MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russia begins tactical flight rehearsals for bombing and missile strikes in the Baltic region. The exercises are carried out by ten or more Su-30SM and Su-30SM2 crews. The field of training actions is the western enclave of Russia in the Kaliningrad region. The information was shared by the Russian state news agency TASS, citing a message from the press service of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS].
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The exercises come at a time when Moscow, Washington, and NATO are not holding any dialogue. Russia continues its war in Ukraine using its aviation to carry out missile strikes. NATO and Washington have committed their aerial arsenal to spy on Russian positions, with alliance early warning planes circling Ukraine and near Russian borders.
According to the VKS, the exercise in the Kaliningrad region is aimed at preparing pilots to destroy command posts, manpower, and enemy convoys of vehicles, including armored fighting vehicles. Su-30SM and Su-30SM2 crews also train in air combat and landing operations. Providing air support to the Baltic fleet is also part of the exercise.
The exercise is large-scale in nature. Russian fighters fly and train in a configuration of high maneuverability and conduct reconnaissance activities. According to the plan of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the participants in this exercise will have to strike 20 targets of different natures. I.e. mobile, stationary, bunkers, fortified areas, and quarters.
In addition to the ten fighters, a crew of 50 members is stationed on the ground providing ground coordination control of the actions. The fifty-member ground crew is made up of a combat aviation regiment of the Russian Baltic Naval Aviation.
American bomber intercepted
During the exercises, it became clear that the B-52H bomber was conducting reconnaissance in the Baltic Sea region. The training of the Su-30SM and Su-30SM2 crews continued as planned without interfering with the bomber’s flight.
At the same time, Moscow launched its Su-35Es, which intercepted the bomber and escorted it out of the danger zone. According to Russia’s defense control center, the American bomber was flying toward the Russian border. The Kremlin remains silent on whether during the Su-30SM and Su-30SM2 exercises, they made attempts and whether they communicated with the bomber.
The importance of the Baltic region
The Baltic and its countries, including Russia’s Kaliningrad, are of strategic importance to both NATO allies and Russia. In recent years, including during the war in Ukraine in 2022, exercises have been held in the region.
For example, nine NATO member countries plus Finland held a large-scale exercise in September 2022. The exercise involved both air and ground combat units. The aim was to check the integrated air defense in the region. Russia, for its part, did not remain idle and also transferred exercises to the region in 2022. Moscow then tested both the ability of its troops and the conduct of tactical missions.
Experts are asking why Russia is conducting these air exercises in the Baltic region now. According to some, one of the reasons is to check the capabilities of the Su-30SM2 fighter, which is actually the most modern and modern fighter in the composition of the Russian Federation, since its upgrade was made only months ago.
One of the other possible reasons is to show the readiness of the Russian Federation it will be unwavering if the country’s airspace is violated. Such speculation comes shortly after at least two Russian Su-27s managed to shoot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea using the jet and jet fuel from the fighters.
What is special about the Su-30SM2?
At the end of 2022, BulgarianMilitary.com reported that the Russian Air Force received the first new batch of deeply modernized Su-30SM2. According to the plans of the Russian Federation, in the coming years, all available Su-30 versions in the inventory of the Russian Air Force should be upgraded to the Su-30SM2 version. 132 Su-30 fighters are in service in Russia. In addition to all of them being modernized, another 50 new Su-30SM2 fighters are expected to be delivered.
The main update of the Su-30SM2 is related to new onboard equipment, as well as a new radar. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the radar already has a much greater range. In this way, the combat capabilities of the aircraft are increased. According to statements from Russia, but without specific figures, the combat capabilities of the Su-30SM2 have been increased to “several hundred kilometers”.
Another significant update is the new engine. It is AL-41F-S1. According to some experts, it is the new radar and the new engine that put the Su-30SM2 at the level of another Russian flagship – the Su-35. The future of the Su-30SM2 is clear – this fighter should replace the Su-27.
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