The multirole aircraft features thrust-vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) and the said ability to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers (…), the Khibiny radar jamming system along with the ability to use some interesting weapons, including the ultra-long range R-37M air-to-air missile that could target HVAA (High Value Air Assets) such as AWACS and tanker aircraft.
A Russian Tactical Air Strike in Al-Bab, Syria Kills Three Turkish Soldiers: What May Have Gone Wrong?
Wire services report that a Russian tactical air strike in Al-Bab, Syria, 40 kilometers northeast of Aleppo, has resulted in a “fratricide” (“friendly fire”) incident that took the lives of three Turkish ground troops and wounded another eleven personnel on the ground.
It is inherently dangerous for ground troops to operate in close proximity to airstrike targets. Minor miscalculations in aircraft weapon release point, malfunction of weapon release equipment on the aircraft, weather conditions such as wind and poor visibility, guidance malfunctions on precision guided weapons and problems with communications and coordination between ground troops and attack aircraft can all contribute to incidents of fratricide from air strikes.
Google Earth screengrab of the target area.
During the intense ground battles that have characterized much of the insurgent war in Syria troops have often been in close contact in urban areas. The overhead cover of buildings, the narrow streets and nearly identical appearance of many buildings in urban areas make accurate targeting of air strikes increasingly difficult on the urban battlefield.
Russia has most frequently employed non-precision guided weapons in tactical strikes in Syria. If this is the case in today’s Al-Bab incident it may have been a contributing factor.
While technical details of the strike were not released media photos from Khmeimim Air Base (also called Hmeimim Air Base) frequently show the Russian Su-25 Frogfoot used in a similar role as the U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II for ground attack and close air support. Although unconfirmed, it may have been an Su-25 that launched today’s mistaken strike.
Su-25 pilot at Latakia airbase (Ru MoD via RT)
One factor that may have contributed to the incident is possible communication problems between Turkish ground forces and Russian close air support assets. U.S. forces traditionally employ specially trained and equipped personnel called “Forward Air Controllers” or “Tactical Air Control Parties” (TACPs) to coordinate air strikes in support of ground troops. It is possible the Russians may have assigned their own personnel, in some cases attack pilots with airstrike experience in the region, to help with targeting and coordination. But if there were no Russian air strike coordinators on the ground with Turkish troops, this could have been a contributing factor.
Russia’s precision-guided weapons have traditionally been larger munitions, while smaller bombs such as the 100kg and 250kg have not been guided. This is contrary to the U.S. development of small precision-guided weapons like the recent GBU-53/B small diameter bomb, a GPS/INS guided 250lb (approx. 113kg) bomb that has been employed by the F-22 in strikes in Syria. Russian precision guided munitions appear to be larger than 500kg including the FAB-500 high-explosive bomb and the “bunker busting” AB-500 bomb used on reinforced concrete targets.
Russian guided weapons relying on satellite targeting may be inherently less accurate than their U.S. counterparts since they update targeting and guidance data from the GLONASS GPS satellite constellation. According to Russia Insider the GLONASS satellite constellation “is fractionally less accurate in low latitudes than [western] GPS”. This suggests the Russian systems may be optimized for striking targets in northern areas.
Analyst for the Japan Times, Robert Burns, wrote, “The skies over Syria are increasingly crowded — and increasingly dangerous. The air forces of multiple countries are on the attack, often at cross-purposes in Syria’s civil war, sometimes without coordination. And now, it seems, they are at risk of unintended conflict.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed early concern over a year ago about the possibility of “inadvertent incidents and lack of communication” with Russian aircrews. Part of then-Secretary Ash’s concern stemmed from a relative lack of sophistication with Russian communications systems and their use of non-precision, unguided air delivered weapons.
MiG-35 Demo is Both Product Debut and Contrast of Russian and Western Doctrine in the F-35 Era.
In a widely publicized event on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG) parented by United Aircraft Corporation officially demonstrated the new MiG-35 to the Russian government. A subsequent demonstration for export customers was carried out today Jan. 27.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have viewed the first demonstration via remote video due to poor weather in the region.
The new MiG-35 (NATO reporting name: “Fulcrum Foxtrot”) is a greatly upgraded aircraft based on the earlier MiG-29 airframe. Significant upgrades on the MiG-35 include a completely new fly-by-wire flight control system, vastly improved cockpit, substantially upgraded avionics and an overall design philosophy that provides an enhanced degree of operational autonomy on the MiG-35 compared to earlier Russian combat aircraft. The MiG-35 will also integrate precision-guided targeting capability for air-to-ground weapons, a rarity in previous Russian air-ground doctrine.
The MiG-35 unveiled on Jan. 27, 2017.
There is a significant engine upgrade on the new MiG-35. The aircraft uses two impressive Klimov RD-33OVT engines fitted with bi-directional thrust vectoring nozzles. This contrasts aircraft like the current Russian Su-35 and the U.S. F-22 Raptor that only use single-axis vertical thrust vectoring.
This marks a fascinating departure from previous Soviet-era combat aircraft capabilities while retaining the Russian penchant for lower unit cost in exchange for numerical superiority, a doctrine that has pervaded Russian military thinking for the entire century.
The Russians have always traded unit capability for numerical superiority, relying on the hope that quantity would beat quality in a major conflict. Interestingly, this doctrine has shifted moderately toward a centrist mix of quality and quantity apparently in search of the best solution for indigenous use as well as attracting export buyers.
The new MiG-35 is an example of this shift.
Russia has included significant sensor and capability upgrades on all recent combat aircraft, especially ones intended for the export market. Additionally, the reported domestic production for MiG-35 is only 37 aircraft, a very small acquisition by older Soviet and even modern Russian standards. A larger production capacity is earmarked for export sales, likely in the form of a 50-unit order from Egypt.
Reports indicate the Egyptian MiG-35s are to be fitted with a new advanced targeting pod, the PPK targeting pod from Precision Instrument Systems. The new PPK thermal imager/TV and laser rangefinder allows the MiG-35 to autonomously guide precision munitions similarly to how the current U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle prosecutes ground targets. Previous Russian doctrine relied heavily on ground vectors to attack targets.
Somewhat interestingly, the indigenous MiG-35 is fitted with a Russian NPK-SPP OLS-K electro-optical targeting system. The OLS-K targeting and surveillance system is mounted directly to the aircraft below the right (starboard) fuselage on the engine nacelle in front of the elevators. It is not a removable pod. The OLS-K sensor can track moving vehicles from 20 kilometers and surface contacts at sea for 40 kilometers. An integrated laser rangefinder computes target distance up to 20 kilometers for weapons employment. There is also laser designation for guided weapons built into the pod.
The OLS-K targeting and surveillance system is mounted on the engine nacelle in front of the elevators
The new MiG-35 provides Russia and export customers with a uniquely scaled precision strike capability that may be a better fit for countries with smaller defense budgets. The MiG-35 contrasts aircraft like the larger (and more expensive) Sukhois. If a client’s ground strike requirements involve shorter range in a tactical rather than strategic setting the MiG-35 may be the right size and cost aircraft.
Given recent problems throughout the Middle East and Africa with managing strike accuracy and reducing the exposure to collateral damage from air strikes this may be an important export asset for Russia and its defense industry clients.
The precision strategic long-range strike crossed Iranian and Iraqi airspace and, according to the Russian MoD, the targets (terrorist group’s command centers, weapon stockpiles and armored vehicles) were completely destroyed.
The primary bomber aircraft on the strike are the latest version of the TU-22 “Backfire” series bombers. Production of the aircraft ended in 1993 but updates to targeting and avionics have likely continued.
Based on an examination of the BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) and targeting strike video, it would appear that the weapons employed were, as usual, unguided “dumb” bombs released under precision sighting from the Russian bombers. The weapons appear to be one of the Russian FAB series unguided bombs, either the FAB-250 (500 lb) bombs or the larger FAB-500 (1,000 lb) bombs.
Unguided bombs employed using precision strike technology from the bombers themselves have the advantage of not requiring time-consuming targeting data often required by laser designated, GPS-guided or optically guided air-delivered weapons. As a result the Russian forces can prosecute targets more quickly since fewer targeting assets in the region are required.
No intelligence was released indicating how targeting was achieved for the airstrikes.
The Tu-22M3 is internally equipped with the Leninets PNA-D precision ground attack radar for targeting and the SMKRITS RORSAT Targeting Datalink Receiver (Molniya satcom) for remote target designation. The aircraft is also equipped with an OPB-15 remote optical bombsight. The strike video may have been shot using the aircraft’s onboard AFA-15 strike camera.
The strikes appeared to have been conducted from medium to high altitude based on the videos.
In 2010, the Russian Air Force operated 93 of the Tu-22 bombers in several versions while Russian Naval Aviation flew 58 Tu-22’s according to public sources.
Although Russia did not officially name the units involved it is most likely the raids were flown by aircraft from the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment at Shaykovka and/or the 840th Heavy Bomber Regiment at Soltsy-2 in Novgorod Oblast, Russia.
This follows a similar raid on strategic targets in Syria flown earlier this week on Saturday.
The Turkish Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces have launched a joint raid against Islamic State targets in the Aleppo province.
Four Su-24Ms, four Su-25s and one Su-34 bomber of the Russian Air Force along with four F-16 and four F-4 jets belonging to the Turkish Air Force have carried out the first joint strike in Syria on Jan. 18: an interesting mix of aircraft for a quite rare COMAO (Combined Air Operation) made of platforms able to perform CAS (Close Air Support), BAI (Battlefield Air Interdiction), S/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) and Strike as well as Air Superiority and Aerial Escort.
The raid aimed at destroying 36 ground targets was previously agreed with Syrian authorities, said Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate in a briefing in Moscow. Considered that Turkey is a NATO member hence the TuAF regularly trains with other western air forces and that the Russian Aerospace Force jets employ completely different procedures, standards, etc., it would be interesting to know something more about the preparation, coordination and execution of such joint raid.
Anyway, according to the first estimates provided by the Russian high-rank officer, the joint airstrikes near Al-Bab, in the Aleppo province, “have been highly effective.”
The raid came amid a nationwide ceasefire in Syria which came into effect on Dec. 30 and, according to the analysts, was in support of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, launched on Aug. 24, 2016 to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus and the surrounding area from Daesh terrorist group with the support of the FSA (Free Syria Army) and US-led coalition planes.
Al-Bab is one of Daesh’s last remaining strongholds near the Turkish border; the help of the Russians seems to be essential to prevent the Syrian Kurds from taking it.