Tag Archives: Russian Air Force

Russia Test Fires New Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Hypersonic Missile

First “Kinzhal” Fired from MiG-31 in Southwest Russia Hits Target According to Russians. But it’s a modified Iskander SRBM.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile according to state sponsored media outlets.

The missile, supposedly named Kh-47M2 and referred to as the “Kinzhal”, was fired from a modified MiG-31BM (NATO reporting name “Foxhound”) over Southwest Russia. A report published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the “unique” MiG-31 that fired the missile had been “modernized”. Rogozin did not specify what modifications or “modernized” meant.

In video and still photos portions of the weapon seen in the test launch are obscured by imaging software, presumably for security purposes.

The official news release from the Russian Aerospace Forces read in part, “MiG-31 jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a test launch of hypersonic aviation and missile system Kinzhal in a set district. The launch was successful, the hypersonic missile hit the designated target at the field.”

Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. Observers of Russian missile programs have voiced skepticism about Russia’ performance claims however. According to Russians and reference sources the Kinzhal missile has a top speed of Mach 10 and maintains some ability to maneuver throughout its performance envelope including at hypersonic speed. If accurate, these capabilities could make the Kinzhal difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). This, added to the reported 1,860-mile unrefueled range of the MiG-31BM long range, supersonic interceptor, gives the Kinzhal potentially intercontinental strike capability. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground as well as naval targets.

Still photos of the MiG-31 Foxhound released by the Russian Aerospace Forces were obscured over some areas of the new Kinzhal missile. (Photo: Russian Aerospace Forces)

Writer and analyst Kelsey T. Atherton wrote in Popular Mechanics, “Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile” back in June, 2017 when discussing Russia’s Zircon missile, a sea launched hypersonic missile. The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway compared the new Kinzhal with Russia’s existing Iskander short-range ballistic missile in his analysis.

This first Russian Kinzhal test comes several months after the Indian Brahmos-A hypersonic missile test from November 22, 2017. The reported performance of the Indian Brahmos was a top speed of Mach 7 and a range of 290 kilometers. The Indian hypersonic missile was launched from a modified Sukhoi Su-30MKI. The Indian hypersonic missile project was completed in close cooperation with the Russians.

A screen grab from the video released on YouTube details the new Kinzhal missile. (Photo: Russian Aerospace Forces/via YouTube)

Hypersonic cruise missiles have the capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of most current surveillance and anti-missile systems because of their speed (and, in the case of this new Kinzhal, claimed capability to maneuver). The choice of the aging MiG-31, that would probably launch the Kinzhal from +60,000 feet at supersonic speed, is aimed at giving the tactical ballistic missile much more reach than it would have if launched from the ground: indeed, during the Cold War, the long-range high-altitude interceptor was supposed to be used as launch platform for anti-satellite weapons that could destroy targets in near space. Capable to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, not only was the MiG-31BM expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; it was also intended to be used as a “cruise missile interceptor”: the Foxhounds have been involved in tests to intercept cruise missiles, previously Kh-55 and more recently Kh-101, for years.

While the Kinzhal appears to be an air-to-ground missile the pairing of this nuclear capable hypersonic missile recalls the much older AIR-2 Genie nuclear armed air-to-air missile with a 1.5 kiloton warhead. The AIR-2 Genie and earlier versions of the same missile were deployed by the U.S. Air Force from 1957-1962.

In remarks from an earlier state of the nation address at the beginning of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin told media that the Kinzhal has been “operational” prior to this test launch. Russian media also said there had been “250 test flights” to validate the operational status of the Kinzhal prior to this test launch. There was no mention if the missile or any more of the modified MiG-31s are operationally deployed yet.

According to defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, six MiG-31BM interceptors have already been turned into launch platforms and they are based at Akhtubinsk:

In contrast with the Russian claims, while traveling to Oman, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that nothing Russia demonstrated changed the Pentagon’s perspective.

“I saw no change to the Russian military capability and each of these systems that he’s talking about are still years away, I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrence posture.” Indeed, the missile seems to fuel the propaganda machine more than it actually changes the strategic balance. However, it’s a development worth following, especially if we consider the maritime strike capability that an air-launched ballistic anti-ship missile brings in the game.

Russia’s firing of the Kinzhal joins not only the Indian hypersonic missile tests from last year but also the Chinese DF-17 hypersonic glide missile tests and the U.S. tests of hypersonics being conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Russian Antonov An-26 Transport Crashes in Syria. 32 Reported Dead.

The Russian MoD has confirmed the crash. 26 passengers and 6 crew member killed in the accident.

A Russian Antonov An-26 (NATO reporting name “Curl”) is reported to have crashed near Hmeymim Air Base in Syria. News agencies report 32 fatalities. The BBC World News said the aircraft was carrying 26 passengers and 6 crew members when it went down.

Russian news agency TASS reported that, “Around 15:00 (Moscow time), a Russian An-26 transport aircraft has crashed while coming in for landing at the Hmeymim airbase.” TASS indicated this statement was issued by Russian Defense Ministry.

The Antonov An-26 is a twin-engine, high-wing turboprop utility transport aircraft that first flew in 1969. Since then, nearly 1,500 have been built by Russian aircraft company Antonov. In the nearly half-century since the aircraft has been flying it has established a somehow good record for dependability and the ability to operate from undeveloped, rough field airstrips.

While no cause was observed according to immediate reports, the TASS agency news report was updated minutes after it appeared to read, “The defense ministry is investigating the crash, but preliminary data suggests it could be a technical malfunction.”

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

Top image credit: Fedor Leukhin /Wiki

Everything We Know About The Russian Su-25 Frogfoot Jet Shot Down in Syria

Russian Loss Comes During 24-Hour Increase in Airstrikes in Syria’s North-Western Idlib Province.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft was shot down over the city of Maasran in Idlib, Syria, on Feb. 3, 2018. The aircraft, RF-95486/06 Blue (ex Red), was involved in airstrikes in region and had just fired rockets on a ground target.

Video seen on social media shows what appears to be a person, claimed to be the Russian Su-25 pilot, descending by parachute after the aircraft was hit. The BBC reported that Russia’s defense ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Based on report and the above videos the aircraft was hit by a MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System): most probably a Chinese FN-6 passive infrared homing (IR) man portable air defence system known to be in the hands of the Jidahists.

According to reliable sources within the Russian military who spoke to TheAviationist.com, the pilot did reach the ground and then engaged unknown ground forces. Our Russian source tells TheAviationist.com that photos from the scene show the pilot’s personal firearm and that, “One store [ammunition magazine] is completely empty, the other two are consumed more than half. The pilot led the fight.” The source claimed the weapon shown in the photos is a Russian Stechkin automatic pistol or APS. This weapon is widely carried by Russian military and federal law enforcement.

Additional sources on Russian social media report that the pilot carried a grenade and may have detonated it close to himself as insurgent forces closed in on him. There is no official confirmation of this information.

Sources on Twitter claimed the pilot used a grenade in addition to his pistol to engage ground forces. (Photo: via Twitter)

Anyway, the pilot was captured and killed. The Russia-based, independent Conflict Intelligence Team posted photographs they say showed the dead body of the pilot and a paper recommending a man named Major Roman Filipov for a state award that was allegedly filled out by Russian air group commander Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Aksyonov.

Novaya Gazeta quoted an unidentified Defense Ministry source as confirming that the pilot was Filippov. According to the newspaper, he was a Ukrainian pilot from Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia annexed in 2014.

Video from alleged to be from the crash scene clearly show the wing of an Su-25 with Russian markings along with a damaged engine and fire among debris.

Video at the crash scene confirmed the aircraft is a Russian Su-25. (Photo: YouTube)

TheAviationist.com showed the Arabic language news broadcast to a translator in Dearborn, Michigan, who told us that the reporter in the video, identified as “Journalist Moazom Al-Chamie”, says the aircraft was shot down by a shoulder fired missile after being spotted by drivers in a truck. The reporter also goes on to say that another Russian Su-25 remained in the area after the incident, and that the men shown in the video hoped to shoot it down as well.

According to Iranian journalist Babak Taghvaee the Su-25 shot down on Feb. 3 was one of six Su-25s of RuAF’s 368 ShAP recently deployed from Sevastopol, Crimea to Hmeymim Air Base, Syria.

The loss of this Su-25 is the 11th Russian aircraft destroyed by enemy action or in accidents during the Russian involvement in the Syrian campaign. Considering the number of combat sorties flown by the Russians over Syria, and the increasing number of man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), these losses could be characterized as low for a campaign of this size.

Russian observers remarked that an absence of infra-red decoy flares being ejected from the Su-25 shown in the videos is unusual. It is common to see a series of bright flares ejected from an aircraft as a countermeasure to heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.

Video seen on social media showed Su-25 attack aircraft over the same area being engaged by anti-aircraft guns. One video showed an Su-25 taking a near miss as a proximity fused anti-aircraft round detonates near its left wing root.

Following the downing of the Su-25 reports began to appear on Twitter that numerous air strikes were occurring in the area where the aircraft was downed.

The Russian Sukhoi Su-25 is a successful, heavily armored ground attack aircraft roughly comparable to the U.S. A-10 Warthog. (Photo: Russian Air Force)

Top image credit: Ilya the Nightingale

Here Are The Photos Of The First Italian Typhoons Alert Scramble In The Baltics This Year

The Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons intercepted a Russian An-26 transport aircraft over the Baltics. And here are some photos.

On Feb. 1, 2018, two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000A jets executed their first Alert Scramble to respond to a Russian Federation Air Force aircraft that flew over the Baltic Sea with the transponder turned off.

The two aircraft were actually not launched but “diverted” from a training flight when the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, detected an unidentified track crossing the Baltic airspace over international waters.

The two ItAF Typhoons, belonging to the Task Force Air 36° Stormo, identified the “zombie” as a Russian Federation Air Force An-26 transport aircraft. According to NATO, the two Italian aircraft flew alongside the transiting Russian plane and broadcast their transponder signal allowing civilian air traffic controllers to keep other air traffic clear of the area.

The Russian An-26 intercepted by the Italian F-2000As over the Baltics.

The Italian Air Force Typhoons have been deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission since early January 2018. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, their task is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

The Italian detachment logged 100 flying hours during training flights over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania beneficial for both Italian pilots and Baltic military air traffic controllers to further improve skills and interoperability, on Jan. 25, 2018.

One of the two Typhoons shadows the intercepted Curl.

This is the second ItAF rotation in support of NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) during the first rotation as lead detachment of NATO BAP. Noteworthy, no photograph of intercepted Russian aircraft was released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. However, unlike what happened three years ago, this time the Italian MoD has promptly shared some shots of the An-26 intercepted by the Typhoons, including those that you can find in this post.

Escort duty for this Italian Air Force Typhoon, at safe distance from the An-26 intercepted over the Baltics.

Image credit: Italy MoD




Navy Has Released Additional Videos Of The Russian Su-27 Intercepting U.S. EP-3E To Show How Close The Flanker Was To The Spy Plane

The new videos show the Russian Flanker flying close to the EP-3E Aries II. Still, the clips don’t show the most dangerous maneuver.

As you already know by now, on Jan. 29, a U.S. EP-3 Aries II intelligence gathering aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea as FARM26 was intercepted by a Russian Su-27. During the intercept, the Russian Flanker allegedly performed an unsafe maneuver: the Su-27 closed to within five feet and crossed directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash.

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy released the footage of the Su-27 “buzzing” the Navy spyplane. Although the Flanker appears to be quite close to the EP-3E, as explained, the clip does not help determining the distance from the EP-3E’s wingtip.

Today, the 6th Fleet released more videos of the dangerous interaction along with some interesting comments (highlight mine):

The videos show the Russian Su-27 maneuvering around the U.S. Navy EP-3 in close proximity and in varying positions.

While not shown in the released imagery, during the intercept, the Russian Su-27 executed a hard right-to-left turn from the U.S. EP-3’s right side with an excessive closure rate and came within five feet of the EP-3’s right wingtip. The Russian Su-27 then proceeded to enter the flight path of the U.S. Navy EP-3, crossing within 10 feet and executing a sharp dive below, which resulted in violent turbulence for the U.S. EP-3 and its crewmembers.

“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67. “For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said Ellis.

Here are the additional clips. Beware, the zoom affects the perception of the distances between the two aircraft.

H/T to our friend @CivMilAir for the heads up