Tag: Sukhoi Su-30SM


Russian Su-30SM and Italian F-35As Had Their First Close Encounter Over The Baltic Sea

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Russian Su-30SM Italian F-35A
A screenshot of the video released by the Fighter Bomber instagram account showing the Russian Su-30SM and the Italian F-35A.

A video shows an interesting intercept that occurred in international airspace off Estonia.

It was just a matter of time but, in the end, a pretty interesting (and quite relaxed) close encounter between a Russian Sukhoi Su-30SM two-seat multirole aircraft and two Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, took place in the Baltic Region.

One video and two shots, released today by the popular “Fighter Bomber” (@fighter_bomber_) Instagram account, show a Russian Su-30SM Flanker derivative flying alongside two F-35As over the Baltic Sea, somewhere off Estonia, where the Italian stealth jets are deployed to carry out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) task in support of NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.

The short clip shows the two F-35s approaching what seems to be a An-12 (like the one already intercepted by the Italians in that scenario on May 14) aircraft that is probably flying to/from Kaliningrad oblast escorted by at least one Su-30SM.

The Italian F-35A involved in the intercept belong to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, the first unit of the Aeronautica Militare to receive the Lightning in 2016 and the first in Europe to achieve IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in November 2018. As explained in details in a few recent articles, the Italian jets have arrived in Estonia, on Apr. 30, 2021, marking both the first time the Italian stealth jets deploy to the Baltic and the first time 5th generation aircraft support NATO’s mission in the Baltic States. On May 3, the Italian detachment officially took over the augmenting role in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from the German Air Force Eurofighter detachment, starting providing QRA duties.

The Italian F-35A jets carry out the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service in the same configuration used to support the domestic SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) on a rotational basis, where the SCL (Standard Conventional Load) includes two AIM-120C AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missiles in the internal weapons bay. They also carry RCS (Radar Cross Section) enhancers (so they don’t fly in stealth mode).

Interestingly, the Su-30SM in the video appears to carry an IR-guided R-27T/ET (NATO reporting name AA-10 Alamo) air-to-air missile. Even more worth of remark is the fact that the Flanker was escorting an An-12: unless this was some special mission variant of the “Cub”, it seems quite weird that the Russian Su-30SM was escorting a simple transport aircraft. Unless, they knew NATO would scramble the F-35s and wanted the close encounter to take place.  Anyway, let’s also wait for NATO to release some details (and possibly photo) of the intercept.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Cockpit Footage Of BAF F-16 Intercepting Russian Fighters Flying Over USS Donald Cook Destroyer In The Baltic Sea

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Some screenshots from the BAF footage just released by NATO.

In the late morning of Apr. 17, 2020, Belgian Air Force F-16s currently deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission intercepted a group of Russian Federation Air Force fighters in the Baltic Sea.

According to the Allied Air Command, “the Russian fighters were maneuvering in international airspace overflying the USS Donald Cook, a US Navy 6th Fleet destroyer currently operating in the Baltic Sea off the Lithuanian coast. The Belgian F-16 conducted a professional intercept and left the scene, demonstrating that NATO remains ready, vigilant and prepared to respond to any potential threat.”

Interestingly, the Belgians released some footage filmed from the cockpit (and through the pilot’s Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) as the F-16s shadowed the Russian Su-24, Su-27 and Su-30SM.

The BAF F-16s deployed in Lithuania have been quite busy lately:

Back to the recent Su-24 intercept, this was not the first time Russian Fencers flew very close or directly over NATO warships in the Baltic Sea or Black Sea. In the past, we have observed unusual and aggressive low flybys that could not be considered particularly worrisome as the Su-24s depicted in the clips and photographs were unarmed and probably only conducting “simulated attacks” on the warships at sea not too far from home.

However, the most recent intercept show a significant change: along with the 3,000 lt PTB-3000 drop tanks the Su-24Ms appear to be armed with Kh-25M (AS-10 KAREN) air-to-surface missiles, as noted by AFM Editor Thomas Newdick. The laser guided Kh-25ML is the most widespread tactical air-to-surface missile in Russian service, according to Piotr Butowski’s “Russia’s Air-launched Weapons”. This missile weights 650lb (295 kg) and is equipped with a a 200lb (90 kg) warhead. It has a max range of 10 km, a minimum launch distance after launch from low altitude of 3km and 8km from high altitude. It’s not an anti-ship missile though: for that type of mission, the Su-24M can carry the larger and heavier Kh-31A (AS-17 Krypton) with a range of 50km (31 miles).

BTW, low passages of Russian planes on U.S. Navy warships (and vice versa) are somehow frequent and usually uneventful. However, once, a show of force had a different ending when, on May 25, 1968, a Soviet Tu-16 Badger-F crashed into the sea close to USN carrier USS Essex in the Norwegian sea after a few flybys.

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