Thursday, February 9, 2012

A-50 AEW among 5 Russian aircraft intercepted by JASDF in 1 day

Russian A-50 AEW. (Photo: unknown)

Japan's Defense Ministry has said that a total of 5 Russian military aircraft were intercepted by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) off Japan on Wednesday, including the appearance of an Ilyushin/Beriev A-50 Airborne Early Warning aircraft for the first time.

The other aircraft intercepted were two Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear' bombers/maritime reconnaissance aircraft and two Sukhoi Su-24 'Fencer' reconnaissance aircraft. According to the chronology provided, the A-50 and two Tu-95s made their appearance at around 0900 Japan Standard Time, triggering the first round of interceptions by the JASDF. This was followed by two Su-24s, flying individually, in the afternoon.

The graphic below, released by the Japanese MoD, shows the flightpath of the respective aircraft taken during Wednesday's interceptions. I'm not sure if I'm reading too much into this, but looking at the flightpath of the 2 Su-24s, it is worth noting that the 'Fencers' were headed on a direct line to Tokyo (light purple track) and the USAF/JASDF based at Misawa (dark purple track) before turning away as they approached Japanese airspace.

Flightpath of Russian military aircraft intercepted on 8 Feb 2012

It is not known which JASDF types/units intercepted the Russians, with Russian press reports citing "F-16 type" fighters (most likely Mitsubishi F-2s) although looking at the flightpath of the intercepted Russians shadowing the Tu-95s alone would have required interceptors (F-15s, F-2s and maybe even F-4s) from multiple JASDF bases taking turns. Intercepting the Mainstay and Fencers would have been more straightforward, with the A-50 and southern Su-24 likely to be intercepted by the F-2s from Tsuiki or F-15s from Komatsu, with the northern Su-24 likely to be handled by F-2s from Misawa.

If the Japanese MoD statement identifying the Fencers as reconnaissance aircraft is accurate, they would possibly be Su-24MRs belonging to the 174 OMShAP (Otdelnyy Morskoy Shturmovoy Aviatsionnyy Polk, or Independent Naval Shturmovik Aviation Regiment) of the V-VS TOF (Pacific Fleet Naval Aviation, AVMF) based at Pristan at the southern tip of the Far East Military District.

Russian AF Sukhoi Su-24MR 'Fencer-E' (Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin)

With the A-50, the Russian AF reportedly operates 26 of the AEW platfrms based on the Ilyushin Il-76, normally based at Ivanovo-Severnyy near Moscow but have been known to deploy to Russia's Far East for exercises on occasion.

Note: We had previously looked at the Russian AF's Tu-95 Bear units of Russia's Far East Military District in an earlier article.

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