Tag Archives: Tu-95 Bear

Here’s Why The U.S. Air Force Scrambled An E-3 Sentry Alongside Two F-22s To Intercept The Russian Bombers Off Alaska

For two days in a row, Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear bombers flew near Alaska’s airspace.

On Apr. 17 the U.S. Air Force scrambled two F-22 Raptor stealth jets, one E-3 Sentry AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft and a KC-135 tanker (according to some reports, others don’t mention the Stratotanker’s presence) to intercept two nuclear-capable Bears flying roughly 100 nm southwest of Kodiak.

The stealth jets took off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and intercepted the Russian aircraft inside the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), “the airspace over land or water in which the identification, location and control of civilian aircraft is performed in the interest of national security.”

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.

North America ADIZs

The F-22 escorted the Tu-95s for 12 minutes (27 for some sources) before the Russian bombers headed back.

On the following night, that is to say few hours after the first “visit”, the Bear flew again inside the ADIZ but this time, the US Air Force opted to not scramble fighter jets but only the E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System). It’s not the first time the Russian Bears fly in the ADIZ, not even the first time that no fighter jet is scrambled to meet them.

Alaska ADIZ detail

“Combined scramble”

Let’s have a look at the first episode. It’s worth of note that along with the 5th generation interceptors, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) called for an alert take off by an E-3 Sentry. Most of times, QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) take offs by armed interceptors are supported by tanker aircraft, not by AEW assets: the fighters are guided to the unknown aircraft by ground air defense radars. That’s why I want to draw your attention on this “combined scramble.”

Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).

A combined AEW/F-22 scramble provides a more effective way to counter a possible “strike package”.

A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?

Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.

Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.

However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route.

For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers).

However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.

Based on my experience, the ones of last week were just simulated strike sorties with the only aim to test the U.S. tactics and reaction times. Something that happens quite frequently. There is also the chance the Bears were sent there while another Russian spyplane was in the vicinity to “sniff” the Raptors electromagnetic emissions. However, there are no reports of Il-20 ELINT aircraft in the area.

A U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) lands at U.S. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay. AWACS provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces and is considered to be the premier air battle command and control aircraft in the world today. U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley. (RELEASED)

Top image: file photo of a Raptor taking off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

 

Salva

Salva

Russian Tu-142 appears over Syria for the first time (the day after the USN launched first strikes from the Med Sea)

One day after the U.S. Navy launched the first strikes from the Mediterranean a Russian Tu-142, an aircraft developed for reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare, was spotted over Aleppo, Syria.

The following video, allegedly filmed on Jun. 5, 2016, at Aleppo, Syria clearly shows a Russian Bear flying overhead.

Based on the barely visible search radar underneath the fuselage and the characteristic tail with a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) boom, the aircraft seems to be a Tu-142M “Bear F”, a reconnaissance and ASW variant derived from the iconic Tu-95 Bear bomber.

Whilst the “standard” Tu-95s have already been used to carry out air strikes against Syrian ground targets beginning in November last year, the one spotted over Aleppo would be (if confirmed) the first Tu-142 to take part in the air war over Syria.

As said the Tu-142 was developed as a maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft. However, it is believed to be able to carry different sensor packages and some believe the Bear F could be used as an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform, to pinpoint targets for tactical strike aircraft.

However, as long-range naval reconnaissance plane, the Tu-142 could also have been tasked to keep an eye on the USS Truman CSG (Carrier Strike Group): a “response” of Moscow to the first air strikes launched by an aircraft carrier from the eastern Mediterranean Sea since 2003.

Watch this video of Iranian F-14 Tomcats escorting a Russian Tu-95 bomber during air strike in Syria

Persian Tomcat and Russian Bear fly together during a strike mission against ground targets in Syria.

Something really interesting details have been exposed by the material released by Russia’s MoD lately.

Indeed, as you can see in the video below, IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-14 Tomcat interceptors escorted Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear bombers flying in Iranian airspace during their 9h 30mins missions (from Engels airbase and back, along the Iraq-Iran-Caspian Sea 6,500 km-long corridor) against terrorist targets in Syria.

F-14 IRIAF escort Tu-95 composite

With the U.S. Navy retiring the legendary F-14 in September 2006, nowadays the IRIAF is the only operator of the Tomcat, a type of aircraft that Tehran has kept airworthy throughout the years in spite of the embargo imposed after the 1979 Revolution.

Not only did the Iranians keep some F-14s in active service but they have also upgraded it with some domestic avionics upgrades and weapons that should extend the life of the last flying Tomcats until 2030.

Fantastic photos of the Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers intercepted by RAF Typhoons yesterday

Two Tu-160s met the British QRA yesterday.

On Sept. 10, RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon aircraft were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (along with a supporting Voyager tanker from RAF Brize Norton) to intercept two Russian aircraft flying in international airspace.

The two Typhoon pilots visually identified the two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and escorted them as they flew close to the British airspace.

It’s the very first time in several years that the white-colored supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber appears in photographs taken by RAF QRA pilots: indeed, according to recent reports, there only 5 combat capable Tu-160 in service and this means the Tu-160 are rarely launched on very long missions.

Tu-160 intercepted Typhoons

However, with the Tu-95s only slowly returning to normal operations after the grounding that followed a series of crashes, there is some chance Tu-160s may pay visit to the international airspace off some NATO member state.

Tu-160 intercepted

In 2013, two Tu-160s deployed to Venezuela and Nicaragua after a 13-hour flight across the Pacific. On their 15-hour return flight to Engels airbase, in Russia, that included aerial refueling by Il-78 tankers over the Norwegian Sea, the two Blackjacks entered Colombian airspace and were intercepted and escorted by Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter planes for 5 minutes.

Image credit: Crown Copyright / UK MoD

 

Finnish Air Force Hornet jets have taken some cool snapshots of Russian bombers skirting Finland’s airspace

Surge in Russian Air Force flights in northern Europe is providing an opportunity for local air forces to take some interesting pictures of Moscow warplanes.

Russia has launched several missions flown over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea region in the last few days.

Beginning on Dec. 6 and continuing through this week, Russian Air Force has been particularly busy in international airspace close to the Finnish airspace forcing the Finnish Air Force to scramble its F/A-18 Hornets and shadow Moscow’s warplanes.

Tupolev Tu-95

Fortunately, the Finnish fighter pilots involved in these close encounters have taken some interesting pictures of the once rarer Russian heavy bombers and attack planes.

Tupolev Tu-22M

According to the Finnish air force, Tu-95s, Tu-22Ms, Su-34s, Su-27s, Su-24s and MiG-31s were intercepted by the Hornets in the last weeks.

Suhoi Su-34

Image credit: Finnish Air Force