Russian forces chopper ‘lands on a Su-30’ in Crimea airfield

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On February 27, a Russian attack helicopter from the Aerospace Forces [VKS] made an astonishing landing. It landed on a Su-30 fighter jet at Kirovskoe Airport in Crimea, as revealed by satellite images shared by the UK Ministry of Defence. 

Doesn’t this sound simply baffling? You’re right—it really does. However, the truth is a little different from the initial mental image. The figurative Su-30 fighter jet is actually a large-scale drawing on the airport’s tarmac. To counter threats, the Russian army initiated a unique “defense strategy” last year. They sketch fighters and bombers nearly life-sized on military airport grounds. The rationale? These drawings would confuse Ukrainian armed forces, and in the attack, their missiles might destroy asphalt rather than actual equipment. 

But it seems the Russian helicopter’s pilot slipped up and “parked on a Su-30.” Regardless of how bizarre it sounds, these decoys serve a purpose given the sporadic yet persistent attacks on Russian military airfields and bases. The British Defense Ministry suggests, “Russia’s use of decoys and deception techniques is likely a result of the successful Ukrainian strikes on military targets. Russia is possibly trying to confuse Ukrainian targeting operations.” 

Photo credit: Twitter

But the Russian helicopters’ frequent landings on these painted decoy fighters can only undermine their deception. Particularly when they reveal the true arrangement or strength of the aircraft at these airbases—which Russia is presumably trying to keep under wraps from Ukrainian intelligence. The British Ministry of Defense echoes these thoughts. 

Reports of these “painted planes” first surfaced on October 1, 2023. Two large-scale drawings of Tu-95 bombers were found at Engels air base of Russian forces. Both drawings were in white, with an actual bomber to the left in the picture, seemingly to serve as a model for the sketches’ dimension accuracy. 

By the end of October 2023, @MT_Anderson revealed photographs of the Belbek air base in temporarily occupied Crimea. In the photos, you can see several Russian aircraft—most notably four painted depictions of MiG-31s. 

It’s worth mentioning that when you compare the sketches of the MiG-31s with the actual versions nearby, the inaccuracies are glaring. The sketch planes lack shadows and present somewhat blurred outlines. There’s also a discrepancy in color. Some shapes are seemingly still awaiting their paint job.

Back in 2023, specifically in September, the Russian Armed Forces were spotted using an intriguing decoy strategy – mounting automobile tires onto the wings and body of a Tu-95 bomber. This strategy was put to the test at the Engles Air Force Base and was part of a defensive tactic. 

As 2023 came to a close, Russia adopted yet another approach. With the realization that their deceptive designs were not misleading Ukrainian missiles, they decided to apply some actual engineering solutions. The result? Novel hangars scattered across Russia, designed to shield aircraft from impending drone attacks. Images disseminated via the social networking platform, Telegram, point to the solution as either being a temporary measure or still under testing. 

Photo credit:

Let’s take a closer look at the hangar’s construction. It comprises metallic pillars running along both sides of the aircraft, extending throughout its length. These pillars get their support from slanted columns, that are pitched at a minimum of 45 degrees. Working in conjunction with the default 90-degree pillars, they are strongly rooted to the ground. The twin rows of pillars outlining the hangar’s sides are further tightened by metallic beams that follow the same 45-degree slant.

In general, the decision of the helicopter pilot to land on the image of the Su-30 can speak of his high intellectual potential, understanding that such actions are no delusion. Why? Satellite surveillance technology has advanced significantly over the years, making it highly sophisticated and accurate. A simple drawing of a fighter jet on a runway would not be able to fool these systems. This is primarily because satellite surveillance systems do not solely rely on visual imagery. They incorporate a variety of sensors and technologies that can detect heat signatures, electromagnetic radiation, and other physical properties that a mere drawing cannot replicate.

Moreover, satellites use high-resolution imagery to capture minute details. A drawing, no matter how detailed, would not be able to match the exact physical characteristics of a real fighter jet. These characteristics include the jet’s three-dimensional structure, its reflective properties, and its interaction with the surrounding environment. A drawing would lack these physical properties and would therefore be easily identifiable as a fake.

Photo credit: Twitter

Satellites also use radar imaging, which can penetrate clouds and operate in darkness. Radar imaging works by emitting a signal and then analyzing the signal that bounces back. A real fighter jet would have a significantly different radar signature than a drawing on a runway. The drawing would not be able to reflect the radar signal.


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