Tag Archives: Russian Air Force

Russia’s New Tu-214ON Open Skies Surveillance Aircraft Tracked Online During Flights Over Taganrog Region

The new Tu-214ON has carried out a series of test flights in southwest Russia, close to the border with Ukraine.

Tupolev is continuing the testing of the new Tu-214ON (Otkrytoye Niebo – Open Skies), a highly modified Tu-214 airliner equipped with advanced photo and electronic sensors to peform Open Skies Treaty surveillance missions.

The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on Jan. 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. The Treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants with the aim to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. The Russian Air Force Russia is phasing out the An-30 and Tu-154M-ON used for Open Skies missions and replacing them with two Tu-214ON with registrations RF-64519 (ex RA-64519) and RF-64525 (ex RA-64525).

The aircraft, that performed its maiden flight in June 2011, has recently completed the first stage of certification for the Open Skies task, with missions carried out between May 21 and 29, 2018 over the Kubinka airfield: during those sorties, Russian specialists and inspectors aboard the new aircraft (that is operated by a crew that includes four flight crew and five systems operators) conducted an aerial survey of the optical test facility at the airbase located to the west of Moscow, to evaluate the digital surveillance systems along with the ground processing components. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 1 by Piotr Butowski, the Tu-214ON is fitted with the M402N Ronsar side-looking radar with synthetic aperture with a range of 50 km over land and 200 km over water with a definition of 3m over land and 6-8m over water; dual-band Raduga IR scanner; a photo camera suite that includes a panoramic, a verticla and two oblique cameras; and a TV camera suite (one vertical and two oblique cameras).

Update: OSINT analyst, Jane’s (JIR) contributor and IT Security consultant Steffan Watkins contacted me to inform me and explained that the aircraft is not fitted with the SAR and that it only carries the digital electro-optical sensor OSDCAM4060, the same as the An-30B and Tu-154M LK-1. This is an extremely interesting development, considered that almost all the sources in the Public Domain say that the new aircraft is equipped with the SAR.

On Jun. 7, 15 and 16, the aircraft RF-64525, was tracked online during test flights conducted over Taganrog airfield, in southwest Russia. Since the airport is located  not far from the border with Ukraine there were some speculations the new surveillance aircraft might be involved in some intelligence gathering mission. However, considered it will complete its certification for the Treaty on Open Skies in September, it is much more likely the aircraft was “simply” performing a test flight on the airport that is home to the Taganrog Beriyev Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex and is filled with Beriev aircraft: a pretty realistic “target” (probably similar to many U.S. airbases) to calibrate/evaluate the onboard sensors. Indeed, the “racetracks” flown by the Tu-214ON are mostly aligned with the runway 05/23 at Taganrog.

Taganrog airport: note the number of aircraft parked on the aprons. (Image credit: GoogleMaps).

Here are some screenshots from Flightradar24.com taken by our friend and tracking authority @CivMilAir that show the routes followed by the Tu-214ON in the last few days.

Here’s the one for Jun. 7:

Jun. 7 mission over Taganrog.

Here’s the track on Jun. 15:

The track of the Tu-214ON on Jun. 15. (Screenshot from FR24.com via @CivMilAir)

The playback of flight RF-64525 is available here.

Top image credit: Oleg Belyakov/Wiki

Take A Look At This Unusual Drone Video Of Two Russian Su-57 Fighters In Flight

Two Su-57s flying in formation as seen from a drone.

An interesting video was shared online by the Russian “Zvezda ” TV channel. It shows, two Su-57 fighter aircraft flying in close formation and executing what appears to be a formation turn (rather than a “combat turn”) during the Russian “Aviadart 2018” drills.

According to TASS news agency, the two Russian fifth generation aircraft were piloted by test pilots of the Experimental Design Bureau named after P.O. Sukhoi Andrey Shendrik and Igor Kruglikov.

The short footage does not show anything new about the controversial and misunderstood Su-57 (formerly T-50), that has recently completed a short deployment to Syria, but it’s particularly interesting since it was filmed by a drone and provides a different point of observation.

As often explained here, the Su-57 is a stealth aircraft equipped with a front, side and rear AESA radar, as well as L Band radars. It features TVC (Thrust Vectoring Control), a top speed exceeding Mach 2 and supermaneuverability. It should be a multirole aircraft capable to carry a wide variety of weapons including air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles in large internal weapons bay, recently used to launch a new Kh-59MK2 cruise missile in a test.

Footage From Inside A Russian Tu-95 Bear Strategic Bomber As It Is Escorted by U.S. F-22 Raptors Off Alaska Last Week

The Russian Air Force has released a video that includes a short clip filmed from inside a Bear bomber escorted by two F-22 stealth aircraft.

On May 12, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.

Alaska ADIZ detail

According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported last year.

What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

On May 12 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.

“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.

While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.

Russia Shows New Hypersonic Missile on Two MiG-31 Aircraft in Victory Day Rehearsals.

New Photos Reveal Two MiG-31K “Foxhound” Flying Over Moscow Ahead of Parade.

Exciting photos emerged Friday on social media of the unique Russian Aerospace Forces long range interceptor, the MiG-31K (NATO codename “Foxhound”) carrying the new long range, hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” missile.

In a story on the Russian news agency TASS website it was reported that, “Upgraded MiG-31K fighter jets armed with the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system will take part in the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9.” Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu was reported as making the announcement on Thursday, May 3.

“Apart from advanced Su-57, Su-30SM and MiG-29SMT aircraft, upgraded MiG-31K fighters armed with the cutting-edge Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems will take part in the parade’s air component,” General Sergei Shoigu said.

Two MiG-31 Foxhounds were with Kinzhals were photographed over Moscow on Thursday. (Photo: ВКС России/Facebook)

The Kh-47M2 is a much-hyped long range missile claimed by Russia to be capable of speeds up to Mach 10 with a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). The Russians further claim the weapon has maneuver capability even in part of the hypersonic performance envelope. While western analysts remain skeptical about the Kinzhal’s claimed capabilities, the missile has garnered significant attention in aviation media and intelligence communities.

The missile, is actually not a “hypersonic weapon” in the sense that it is an air-breathing cruise missile based on scramjet technology: it appears to be an adaptation of the Iskander missile and, as a ballistic missile, it flies at hypersonic speed with a reported cruise missile-like flat flight profile.

There was speculation about the MiG-31 in a modified variant called the MiG-31K being shown in flyovers with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal during the sensational Victory Day Parade on Wednesday, May 9 beginning at 1000 Hrs. local Moscow time. Rehearsals for the parade confirm that two aircraft with Kinzhals may be seen in the flyover. Some reports earlier this year suggest that only six initial MiG-31s were modified to carry the Kinzhal.

The MiG-31 Foxhound is a bit of a plane-spotters’ prize itself since Russia is now the only user of the type and they are mostly deployed along the vast expanse of Russia’s eastern border. Their very high speed well in excess of Mach 2 and long range coupled with powerful intercept radar make them a highly capable (if not very stealthy) interceptor. The combination of the MiG-31K with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal nuclear capable, hypersonic missile could give the aging MiG-31 Foxhound, formerly only an interceptor, a new attack capability.

Top image credit: Alex S vis RussianPlanes.net

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