Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Old Russian Plane Does it Again

SU-27 Flanker
Thankfully, there was no collision this time:
A Russian fighter jet buzzed dangerously close to a U.S. military plane in April, a U.S. official said Tuesday, describing the fly-by as "straight out of a movie."
The Russian jet flew within 100 feet of the nose of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan, a Defense Department official said.
The fly-by "put the lives of the U.S. crew in jeopardy," the U.S. official said, calling it "one of the most dangerous close passes in decades."
The incident occurred on April 23, the Defense Department official said, when a U.S. Air Force RC-135U aircraft flying on a routine mission over the Sea of Okhotsk was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker aircraft.
The last time this happened, I was just out of high school:
At 10:39hrs of 13 September 1987 the Norwegian AF P-3B "602" of the No.333 Squadron, from Anöya AB was underway over Barents Sea, flown by Lt. Jan Salvesen and nine crewmembers, when intercepted by a Su-27 of the 941st IAP V-PVO, from Kilip-Yavr AB, flown by Vasiliy Tsymbal.
The Orion was underway at 13.000ft (roughly 4.500m) when the Su-27 did the first close pass: the Norwegians took few photos. After experiencing some problems with keeping his plane in close formation with the slow P-3B, the Soviet fighter disappeared - especially as Lt. Salvesen decelerated in order to signal his dislike for the Flanker coming that close. The Soviet pilot then accelerated away.

Several minutes later, the same Su-27 came back, and again took up a position very close to the P-3B. Lt. Salvesen decreased the speed, signalling the Flanker-pilot to stay away: the Su-27 disappeared again.

Around 10:56hrs, some 135nm E/SE from Vardö (Norway), and 48nm N of the Soviet border, the same Su-27 appeared for the third time, and now under the starboard (right) wing of the P-3B. The Flanker slowly moved closer and closer, Tsymbal obviously intending to once again suddenly accelerate when underneath the Orion. Finally, he did so, but while pulling up, the tip of his fin hit the prop of the Orion's outboard starboard engine, cutting an eleven centimer long piece of it and catapulting it into the fuselage of the reconnaissance aircraft, thus causing a decompression.

The Flanker is an old, old plane and the technology isn't anything to get spun up about. Unfortunately, you're not going to get that context with media reports of what happened; nor are you going to get the whole history of how these planes have been used to intimidate reconnaissance aircraft for decades. It's all part of the same game and it would be silly to assume that there aren't similar games being played elsewhere.

These outdated Russian planes have seen upgrades and improvements but their overall design and function isn't anything special. It's true that they can do some damage, but no one should assume that a few old Flankers are going to have instant air superiority any time they appear. Up against modern U.S. aircraft, they would be forced to flee.

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