. 29 incident is that the Russian activity took place at night and, above all, it found the Swedish Air Force totally unprepared.

Even if at least two JAS-39 Gripen should always be in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and ready for take off in case of alarm, quite surprisingly there were no interceptors ready on Good Friday night.

However, since 2004, NATO has a QRA detachment in Lithuania’s First Air Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, whose aim is to guard the airspace over the three Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The task is shared by several NATO members; since Jan. 2013, the Baltic air policing task is assigned to the Royal Danish Air Force.

On Mar. 29, two RDAF F-16 fighter jets took off from Siuliai to shadow the Russian bombers and fighters from distance as the formation headed east towards Russia.

Analysts believe the massive restructuring process that downsized the Swedish Air Force from 20 squadrons and over 400 planes to four divisions and less than 150 planes is to blame for the lack of preparedness of the Swedish air defense.

For sure the Russian military activity didn’t come unannounced. As said, it was neither the first time nor will be the last to see Moscow’s bombers, fighter jets performing simulated attacks on strategic targets around the world.

On Feb. 26 and 27, after Russian Tu-95 had skirted Guam airbase, Tu-22M Backfires simulated strikes on a U.S. Aegis cruiser in the Pacific and ground-based radar station in Japan.

And, in the future, Russian could detach its advanced, stealth PAK-DA, destined to replace the current aging fleet of 63 Tu-95 Bear and 13 Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers.

Sweden, Japan and U.S. you’d better be prepared.

Image credit: Sergey Krivchikov


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Russia working on a new long range interceptor to replace the Mig-31 Foxhound

During Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev’s conference, during which information on PAK-DA bomber was relased to the public, the Air Force Commander also mentioned that Russia has started working on MiG-31 replacement.

It is an interesting phenomenon that the Russians still aim at single-purposed specialized designs, whereas the US designs are predominantely multi-role.

Bondarev said that the Russian Federation would need a fighter interceptor for defense forces that would be compliant with the requirements of  the modern battlefield. Taking into account the fact, that the territory of Russia is extremely vast, it is crucial to have efficient plane which could be able to operate effectively in the huge airspace.

The Soviet designers were working on a Multifunctional Distant Interceptor concept named Product 7.01 in the ’80s, but ultimately the project was abandoned.

The concept was developed at the same time the MiG 1.44 prototype was created. Nevertheless the details of this project are not widely known. In 1993 it was considered to become a high-speed business jet.


The MiG-31 is the derivative of the MiG-25, a Cold War icon, even though often believed to be its version.

This is a common mistake as the MiG-31 is a two-seater build using a completely different airframe, and for a completely different purpose. The second crew member plays a role of WSO (Weapon System Operator).

The MiG-25 was built as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, capable of reaching the speed of Mach 3.2. Such technical specification would allow the Foxbat to be a plane able to combat the American B-58 and B-70 bombers. Secondly, that made the airframe of the MiG-25 quite strong, what made it a good base for the Foxhound.

The Foxhound is in service since 1983, with a purpose of patrolling the underprotected areas.

The MiG-31’s adversary has a quite different character, as it was designed to be a measure against the B-1B bomber, which was designed to operate at low level, below the radar coverage. Hence the MiG-31 has quite good low-level capabilities (which MiG-25 does not) and is equipped with an advanced radar with look-down-shoot-down capability needed to detect low-flying bombers, and data bus, allowing for coordinated attack with other fighters.

What is more, unlike the Mig-25, the Foxhound features a HUD display. Regarding the low-level characteristics, the MiG-31 is not a dogfighter. It is a high-performance aircraft, similarily to the MiG-25, which exploits speed and altitude to its main advantage.

Despite the fact that the Mig-31 is quite obsolete, it is still one of the most amazing interceptors ever bulit, with top speed of Mach 2.83 and a range of 1,450 km. Being a Mig-25 derivative it has high supersonic cruise speed, and can fly higher than the incoming fighter escort.

According to Bondarev modernizing all of the Russian MiG-31s to BM standard, which includes new radar with a range of 320 km, new avionics and fire control system would cost over 50 billion rubles.

In other words it is not an affordable course of events. Nevertheless the remaining 60 of of MiG-31s are to be modernized by Sokol aviation facility.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist.com

Top image credit: walkarounds.airforce.ru


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Drones over Poland – Cold War going on?

Poland is to be involved in the NATO Alliance Ground Surveilance programme, aim of which is to watch over the ground objects and movement of the ground forces beyond the Polish border (supposedly eastern) using drones.

euro hawk

Image Credit: air-attack.com

NAGSMO board of directors has received Polish MOD application and applicable documents will be prepared.

Jacek Sońta, Polish Ministry of Defence Spokesman says that “after receiving these documents they [the documents – JS] will be undergoing negotiations and interdepartamental discussion for 6 months.”

Poland is to enter the programme in the early 2014.

The AGS is going to involve five  RQ-4 Global Hawks, Euro Hawks to be accurate, HALE (High Altitude – Long Endurance) drones stationing in Germany, and the data collected will be passed on to intelligence and recon units taking part in the programme.

According to what Polish MOD says Polish companies producing radar and avionics, such as Bumar Elektronika, Netline, WIŁ and Transbit could be involved as well. That would be a significant boost for them, introducing these companies into the international economic arena.

Defence24.pl states the main base is going to be established in Sigonella, Sicily, and the whole system is going to achieve working readiness between 2015 and 2017.

The drone programme might be a part of the response to the Russian activity on the Polish border.

The Belarus and Russia are planning to conduct exercise named West 2013 autumn this year. Similar exercise took part in 2009. Its scenario assumed that Polish uprising happened in Grodno, Belarus, and Russia was called for help. Specnaz  neutralized the revolt, and the allies (Russia and Belarus) use tactical nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the Western attack starting from Poland.

As Polish Uważam Rze newspaper recalled in January this year, there was no significant reaction on the side of the Polish MOD. Bogdan Klich, Head of MOD at that time had been surprised with the scale of exercise but also doubt led the potential probability of such scenario taking into account the fact that none of the NATO countries has aggresive stance towards the Eastern partners.

According to statrisks.com the Zapad 2013 (West 2013) exercise is going to involve a scenario in which a nuclear attack on Warsaw is going to be a part of:

“We are not going to threaten anyone. We do not regard any state as our enemy. We are open and consistent focusing on collective defence. I mean the defensive  capabilities of, if I may say so, the joint army of Belarus and Russia and the regional force grouping in the western zone,”

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said about the manoeuvres.

The Russian Ministry of Defence gave to understand it doesn’t like Poland’s activity in NATO.

“We need to take into consideration the NATO potential. We see that Poland became a place for many of its infrastructure projects. We are concerned about it for many reasons, in particular because NATO tries to convince us that the threat comes from the South, Africa and the Near East. But we see military preparation in NATO’s eastern part, on the territory of new alliance members. We need to take it into account in our military doctrine,”

Defence24.pl quotes Alexander Grushko, a Russian deputy minister of defence.

Furthermore Uważam Rze claimed that NATO would not have enough confidence to conduct similar exercise involving e.g. Russian minority uprising in Laivia. This point is no longer valid – the Alliance is not passive this time as it is preparing to conduct Steadfast Jazz 2013, which will be the largest scale manoeuvres this year.


Image Credit: Polish Army General HQs

Although the scenario for this exercise is not known yet, it can be seen that the dialogue and sort of Cold War setting still exist between the West and East, despite the rhetoric of partnership. The general objective is to train and apply collective defense which is one of the foundations underlying NATO policy.

SFJZ 2013 is also going to be devoted to checking how Lile HQ (French), responsible for NATO Response Forces, will cope with its new function, specified in the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

Secondly the exercise aims at integrating land, air and sea forces activity, what will involve interconnecting 7 IT Networks.

Czech and French ABC Warfare units, one of British battalion are said to be involved. Over 1,200 French soldiers are declared to take part in the exercise.

Polityka Wschodnia predicts several reactions on the side of the Kremlin, ranging from energy sanctions (as Poland is a client of Russian Gazprom), to a cyberattack.

Since it is the first info about the drones, it is hard to assess how the society will react and how the media discourse and discursive representation of the drone issue will develop, as the drone-related discourse is hot within the US media.

The anti-missile shield idea was welcomed neutrally, the mainstream media did not report any protests, and the shield was presented as a natural step of NATO integration process.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist.com

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“Russia not selling Tu-22M Backfire bombers to China” Russia’s state arms export corporation says

It looks like the news that China had just bought the entire Tu-22M3 Backfire bomber production line was unfounded.

According to the ITAR-TASS News Agency, the Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms export corporation denied any negotiations with China on the Backfire bombers.

Reports about the upcoming supply to China of Tu-22 strategic bombers is pure “newspaper’s duck”, Rosoboronexport  spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said.

Usually, the Russian state intermediary agency for military import/export doesn’t comment news other than that published on official media outlets. However, they felt the need to deny the news of the Backfire sale since the aircraft is a strategic asset that, as such, can’t be sold to foreign countries.

As written in the first article on the topic, it was the third time in recent years that Chinese websites and Russian media outlet had given the news that Russia was about to sell China what needed to build 36 long-range swing wing attack planes to counter the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea.

Once again, it was just speculation.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy must remain vigilant: the Chinese already have their own strategic plane, the Xian H-6K, a license-built version of the Soviet Tu-16 Badger capable to carry up to six cruise missiles.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov

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Amazing footage of Sukhoi Su-33 on the Admiral Kuznetsov “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser”

As the Russian Navy prepares for the largest drills in decades (to be held in the Caucasus and Mediterranean areas towards the end of January), with warships from all of Ivan’s fleets, some amazing footage of Russia’s flagship Admiral Kuznetsov has emerged.

The Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D is an all-weather carrier-based air defence fighter based on the Su-27 “Flanker” and initially known as Su-27K. It has larger (folding) wings, upgraded engines, twin nose wheel, strengthened undercarriage for blue waters ops.

The aircraft was tested aboard Kuznetsov in 1995, and officially entered service with the Russian Navy in August 1998. Only 24 examples were produced when the Varyag was sold to China.

The Chinese Shenyang J-15, about to equip the refurbished ex-Soviet Kuznetsov class carrier Varyag now “Liaoning” is extensively based on the Su-27 and Su-33.

The “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser”, equipped with an air wing of Sukhoi Su-33s (as well as a dozen long-range anti-ship missiles) is a frequent presence in the Mediterranean Sea off Syria, where the ship deployed towards the end of 2011, as a show of support for the Assad regime facing an uprising.


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