Just days after Russian Aerospace Force deputy commander-in-chief made the bold claim that more than thirteen hundred foreign air reconnaissance aircraft had operated near Russia’s borders this year, the Russian Defense Ministry’s official newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported that an additional thirty-six foreign aircraft conducted similar flights over just the past week.
According to Tass, the paper’s infographics showed that some thirty foreign spy planes along with six additional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/drones had conducted air reconnaissance along Russia’s state borders in the past week. Those flights by foreign spy aircraft were tracked by Russian radar stations, and no violations of the Russian state border were allowed said the Russian Defense Ministry.
The newspaper also reported that two Russian fighter jets were scrambled during the week to prevent the violation of Russia’s airspace. It didn’t mention what type of Russian aircraft were sortied to track and escort the foreign aircraft, but in recent weeks Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets have been scrambled. This included one that intercepted a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the neutral waters of the Black Sea as it approached Russia’s sovereign airspace.
“A Su-27 fighter jet of the Southern Military District’s air defense units on duty was scrambled to identify the air target and to prevent it from violating the state border of the Russian Federation,” Russia’s National Defense Control Center said in a statement earlier this week.
Russia has certainly been keeping tabs on the aircraft that have flown over the waters of the Baltic, Barents and Black Seas near the borders of western Russia, as well as over the Sea of Japan and the Western Pacific to Russia’s Far East.
“Air defense alert forces detected and tracked over 1.5 million airliners, including about 3,600 foreign combat planes and over 1,300 spy aircraft,” Aerospace Force Deputy Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant-General Andrei Yudin said in an interview with the Defense Ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Friday. According to Yudin, the Russian fighter aircraft from air defense quick reaction alert forces were scrambled over 170 times to intercept foreign planes near Russia’s borders.
The infographics from the Krasnaya Zvezda also highlighted that additional aircraft—including the Su-35S multirole fighter aircraft, the Il-76MD-90A military transport plane and the Su-34 supersonic fighter-bomber—have been delivered under Russia’s defense procurement plan. While the Su-27 fighter jet could likely continue in its role to track and escort foreign aircraft that approach Russian airspace, it is possible the newer Su-35S and Su-34 aircraft could soon be taking on such duties.
The latest Su-35 entered serial production in 2007, and its capable Saturn AL-41F1S engines support supercruising, or the ability to sustain supersonic flight without the use of afterburners. That could allow it to “catch” most reconnaissance aircraft with relative ease. While that won’t likely make the United States or other NATO powers cease such patrols over the neutral waters the situation could certainly become more “interesting.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress.