Tag Archives: Tupolev

War games as usual over the Baltic Sea

While NATO, Sweden and Finland are jointly engaged in large scale military exercises on the Baltic Sea coasts and in the countries neighbouring Russia, it is business as usual in the air above the Northern European waters with Russia sending up bombers and escorts, and the opposing side scrambling fighter jets.

Last week was somewhat special. The stars and stripes were promoted big time by two US Air Force B-52H bombers dropping training sea mines off the coast of Skåne in Southern Sweden. They were escorted by at least four Swedish Air Force Gripen fighter jets. The training mission, with the Buffs flying in from the United Kingdom, was part of the large scale Baltops 2015 exercise (5 – 20 June), that also saw Swedish and US Marines landing on the Scandinavian coast using the USS San Antonio as main floating base. Baltops 2015 also marked the first time the B-52s were on a real operational training mission inside Swedish air space.

The last couple of days saw the more usual suspects. Russian aircraft gave acte de presence in international airspace bordering Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark.

Royal Air Force Typhoons came home with nice pictures of a pair of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound long-distance interceptors. Saab JAS 39 Gripen planes of the Swedish Air Force shadowed a pair of Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers escorted by two MiG-31s twice in 24 hours, as the Russian Air Force package was making a routine flight from the St. Petersburg area over the Baltic Sea towards Kaliningrad.

Baltic Air Policing
NATO planes at Ämari in Estonia and/or Šiauliai in Lithuania and/or Malbork in Poland also scramble to intercept a Ilyushin IL-20 at least on one occasion. The recon/spy plane is a regular for the NATO jets. The more specials of this week were a Iluyshin / Beriev A-50 AWACS and an Antonov AN-26. Currently the Baltic Air Policing mission on the three bases mentioned, is run by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) and the Belgian Air Component – both each with 4 F-16AM Fighting Falcons – plus the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force – both each with 4 Eurofighter EF2000 / Typhoon jets.

Saber Strike
Meanwhile NATO forces “attacked” a military airfield, Swidwin Airbase in Poland, as part of the multinational exercise Saber Strike 2015 (8 – 19 June) that includes the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well. The Saber Strike airfield assault that included a paradrop was meant to prep ground and air forces for a possible combined operation of the future.

In an attempt to keep things at bay in that future the US policy makers are now even considering sending half or a whole squadron of F-22A Raptor air-supiority stealth fighters to the other side of the Atlantic, but neither a time schedule or a possible base of operations has been revealed.

Looks like the start of a warm Summer in usually cold Northern Europe.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A MiG-31 in earlier action (Image © Olga Balashova / Russian Air Force)

Russia to militarize the brand-new MS-21 airliner

Russia is to militarize the brand-new MS-21 (MC-21 in Russian) airliner under development with Irkut as lead, sources in Moscow and at the Paris Air Show (PAS15) have confirmed. Like with the Boeing 737 turned into the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and airborne surveillance platform, the Russian military is reportedly keen to do the same thing with the new flagship civilian airliner.

The Russian Ministry of Defence is or will soon order 30 to 45 MS-21. They are to start replacing its aging Tupolev Tu-134 and Tu-154 aircraft serving as VIP/transport aircraft. The Tupolevs also provide specializations. The UBL version, for example, flies as a bomber trainer operating from Tambov Airbase with as many as 30 believed to be operational. The Russian Air Force reportedly still has 9 Tu-134s and 17 Tu-154s operational for passenger duties.

With the first MS-21 being assembled since April 2015, Irkut is already focusing on getting more orders by adding military configurations to the Magistralny Samolyot 21 (MS-21 or “Carbon Fibre” plane).

As a civilian airliner the MS-21 might snoop up future orders from f.ex. Aeroflot that would otherwise go to Boeing or Airbus.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Computer rendering of the Irkut MC-21 / MS-21 (Image © United Aircraft Corporation)

Russia grounds the Bear

The Russian Tu-95 Bear long range bomber aircraft are grounded following an accident in which  a fire erupted on board an aircraft, Russian media reported on June 9. The fire broke out in an engine and caused the aircraft to leave the runway at Ukrainka airfield, injuring several crew members.

The Russian Air Force’s Bear aircraft – 71 in total – will remain on the ground while an investigation into the fire takes place. The Bear is perhaps the most visibile example of Russian air power, since the type is regularly seen in the skies near Western Europe during military exercises. Many of last year’s NATO scrambles where direct at Bear bombers taking part in such exercises.

The very first prototype Bear, featuring massive contra-rotating propellers, first flew on 2 November 1952, only months after its US counterpart, the B-52 Stratofortress. With the Bears grounded, Russia falls back on its limited fleet of Tu-160 Blackjack bombers for its long range strike capability.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A Tu-95 Bear seen during an interception by the RAF (Image © UK Ministry of Defence)


Russia: Blackjack production may restart

UPDATED | Russia is contemplating the restart of production of Tupolev Tu-160 long range bomber aircraft, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to journalists on Wednesday 29 April. The Russian Air Force currently flies 15 Tu-160s, also known by their ‘Blackjack’ NATO-codename.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is said to have approved new equipment for Russia’s Kazan Aviation Plant in Tatarstan, where 35 of the Tu-160s were produced from 1984 to 1991. The aim is to have two new Tu-160s by the end of this year, reports say. The Ministry of Defense in Moscow has only confirmed it is considering production restart.

The Blackjack is seen as the Russians’ answer to the US Air Force Rockwell B-1B Lancer strategic bomber. The type, crewed by four, entered service in 1987. Russia is currently also updating its fleet of existing Blackjacks.

Russia considers the Tu-160 to be its most prestigious air asset, being able to carry 24 cruise missiles and 40 tons of bombs, both with a conventional or nuclear payload. It can fly back and forth to North America without refuelling.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Tu-160 strategic bomber (Image © Tupolev)

Russia: 13 long-range bombers to be modernized in 2015

The Russian Air Force is planning to modernize 13 long-range bombers this year, according to a statement by Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu on 1 March 2015.

In 2014 two Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO-name “Blackjack”) and five Tu-95MS (NATO-name “Bear”) upgraded strategic bombers were rotated back to active duty. By 2020 seventy percent of the Russian long-range bomber fleet is expected to have gone through the update program.

Meant to keep the Tupolevs longer in service, the Russian Defence Ministry did not elaborate on how many more years they are supposed to serve. “But our strategic missile carriers will be on the forefront of protecting the motherland,” Mr. Shoygu said. That includes them going for ‘outings’ to get photographed by NATO aircraft like the RAF Typhoons lately and training on in-flight refuelling.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Tu-160 strategic bomber (Image © Tupolev)

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