Repurposed as scouts: what will happen to the "open sky" aircraft"

Image source: gazeta.ru

Russian "open sky" aircraft to be converted for military intelligence

After Russia's final withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, the Tu-214ON aircraft are planned to be used for intelligence purposes, two military and diplomatic sources told the media. Military observer " Newspaper.En " Mikhail Khodarenok analyzed the situation with the open sky aircraft.

"Both Tu-214ON aircraft are planned to be retrained for other tasks. We are talking primarily about intelligence functions and monitoring the security of our own military facilities, "one of the sources told RIA Novosti. In addition, he added, the aircraft will be used to monitor the results of tests of various weapons and assess the effectiveness of exercises.

According to the second source, in order to use the Tu-214ON as reconnaissance aircraft, they need to install modern radio-electronic and radio-technical reconnaissance equipment.

"A preliminary decision on this matter has been made, "the source said, noting that the possibility of extensive modernization was laid down during the design of the Tu-214ON and"no one will throw such valuable aircraft around."

While the procedure of withdrawal from the contract is complete, both the Tu-214ON will remain in reserve, the sources added.

Both Open Sky Tu-214ON aircraft were built at Tupolev on the basis of the Tu-204 passenger aircraft. This machine was specially designed to perform flights under the Open Skies Treaty over the territories of the countries participating in the treaty and was intended to replace the AN-30B and Tu-154M LK-1 aircraft.

The Tu-214ON is equipped with an on-board aircraft surveillance system (BKAN) developed by JSC "Concern of Radio Engineering "Vega". The BKAN includes digital aerial photography equipment, television and infrared cameras, side-view radar, on-board digital computing system and navigation support system. The resolution limit for digital cameras is 30 cm, for infrared cameras - 50 cm.

The onboard aviation surveillance system is designed to obtain images of the terrain, record the received materials, document the incoming information, control the surveillance equipment and generate navigation data for the surveillance equipment.

The aerial photography complex (digital and film cameras) is located in the nose of the Tu-214ON fuselage on the lower deck of the aircraft. The side-view radar is also located in the front of the fuselage. In addition, the Tu-214ON is equipped with an on-board computing system.

Despite such an abundance of equipment, it will be very difficult to" retrain " the Tu-214ON for other tasks.

There is a very big difference between "open sky" aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft. Among other things, the equipment of the Aerospace Forces already has a scout, created on the basis of the same Tu-214 - Tu-214R.

This machine is a long-range radar survey aircraft and is intended for conducting radio-technical and opto-electronic reconnaissance. The Tu-214R was developed in the late 2000s to replace the IL-20. The aircraft is equipped with a multi-frequency radio engineering complex MRK-411 with side-and all-round radar stations developed by tsnirti. Academician A. I. Berg, as well as the high-resolution optical-electronic system "Fraction".

So you should not invent anything radically new - just convert the Tu-214ON into the Tu-214R. However, this means at least a redesign.

Still, the difference between the aircraft "open sky" and the aircraft designed for conducting radio and radio intelligence is quite large.

The fundamental difference is that the aircraft, created mainly for conducting photographic reconnaissance, must be converted into a radio and radio intelligence vehicle.

For example, similar American reconnaissance aircraft such as the RC-135V / W Rivet Joint are simply studded with antennas for various purposes. As experts say, the US Air Force scout has "a whole forest of different-caliber antennas." On this machine, antenna devices of almost all possible types are presented - pin, petal, L-shaped, etc. The RC-135V/W, which has been in the US Air Force since the late 1970s, is the main aircraft for radio and radio reconnaissance of ground-based, sea-based and air-based radiation sources in the centimeter, decimeter and meter wave ranges.

As for the Treaty on Open Skies, we recall that this is a multilateral international treaty that allows free flights of unarmed reconnaissance aircraft in the airspace of the signatory countries.

The DON was signed on 24 March 1992 in Helsinki by representatives of 23 member States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The purpose of the treaty is to promote confidence-building among States by improving mechanisms for monitoring military activities and compliance with existing arms control treaties.

In accordance with the Treaty, the signatory States have committed themselves to providing the opportunity to conduct observation flights (inspections) over their territory on the basis of a request within the established quotas. Flights are conducted on a notification basis. The agreement provides for " passive "(for the observed party) and" active " (for the observing party) annual quotas.

DON surveillance aircraft are not equipped with weapons. The equipment installed on them (aerial cameras) is examined by representatives of the States participating in the Treaty. Representatives of the country over which the flight takes place are always present on board.

As of 2017, 34 States were parties to the Treaty. The Russian Federation ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001, but actually participated in it from the very beginning.

In may last year, the President of the United States Donald trump announced the US withdrawal from the Treaty. In turn, Russia began withdrawing from the treaty on January 15, 2021. "Due to the lack of progress in removing obstacles to the continued operation of the treaty in the new conditions, the Russian Foreign Ministry is authorized to announce the start of domestic procedures for the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the DON," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The United States finally withdrew from the treaty on November 22, 2020. According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, by leaving the DON, America will become a more secure country. The Kremlin called the reason for the US withdrawal from the treaty "far-fetched".


Tu-214ON special purpose aircraft

Tu-214ON special purpose aircraft

Marina Lystseva/TASS

Mikhail Khodarenok

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