A U.S. Navy Squadron Spotted Russian Fighters Over Syria — In Infrared
Close encounters for VFA-131
by DAVID CENCIOTTI
It’s traditional for U.S. Navy squadrons to cut together celebratory videos at the end of a cruise. The videos are usually chock full of cockpit footage of high-G maneuvers set to a rock-and-roll soundtrack.
Fighter Attack Squadron 131’s video from its recent deployment to the Middle East aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is … different. It includes rare infrared imagery of Russian Sukhoi fighters flying over Syria.
VFA-131’s F/A-18C Hornets experienced a close encounter with a Russian air force Flanker, probably an Su-35S Flanker-E from Hymeim air base near Latakia.
Filmed by the Hornet’s AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared pod — a multi-sensor, electro-optical targeting system incorporating a thermographic camera, low-light television camera, laser rangefinder and laser designator — the infrared footage shows the Russian aircraft carrying only one R-77 RVV-SD missile on the starboard wing’s inner pylon plus two R-27 air-to-air missiles.
The paucity of modern R-77 missiles seems to indicate that Russia has produced very few of the munitions.
Noteworthy, a U.S. Air Force official recently told the Wall Street Journal that Russian planes regularly fly too close to U.S. fighter jets over Syria, risking collision in the country’s crowded sky.
According to Air Force brigadier general Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Russian pilots fail to announce their identities on the U.S.-Russian radio hotline during flights, adding to the confusion in the air. Russia’s defense ministry rejected the accusation.
Originally published at The Aviationist on Jan. 17, 2017.