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The Russian Military Merged Thread- Air Force

Retired AF Guy

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Video of the aircraft wreckage and photos of two of the crew members, plus commentary saying pilot lost control of aircraft while landing. More commentary on pilot and family history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3n-3ZNAg_A

Facebook posting showing pictures of the crash and photos of three deceased crew members.

https://www.facebook.com/Fighterjetsworld/photos/basw.AboxgnAWFb7U-6TIlWeg51V2ur0-HNVhxXRh_hppUn277kMLXWvvePNXW3Nza-Z99SBXi9Ta1iW4uCiqmnaHtKEt3lF7Ji3byRPUMRIbkixlI_6NzPIwHKsOYUX5degeTNaBnV-jnllTrosIpraJANvM.2439059176104123.2448767231822697.2448767168489370.631218790647235.2448767185156035.2174564366131477/2448767231822697/?type=1&theater

 

Good2Golf

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Retired AF Guy said:
Video of another Backfire that comes in for several hard landings and does not blowup. Mind you clear weather landing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUiowVPZIpE

Good thing the Russians have 30,000’-long runways...at least 5 touch-and-goes before he planted it...
 

MarkOttawa

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And escorts for Russkie bombers?

Russia resumes North Pole patrols with fighter jets
Combat ready MiG-31BMs will protect Russia’s northern regions by circumnavigate the airspace around the North Pole, Defense Ministry announces.

Regular patrols by fighter jets on combat duty on the top of the world have not been seen since the end of the former Cold War. While exercise flights were made to the North Pole in 2018, such flights will now become regular, Izvestia reports from Defense Ministry sources.

Two squadrons of MiG-31BM from the Northern- and Pacific Fleets will be in charge.

With flights from both east and west, the Russian fighter jets aim at controlling the entire Arctic air space north of mainland Siberia to beyond the North Pole.

From Russia’s European Arctic region, the patrols will be carried out by the 98th Guards Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment at the air base in Monchegorsk on the Kola Peninsula. See video below.

The MiG-31BM is a supersonic long-range interceptor fighter capable of flying up to 3,000 km without refueling. The plane can fly at a speed up to 3,000 km/h. With such speed, the North Pole is just about half an hour away after takeoff from Monchegorsk [video at end].
https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/02/russia-resumes-north-pole-patrols-fighter-jets

Mark
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MarkOttawa said:
The MiG-31BM is a supersonic long-range interceptor fighter capable of flying up to 3,000 km without refueling. The plane can fly at a speed up to 3,000 km/h. With such speed, the North Pole is just about half an hour away after takeoff from Monchegorsk [video at end].
https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/02/russia-resumes-north-pole-patrols-fighter-jets

Yes, the Mig-31 can fly at 3,000 km/h (but only under certain circumstance). And, yes it can fly 3,000 km without refueling (roughly the distance from Monchegorsk to the North Pole). But it can't due both. More info here (Wikipedia).

Also, if you watch the video at the link, most of it is of SU-24 Fencers ( Aircraft # 33). The aircraft landing towards the end is a Mig-31.
 

MarkOttawa

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MiG-31s can be refuelled:
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/russian-military-jets-flew-within-100-kilometres-of-canadian-mainland-source-says/article20706528/

Video:
https://theaviationist.com/2015/07/08/mig-31-safe-ejection-story/

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MarkOttawa

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How will CF-18s, and whatever new fighter RCAF ends up with some sunny day, cope with the number of cruise missiles that might be launched if Bears/Blackjacks not shot down first? Can North Warning System cope with low-flying missiles? How will they be detected?

New Missiles for the ‘Bear’ and ‘Blackjack’

Low clouds and mist in the morning of May 9 caused the cancellation of an aviation flypast with 78 aircraft over Moscow, preventing freshly upgraded bombers from showing their teeth as newly developed missiles begin to enter service.

This year’s Victory Day parade was to demonstrate Long-Range Aviation’s strategic bombers that have recently undergone a modernization program—a single Tu-160M “Blackjack” and four Tu-95MSM “Bear-Hs. "Strictly speaking, their public flying debut (the Tu-95MSM was displayed statically at MAKS’2017) was spoiled rather than canceled, because Muscovites had watched them pass overhead on May 4 and 7 when Russia’s Air and Space Force (VKS) crews practiced for the flypast. A single Tu-160M led four smaller Tu-22M3s, while a trio of Tu-95MSMs flew in a Vic formation, with another following an Il-78M tanker to demonstrate inflight refueling.

Each of the “Bears” was fitted with four large underwing pylons with rails for Kh-101/102 land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). Previously modified Tu-95MSMs fired Kh-101s at Islamic State targets in Syria on two occasions, in November 2016 and July 2017. On the eve of the V-Day parade, the Russian defense ministry said that last year four more Tu-95MS aircraft underwent modernization into the MSM variant with improved mission equipment and the outer pylons.

Although adding these large pylons increases aerodynamic drag, it enables the aging type to carry eight new missiles that cannot fit into the aircraft’s internal bomb bays. In the future, a further improved Tu-95MSM may also carry an even larger LACM that is now in development at the Novator design house, a member of the Tactical Missile Corporation (Russian acronym TRV). Although this weapon is intended primarily for use in the Caliber-M strike system on warships, it may also be carried by the “Bear” thanks to its new outer pylons.

In 2018 sources in the Russian navy confirmed that R&D work on the Caliber-M with a maximum range of 2,430 nm (4,500 km) had commenced. This is about twice the figure for the in-service 3M14T of the original Caliber and is achieved primarily through enlargement of the missile body's diameter. The newer weapon will carry a larger warhead, at one tonne, compared to the current 250- to 500-kg (550- to 1,100-pound) warhead. In February, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that Moscow will develop new members in the Caliber family following the Trump Administration’s decision to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that was signed in 1987.
[emphasis added]

Because of its large dimensions, the new missile is unlikely to be fitted to the Tu-160. To fly supersonically, the “Blackjack” requires its air-launched missiles to be carried in the internal bays. For the Tu-160, however, another TRV member—the Raduga design house—is developing the Kh-50, a shorter-range version of the Kh-101 broadly similar to the AGM-158 JASSM with a larger (1,600 kg) warhead. A Tu-160 can carry up to 12 such missiles internally on two rotary launchers.

TRV is also working on GZUR, the Russian acronym for “hypersonic guided missile,” whose parameters are yet to be made public. It is likely to be a scaled version of the Kh-90, of which development commenced back in the 1970s. Weighing 15 tonnes, this air-launched weapon can accelerate to Mach 4 to 6, using a powder booster and a scramjet running on aviation kerosene. A prototype was shown at MAKS’1995 as the “Hypersonic Experimental Flight Vehicle,” local acronym GELA. Reportedly, prototypes successfully passed fire trials from a modified Tu-160 but did not enter serial production.
https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2019-05-13/new-missiles-bear-and-blackjack

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MarkOttawa

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Note Su-35 escorts for two of the Bears--could they actually perform that mission in a real attack and would USAF F-22s (which might not be in stealth mode carrying fuel tanks and external missiles), and esp. RCAF Cf-18s, cope? And when Su-57s finally get into serious service?

U.S. fighter jets intercept Russian warplanes off Alaska

The U.S. military scrambled five aircraft on Monday to intercept two groups of Russian warplanes that flew in opposite directions off the coast of Alaska but never entered the U.S. sovereign airspace, officials with the bi-national North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) said Tuesday.

First, NORAD dispatched two F-22 Raptor stealth fighters based in Alaska to intercept one group of Russian air planes consisting of two Tu-95 strategic bombers known by NATO identification as “Bears,” said NORAD spokesperson Capt. Cameron Hillier of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Two additional Raptors were scrambled to intercept and accompany another group of two Russian Bears and two Su-35 fighter jets flying in the opposite direction, Hillier said.

The U.S. military also dispatched an E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) to monitor the situation, Hillier said.

The interaction between Russian and U.S. air crews was “safe and professional” and the Russian planes remained at all times in international airspace, Hillier said.

The Russian aircraft did not enter the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the Arctic and no Canadian fighter jets were involved in the intercept, he added.

According to international law, a country’s sovereign airspace extends 22 kilometres from its coastlines. The ADIZ off Alaska extends more than 300 kilometres from the shore.

During the Cold War, such intercepts over the Arctic were regular events, however, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, cash-strapped Russia drastically reduced its strategic bomber air patrols.

In recent years, with tensions between Russia and the West mounting in other areas of the world, Moscow has increased the number of patrols by its Bears that have been modernized and outfitted to carry long-range nuclear-tipped cruise missiles [emphasis added].
http://www.rcinet.ca/eye-on-the-arctic/2019/05/21/alaska-russia-plane-fighter-bomber-military-defence/

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MarkOttawa

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Further to previous tweet's comments on stealty, note this from another story about USAF intercepting Tu-95s and Su-35s off Alaska:

F-22s intercept Russian fighters, bombers off Alaska
...
The pictures posted by NORAD also appear to show the F-22s with external fuel tanks, which would increase the radar signature on what is normally a stealthy, fifth-generation aircraft. That appendage helps to increase the F-22′s time in flight and can help Russian aircraft spot the fighter jet, which isn’t always a bad thing.

During intercept missions, U.S. aircraft aren’t necessarily attempting to sneak up on an aircraft, but instead are focusing on escorting the adversary safely and professionally.

The NORAD official would not comment on the radar disposition of the F-22s: “We do not disclose tactical details such as that due to operational security reasons,” they said...

WOXQHVQLQNDBBAWO5RFFG7W2OM.JPG

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/05/21/f-22s-intercept-russian-fighters-bombers-off-alaska/

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tomahawk6

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USAF is an Air Guard tanker wing at Eilson AFB and an F16 Wing.Although I would rather have F15's due to their greater range. Maybe move some F22's to Eilson. The USAF used to use King Salmon and Galena to forward stage fighters for the NORAD mission but I think both air stations were lost to the USAF bean counters.King Salmon's radar site remains open though.

https://www.afcec.af.mil/Home/BRAC/Galena.aspx
 

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RCAF deputy NORAD head on current, future threats--note cruise missiles, need to upgrade/replace North Warning System--how much Canada willing to pay and when? How much longer will CF-18 be capable of doing the job?

NORAD May Ramp Up North American Surveillance amid Rising Threats from Russia

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has long been the main unit overseeing aerospace warning and control and maritime warning for North America. But the recent rise in conflict around the world has prompted it to try to better prepare for what is ahead, according to a top official in the command.

"What we're focused on is being able to detect adversary activity that poses a risk or threat" to North America, said Canadian Lt. Gen. Christopher Coates, deputy commander of NORAD. Military.com spoke with Coates, stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, during a recent interview.

NORAD gets several notifications a day that require monitoring at the command center or scrambling jets to check out the airspace.

"It's not always the same action, but we [get an alert] and investigate," Coates said.

The command responds roughly five times per week across the U.S. or Canada for tactical actions, he said. Between 2016 and 2018, it scrambled nearly 500 times, conducting 164 intercepts, according to data provided to Military.com.

"Our intercepts of foreign state aircraft average about a half dozen per year, but can get higher," Coates said, referencing Russian bombers or fighters flying into the Air Defense Identification Zone, the airspace surrounding the United States and Canada. The ADIZ stretches roughly 200 miles off Alaska's coast.

Regarding potential adversary activity, "the problem has become 360-degree for us," he said. "When we saw Russia deploy its bombers down to Venezuela, of course NORAD was very focused on that [because] it presents another vector" of global conflict.

Related content:

    NORAD Is Evolving to Meet New Threats to North America
    Russian 'Bear' Bombers Intercepted near Alaska for Second Time in Two Days
    US Cautions Russia over Military Mission in Venezuela
    STRATCOM Chief Renews Call for Sensors in Space

Both Russia and China are developing long-range missile capability, with Russian officials publicly stating the country plans to upgrade part of its existing missile inventory by increasing their range and enhancing their speed to hypersonic levels.

"The trend that we're on would lead me to believe that we need to have far more robust continental defenses in five years than we do today. Our adversaries are continuing to develop capabilities to hold the homeland directly at risk [emphasis added]," Coates said.

"I don't believe Russia is going to launch a cruise missile tomorrow at Canada or the U.S. [But] we do have challenges with respect to new technologies that Russia and other nations are developing and fielding, and we're working with [Canadian and U.S.] defense agencies to make sure we're well positioned for the future," he said. "And the notion that I've got is that [our adversaries] believe that the best way to ensure their defense and security and interests are best met [is] by being … able to challenge us."
Being Ready

Operation Noble Eagle, to defend the U.S. and Canada, was launched in the aftermath of 9/11.

There have been growing requirements to partner, especially with U.S. Northern Command and Canadian Joint Operations Command, as well as interagency organizations such as the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration.

"There has been a realignment, a refocusing of effort, where there is a combination of priorities and … certain activities remain higher-priority," Coates said.

That includes security for big annual sporting events and overwatch on cities.

The command’s role was highlighted in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport incident last year. In August 2018, a Horizon Air worker stole one of the airline's Q400 turboprops aircraft. The employee, later identified as ground service agent Richard Russell, 29, flew the empty aircraft south of Seattle before crashing into Ketron Island in the Puget Sound, roughly 35 miles south of the airport. He died in the crash.

NORAD responded with a multifaceted, coordinated effort between two F-15 Eagle pilots, who did not shoot the Q400 down.

The Sea-Tac incident "completely mirrored the training events that we do," Coates said.

He called the incident unfortunate, but unique in that NORAD hadn't seen that type of hijacking since Operation Noble Eagle began.

"We're training for events ... like it on a daily basis," Coates said.

Personnel at the command control center are typically on eight-hour shifts, during which they participate in two-to-three training simulations when not responding to real-world events, he said. "We're so attuned to the notion that 9/11 was a failure of imagination, so we challenge ourselves. We challenge our [exercise planning personnel] to ensure we keep this enterprise at the very pointy edge of being ready."

Intercepts or scrambles are most often due to civilian aircraft that stray into a temporary flight restriction zone or closed off airspace.The command tracked 4,464 events of interest flagged by the FAA from 2016 to 2018.

"Fortunately, we have not had to take action in those cases," Coates said.
Defending the Homeland

He said NORAD is well-suited for the alert mission, but needs to prepare for a range of events.

"Are we well-suited for a really bad day? Perhaps less so," he said, adding that a commander's job is to do the best he can with the resources he's given, while identifying risks if he sees capability gaps or vulnerabilities across the mission.

A catastrophic event could include a mass casualty or terrorist incident that would call for air intercepts and increased air patrols, or a fight against a near-peer enemy on U.S. soil or near its borders.

Coates said the command's posture could change in the next few years to be ready for both daily homeland defense as well as a bigger fight.

The first goal is to show a formidable deterrence by North American partners, "but then be ready as well to respond to where we most believe the threat might present itself," he said.
Emerging Tech, Warning Systems

Technology is constantly evolving, and NORAD is working with its partners to determine the best surveillance systems to use against these new threats, Coates said.

NORAD watched 1,451 foreign missile events between 2016 and 2018, according to the data.

"We're reaching out and engaging with our industry partners, making sure they're aware of our requirements. We're interested in looking at the widest range of possible solutions -- whether those are land-based, air-based or space-based," Coates said.

"On the weapons side, certainly we're interested in ensuring we have sufficient numbers of effective weapons … or technologies," he added. As an example, he cited the active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar upgrade to the F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet, which gives pilots additional situational awareness, high-performance targeting and extended range [emphasis added].

"That's directly related to the capabilities [we need]," he said.

The upgrades come as the Pentagon in recent years has been quietly working on a network defense system plan to intercept and shoot down low-flying missiles [emphasis added].

In 2017, then-NORAD commander Gen. Lori Robinson said the U.S. and Canada were working on upgrades to protect against cruise missile threats posed by countries such as Russia and North Korea -- the first substantial buildup in more than two decades.

Robinson said that the two countries had established a "binational steering group to manage the eventual replacement of the North Warning System [emphasis added], which is our network of surveillance radars across Alaska and northern Canada."

"That study is ongoing," Coates said. "We're not in a position yet to know what the recommendations are … [but] we're looking at … what capabilities are most beneficial moving forward."

The current warning system architecture will eventually atrophy, he said, so a comprehensive, cross-domain surveillance system is necessary.

The key is persistence, he said, as NORAD aims for advanced line of sight to monitor, track and defend against evolving hazards.

"We're looking at sensor and command-and-control systems that can synthesize information, that can sense information or sense across domains all at once and help us makes sense of" information, Coates said.

While the U.S. already uses satellites to monitor global missile activities, there is need for "technologies that will allow us to observe further, and with more accuracy and more precision -- well beyond the range of our current sensors," he said, "whether those are a combination of platforms in the air -- and maybe those are a combination of sensors ... with radars that are on [unmanned aerostats] … or some kind of an early airborne warning platform, or space-based sensors."

That could include "a combination of low and high satellites with different revisit rates over various places," Coates said. "It's not science fiction; it's taking advantage of capabilities, both those that we have today, modernized and integrated, and then the possibility of what we will need in the next decade to come."

Deterring Adversary Gains

The necessity for additional tech comes as officials anticipate more high-speed, precision-strike weapons -- below the nuclear threshold -- advanced enough to pose a threat to cities across North America.

"We've seen our adversaries develop very long-range, advanced, stealthy, hard-to-detect cruise missiles [including SLCMs]," Coates said, referring to Russian activity in Syria [emphasis added]. "The notion that Russia or any other nation would aim weapons at North America, is [not] new."

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his country had developed "invincible" new nuclear weapons, including hypersonic missiles, that can penetrate U.S. defenses.

Then in February, Putin said Russia had tested a ship-based hypersonic missile. Called "Tsirkon," the missile can travel at Mach 9 and hit sea- or land-based targets, he said during his annual state of the nation address, according to CNBC.

"We're directly involved in the aerospace warning problems that we have now, and we're thinking about the future," Coates said, referring to hypersonic weapons [emphasis added].

NORAD is looking for new ways to have more eyes in the sky, even if the technology might not exist yet.

"Maybe there's a capability like [tethered unmanned aerostats] that would be an option at some point for the Arctic. Maybe there's developing capabilities that allow us to keep surveillance, like an [unmanned aerial vehicle], airborne indefinitely, for days or weeks instead of hours [emphasis added]," Coates said. "That doesn't exist, but we're certainly interested."
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/05/29/norad-may-ramp-north-american-surveillance-amid-rising-threats-russia.html

Post from 2015:

NORAD Note: Russian Bomber (with cruise missiles) Strikes in Syria
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/mark-collins-norad-note-russian-bomber-with-cruise-missiles-strikes-in-syria/

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Now after earlier trip to Venezuela ( https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/25469/russian-tu-160-bombers-fly-10-hour-caribbean-patrol-from-venezuela-drawing-ire-from-u-s ):

Russian Bombers to Land in South Africa During Unprecedented Deployment

Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and support aircraft are expected to touch down in South Africa this week for an unprecedented deployment to the continent.

The South Africa Department of Defence on Monday announced it had recently invited Russian personnel and the long-range strategic bombers, an Ilyushin Il-62 Classic airliner and an Antonov An-124 Condor heavy transport, as part of an increased "military to military" partnership, according to a release. The Aviatonist was first to report the news following a social media post from the African Defence Review's Darren Olivier.

Olivier, the director of the publication, noted the bomber arrival was first scheduled for 2016, but because of Russia's increased operations in Syria at the time, the bombers were unable to deploy to South Africa.

The aircraft are set to arrive by Tuesday in the country's Waterkloof Air Force Base, just 32 miles north of Johannesburg.

Russia has made various inroads on the African continent over the last few years, with officials noting the nation has taken a page out of China's playbook in efforts to restore global influence.

Moscow has signed more than 20 military agreements with various African countries since 2015, and has quadrupled its trade with Africa in the last decade -- from $5.7 billion in 2009 to $20 billion in 2018, according to Quartz Magazine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit this week in Sochi in an effort to woo 47 African officials to expand their bilateral partnerships with Russia -- instead of the United States.

Putin told Russian media Monday that Western countries like the U.S. have taken advantage of Africa for its resources without fair recompense.

"We see how an array of Western countries are resorting to pressure, intimidation and blackmail of sovereign African governments," Putin told Russia's TASS state news agency, without naming specific countries. The summit, co-hosted with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, will take place Oct. 23-24 in the Black Sea city.

Putin added that it's now time for Russia to offer the countries economic solutions that are not "contingent upon ... preconditions," according to RadioFreeEurope-Radio Liberty.

The U.S. has also kept an eye on Russia's military engagement on the continent. Prior to his confirmation to lead U.S. Africa Command, Army Gen. Stephen Townsend told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April that Russia's mercenary "little green men" have had officials questioning Moscow's motives in the region.

"They concern me greatly," Townsend said of the mercenaries from the shadowy organization known as the "Wagner Group."

"They're quasi-military and, as we saw play out in Crimea and Ukraine, 'little green men' running around not necessarily following the rules of behavior we would expect from a proper army," he said, referencing the hybrid warfare strategy.

During the hearing, Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said the alliances would only continue to increase Moscow's access.

"Russians have moved into Central African Republic, advising them, which seems to be an attempt by Putin to return to the great power influence that they enjoyed under the Soviet Union," Reed said.
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/10/21/russian-bombers-land-south-africa-during-unprecedented-deployment.html

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MarkOttawa

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Another wrinkle for RCAF/NORAD:

Maiden flight for upgraded Tu-160M bomber

Russia flew the maiden flight of the upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M 'Blackjack' strategic bomber on 2 February, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced.

The flight took place at the Kazan Aircraft Plant and lasted 34 minutes with the aircraft reaching an altitude of approximately 5,000 ft. The video of the flight was released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Russian Federation on 6 February.

As noted by the MoD, the first upgraded aircraft are due to be received by the Russian Air Force in 2021.

The Tu-160 first entered into Soviet service in the late 1980s. Since then the swing-wing supersonic bomber has undergone several upgrades, including in the early 2000s a bolstering of the aircraft's nuclear armament with the capacity to carry 12 conventionally armed Raduga NPO Kh-555 (AS-15 'Kent') long-range cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs.

The Tu-160M upgrade is being rolled out in two phases, with the first Tu-160M1 phase comprising the new K-042K-1 navigation system and ABSU-200-1 autopilot, as well as the removal of some previous systems, such as bomb sighting systems. This Tu-160M1-variant has been operational with the air force since late 2014.

The second Tu-160M2 phase includes the new Novella NV1.70 radar, a digital 'glass' cockpit, modern communications and anti-jamming equipment, upgraded NK-32 engines (designated NK-32-02), and modern conventional and nuclear weapons...

p1743298.jpg

https://www.janes.com/article/94165/maiden-flight-for-upgraded-tu-160m-bomber

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A post with an exam question:

The Russian Aerial Campaign in Syria
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/04/20/the-russian-aerial-campaign-in-syria/


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Start of a fabulous and detailed piece by an Indian Air Force pilot--lots of photos:

I was the first foreign pilot to fly the Mach 2.8 MiG-31 interceptor, here’s my story: By Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd)

Weighing the same as a M60 main battle tank and capable of flying 600mph faster than an F-16, the Russian MiG-31 is an absolute beast of an interceptor. Cloaked in secrecy, few outsiders have flown in the cockpit of this monstrous defender. Air Marshal Anil Chopra PVSM AVSM VM VSM (Retd) was given privileged access to the world’s fastest armed aircraft, here he describes this incredible experience to Hush-Kit.

“I felt I was sitting atop a missile-head in a high-speed interception.”


“The date was 28 May. Average daytime temperatures in May in Nizhnie Novgorad are around 22℃. Airfield elevation was 256 ft. The take-off and landing were done by the front pilot. The rear cockpit is used mostly as Weapon System Officer (WSO) station, though it has a control column to fly in case of an emergency requirement. There was nothing peculiar about the take-off. The frontal view through the periscope was good. I had used the periscope earlier on MiG-21UB (trainer) and on the MiG-23UB. So, I was quite comfortable. However the side view was minimal as the large front canopy left little place for Perspex for the second cockpit. I tried to visualise if the second pilot could easily land from the rear seat. Compared to a Su-30MKI it is surely more uncomfortable.”

Why did you try the MiG-31?

“I was the team leader of the Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 Upgrade ‘Bison’ project in Russia from mid-1996 to the end of 2000. The design and development work was carried out at the Mikoyan Design Bureau in Moscow’s (OKB-155, Experimental Design Bureau 155). Our location was at RAC ‘MiG’, 6, Leningradskoye Shosse, Moscow. In 1995, Mikoyan OKB had merged with two production facilities to form the Moscow Aviation Production Association MiG (MAPO-MiG). Rostislav A. Belyakov, was still the father figure. I had an opportunity to meet him.”

“Two MiG-21Bis Aircraft had been sent from India for the design and development project. These aircraft were in positioned at the Sokol plant in Nizhnie Novgorod, where they were to be stripped and rebuilt after receiving the final design drawings from the Moscow Design Bureau. Sokol was also where the MiG-31 was being built. Our team used to visit the Sokol plant regularly from 1997, nearly once a month, for progressing the work on our two aircraft. Two of our officers were later permanently at Sokol for the flight testing of the Bison. The Director General of the plant, V Pankov mentioned to me about the MiG-31 and said that the Russians had been proposing the MiG 31 for sale to India. He said that they had given details to both the Government of India and to the Indian Air Force, but had not received any response or interest. I asked them to show us the aircraft, and if they had no problem, then I could get a chance to fly it. In Russian armament industry the general dynamics were still of the Soviet era. It took him some time to get approvals for me to fly in the rear seat of the MiG-31. They also told me that I was to be the first pilot from a foreign country to fly a MiG-31. They gave me a certificate to that effect, which is currently lying misplaced somewhere in my boxes. It was a demonstration flight and not a test flight. The basic aim was to show case the long range radar and to demonstrate high speed and acceleration. The date fixed was 28th May 1999. That was also the day the deputy head of India’s Mission in Moscow was on her first official visit to the Sokol plant. Ms Nirupama Rao was later India’s foreign secretary and India’s Ambassador to USA.”

Where did you fly it?

“The flight was made in the Sokol Aircraft Plant in Nizhniy Novgorod, which was formerly called Gorky. The plant was a manufacturer of MiG fighters. It was reportedly founded in 1932 and was once known as ‘Aviation Plant 21’, named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze. During 45 years of serial production the plant had manufactured about 13,500 combat aircraft. We were told that at its peak, they use to make close to 200 MiG-21s a year. But after the collapse of Soviet Union, and in the absence of significant orders from the Russian Air Force Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS), the production had gone down. The Indian MiG-21 upgrade was a significant order. Also, the plant used to make around 10-12 MiG 29 two-seaters in a year. There were nearly 15,000 employees. Their salaries were very low in the mid 1990s. Most of the sales and money earned from armaments was controlled directly from Moscow. All foreign contracts were through Rosvooruzhenie (later Rosoboronexport), the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports/imports of defence-related and dual use products, technologies and services. We were told that the entire plant, including salaries could be run through the sale of just two MiG-29s. It was clear that the aircraft sale price was very high and basic production costs and salaries were very low. The high mark-ups of defence equipment prices are true in all countries. For some exported components, the price mark-up could be a 100 times. Many smaller plants that were the real original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of the components or sub-systems, wanted to sell spares directly to India, but the Russian government control was never released and with the result that the bulk of the profits went to Moscow.”

Russian people take a little time to make friends, but once they become one, they are great friends. There were many very senior technicians in the plant who had been to India in 1960s to help set up the MiG plant at Nasik. They had fond memories and spoke about the great time they had in India, and how they loved Indians. They also remembered the great Indian Old Monk Rum. We arranged to get some from India for them...[read on as he describes his flight in the back seat, with some time at the controls--and note this from later on: "General Capability Briefing by the Russian Designers...The aircraft could act as air defence escorts to a long range strategic bombers [emphasis added]...]
https://hushkit.net/2020/12/18/i-was-the-first-foreign-pilot-to-fly-the-mach-2-8-mig-31-interceptor-heres-my-story-by-air-marshal-anil-chopra-retd/

The air marshal also runs this interesting website: "Air Power Asia" https://airpowerasia.com/

Some photos from the piece above:

mig-31-bm-front-cockpit.jpg


representative-picture-of-903-2-1.jpg


Back seat:
original-front-cockpit-of-mig-31-before-upgarde.jpg


More back seat:
rear-cockpit-radar-scope-and-control-stick-head.-1.jpg


representative-picture-of-903.jpg


Mark
Ottawa
 
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