It is possible that a Russian Su-30 used electronic warfare systems during an interception of an F-35 over the Baltic. This happened last year, writes the Russian analyst Andrey Andreev, describing the case in detail.
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The background is as follows: on April 30, 2022, NATO began to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To ensure the security of the Baltic region, which is closest to the borders with Russia, F-35As have been sent to Estonia by the Italian Air Force [AM]. The fighter squadron hails from the 32nd Air Wing at Amendola Air Force Base in southern Italy.
Almost immediately after their arrival, the Italian F-35s began joint patrols with the Allies to carry out the “air policing” mission. Every day the planes are in the air, as well as on May 9, when the incident in question took place.
On May 9, a Russian Su-30SM was reported to have intercepted an Italian F-35 piloted by a Falco pilot. The interception takes place over the Baltic Sea. The interception was necessitated because the F-35 came close to the Russian An-12 military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS]. The interception is carried out by the Su-30SM, which, by the way, escorts the An-12.
“He came almost out of nowhere. I was very confused because I did not expect to see it so close,” the Italian pilot describes his first impressions of the sudden appearance of the Su-30SM. Falco says the Russian pilot acted defiantly. He has been lost several times. The US fighter jet’s detection and warning systems failed again and again and had to be restarted.
The pilot’s story
Falco says they were warned the Russians might be using Khibiny, an electronic warfare system. But faced with this in practice, when his F-35’s targeting and targeting instruments fail momentarily, Falco begins to worry.
Seeing the Russian fighter fast approaching, Falco decided to implement the standard scheme for such cases. He turns his plane 30 degrees to maintain a safe distance. At that time, Falco plans to perform another system reboot and get out of the pesky neighbor’s electronic warfare. At first, it seemed to help.
Russian pilot tricks
The Italian and the Russian fly side by side. Both use slight maneuvers as if they are approaching each other, but de facto it does not happen. Normally, in border areas, military pilots are limited to warnings, but not in this case.
Su-30SM and F-35 each other. But then, Falco recalled, the Su-30 quickly fell behind and disappeared from view. For a minute, the Italian pilot loses his detection system again. And suddenly the Russian Flanker was right in front of the F-35. He passed very close, narrowly missing an American fighter with his left wing.
“All of a sudden I just froze with fear. I did not expect such a dangerous maneuver from the Russians,” Falko commented on his impressions. The Italian pilot began to smoothly make a turn on the horizon, trying with all his behavior not to cause aggression in the Russian pilot. Falco sees the Su-30 below him and the next moment dives. Falco tried to keep the Russian fighter in his sights, so he also turned the plane’s nose towards it. The Russian pilot saw the maneuvers and instantly found himself in front of him. On board the F-35, they again began to have problems with the instruments.
Test of F-35 capabilities
The Italian pilot turns 40 degrees, once again starting to reset the detection systems. Falco briefly lost sight of the Su-30. Then the Su-30 appeared again, but this time, unlike its last maneuvers, the Su-30 flew calmly next to the F-35 and did not take any more dangerous maneuvers. At some point, the Su-30SM simply dived down and no longer challenged the F-35.
Falco understood that the Russian pilot was simply testing what the American F-35 was capable of. Falco says he knew about the abilities of the Russian Flangers even before he met one on live. He knew that flank fighters were capable of maneuverable tactical combat at a high level.
Speaking to Military History of Italy Falco says that he did not expect the latest American fighter jet with all modern systems and weapons could be so easily bypassed. Especially considering that the Su-30 is a 4th generation machine, albeit an upgraded one.
About Khibiny electronic warfare system
Khibiny is an electronic warfare system that began its development at the time of the Soviet Union and has continued to this day. The first samples of the system were rough, heavy and failed to achieve the desired functionality.
Later, sometime in the 1980s, Khibiny became a priority of joint cooperation between KNIRTI and the Sukhoi airline. Once the Sukhoi is included in the project, it changes not only the design but also the attitude of how to use the future electronic warfare system.
Currently, Khibiny has already undergone several improvements and is considered an excellent electronic warfare system. Initially, Russia intended to integrate the Khibiny into the Su-34. This officially happens when Moscow decides in 2014 that all Su-34s will receive this system. It was integrated under the name L-175V Khibiny. Later, Moscow decided that the Su-30 should also get this system.
According to sources, all Su-34s deployed in the war with Ukraine received the L-175V Khibiny. The Su-30SM is the aircraft participating in military operations, which has the same integration. Parts of this system are now said to have been discovered after the Ukrainian armed forces downed one Su-30SM near Izyum. An RTU 518-PSM silencer capsule was then discovered, which is part of the entire kit.
What can Khibiny do?
The system is designed for radio direction finding and sounding of the radiation of the signal source, which allows it to distort the parameters of the reflected signal.
All this helps the system to delay the detection of the carrier aircraft, as well as to mask objects against false reflections. It is said that when Khibiny is activated, enemy aircraft in the vicinity of the Russian carrier have difficulty finding the range, especially at speed and angular positions.
Khibiny degrades the TWS support mode when scanning an antenna beam radar and increases the time and difficulty of capturing an object during an active real-time scan.
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