Welzow's Fencers

Su-24MR Un Su-24MR du 11.ORAP surpris au-dessus de la Mer Baltique. © Flygvapnet.

A Su-24MR of the 11.ORAP above the Baltic Sea. © Flygvapnet.
The first Su-24MR "Fencer-E" of the 11.ORAP flew their first operational sorties from their Brandenburg base on February 17, 1986. For a few weeks, the regiment's new reconnaissance variants flew alongside the Yak-28R that they were replacing. The last "Brewer-D" indeed left Germany on July 2, 1986. Welzow was left with two squadrons entirely equipped with Su-24MR.
The Su-24MR (MR for Modifikatsirovanyy Razvedchik) was a conventional tactical reconnaissance aircraft whose large size permitted it to carry the BRK-1 embedded reconnaissance complex (Bortovoy Razvedyvatel'nyy Kompleks). The classic infrared and electronic reconnaissance systems of the BKR-1 reconnaissance suite made of the Su-24MR a much more capable reconnaissance platform than its predecessors.

Su-24MR Su-24MR A M-101 Shtik (Bayonet) Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) was located inside its nose. It was possible to scan an area of 4 to 24 kilometers wide on each side alternatively with a resolution of 5 to 7.5 meters. The extension of the white paint behind the nose radome was a ruse to hide the large lateral dielectric panels of the SLAR. An AFA AP-402M rotary prism-equipped panoramic camera with a focal length of 90.5 mm was located under the fuselage right behind the front nose wheel. The Kedr (Cedar) complex included an AFA-A-100 oblique camera with a focal length of 1000 mm mounted under the left reactor air intake. This complex made it possible to jettison the exposed films housed inside a parachute-equipped cassette in flight when necessary; however, we have not been able to find how the cassette was ejected. An Aist-M (Stork) TV reconnaisssance system also found its place inside the fuselage, just behind the AP-402M camera. Finally, the Zima (Winter) IR sensor formed a small fairing that could be found set back under the right engine air intake. A data link was used to transmit the images collected by TV, IR and laser means to a ground station. The aircraft position and the time also were recorded for each picture taken. The digital data were received and analyzed with the Posrednik (Intermediary) mobile complex mounted on two trucks. Like all the "Fencer," the Su-24MR had on its back a big air scoop feeding a heat exchanger to cool the onboard systems it carried. However, the one of the "Fencer-E" seemed bigger due to its rounded top. The latter in fact housed the antenna of the ShRK-1 large band data link transmitter.

Su-24MR Su-24MR The Su-24MR had no offensive capability: the Orion-A attack radar, the Kayra-24 weapons system and the GSh-6-23M cannon that the "Fencer-D" attack aircraft carried were not mounted. However, the Rel'yef' terrain-following radar was still present. In order to ensure its survival, this variant enjoyed the remarkable Su-24M self-defense suite that included on the late production batches: an SPO-15 Bereza (Birch) radar warning and homing radar receiver, a L-082 Mak-UL (Poppy) IR missile detector, a SPS-161 Geran-F (Geranium) radar jamming system, an SPS-143 ECM complex and APP-50A flare launchers. "Fencer-F" were wired to carry R-60 or R-60M (AA-8 "”Aphid"”) short-range IR air to air missiles under their wings. The 11.ORAP aircraft often were observed with APU-60-2 adapters for two R-60 missiles under the left wing outboard pylon. As part of their mission and in addition to their standard onboard equipment, the Su-24MR from Welzow always carried one or two specialized pods such as the Konteyner n°2 that was a SRS-14 Tangazh (Pitch) ELINT pod mounted under the fuselage or the Konteyner n°1 Shpil'-2M (Spire) designed for laser low-level reconnaissance.

Su-24MR Su-24MR The images collected from an altitude of 400 meters were almost of photographic quality thanks to a 25 cm resolution. The laser system that could be used both by day and by night could cover a strip of land with a width equal to four times the aircraft altitude. The data collected were transmitted to the ground in real time with the data link. Konteyner n°3 Efir-1M (Ether) was attached only under the right wing. It was designed for measuring the levels of radioactivity in the air. The data were recorded on magnetic tapes or transmitted to the ground via the data link connection. Other external stores often observed at Welzow were the impressive 3000-liter PTB-3000 drop tanks. They were always present on the flight line, resting on wooden brackets. The "Fencer" of the 11.ORAP had a particular feature that they only shared - within the 16.VA - with the Su-24 of the 497.BAP from Grossenhain and the Su-24M of the 116.GBAP from Brand. It was a retractable in-flight refueling boom that was centered in front of the windscreen. However, unlike the aircraft of the 116.GBAP that used UPAZ-1A Sakhalin in-flight refueling pods, the Su-24MR did not practiced in-flight refueling using the "buddy-buddy" technique between them. The "Fencer-F" indeed always carried a reconnaissance pod under its belly and consequently were not equipped to carry the Sakhalin refueling pod.

Su-24MP Having lost its Yak-28PP electronic warfare aircraft in 1986, the third squadron of the 11.ORAP was back in 1989 when it received eight Su-24MP "Fencer-F" from Chortkov in Ukraine, where they operated alongside Yak-28PP within the 118.OAPREB (Otde'lnyy Aviatsionnyy Polk Radioelektronnoy Borb'i - Separate Electronic Warfare Aviation Regiment). They were the only "Fencer" of that type ever deployed outside the territory of the USSR. The Su-24MP (MP for Modifikatsirovanyy Postanovshchik-Pomekh - Modified [for] Jamming) - sometimes compared to the US EF-111 "Raven" - was expected to become the successor of the Yak-28PP within the VVS. The Su-24MP could easily be distinguished from the other "Fencer" variants by a large rectangular antenna fairing placed under its nose radome and by the two hockey stick shaped antennas of the SPS-5 Fasol' (Kidney Bean) jamming system located behind the engines air intakes as also was the case for the Yak-28PP. Like the MR variant, the MP version had no Orion-A radar and its nose was painted white to hide the rectangular dielectric panels of the jamming systems mounted inside the nose radome. The aircraft of the 11.ORAP regularly carried a ventral pod that apparently looked like the Shpil'-2M pod of the Su-24MR. However, this was a completely different equipment. The "Fencer-F" could carry two ventral pods of a type perhaps designated Konteyner n°1 and Konteyner n°2 in the manner of those of the Su-24MR. The first pod housed SPS-6 Los' (Moose) and Mimoza (Mimosa) jammers while the second was an automatic decoy launcher designed to jam radar. The electronic warfare suite of the Su-24MP was named Landysh (Lily of the valley). The Su-24MP could rely on different systems common to the M and MR models already described and carried R-60 missiles to ensure its survivability. In any event, the eight Su-24MP based at Welzow were rare aircraft. The total production of the "Fencer-F" remains an enigma - only eight aircraft plus two prototypes, or twenty, were built.

Su-24MR Un Su-24MR se présente à l'atterrissage au crépuscule à Welzow. © C.Lofting.

A Su-24MR approaching Welzow runway at sunset. © C.Lofting.
On June 5 and 7, 1991 the eight Su-24MP "Fencer-F" of the 11.ORAP left their German base to go back to the 118.OAPREB at Chortkov in Ukraine - then equipped with Yak-28PP, including some previously based at Welzow and repatriated from Werneuchen in 1989 (1). A few days earlier, precisely on May 21, the last 16 MiG-25 reconnaissance aircraft of the 931.OGRAP had moved to Welzow where they became most certainly the third squadron of the 11.ORAP. The last 16.VA "Foxbat" left Germany on 1 and 6 July, 1992 for Shatalovo. One year later, on June 15, 1993 the last two squadrons of the 11.ORAP moved their twenty-four Su-24MR to Marinovka, west of Volgograd (the former Stalingrad) in the Russian North Caucasus Military District, where a few months later they were subordinated along with the 296.BAP (ex-296.APIB from Grossenhain) to the new Russian 4.VA at Rostov-on-Don. Today, two squadrons of the former 11.ORAP always based at Marinovka are a component of the Air Base n°6970 as are two squadrons of Su-24M of the former 559.BAP (ex-559.APIB from Finsterwalde) that are stationed in Morozovsk.

Flightline Welzow La ligne de vol de Welzow le 15 juin 1993. © R.Schleiffert.

Welzow flightline on June 15, 1993. © R.Schleiffert.


(1) Six aircraft would have remained operational with the 118.OAPREB, while two aircraft would have joined the 4.TsBP i PLS (Tsenter Boevoy Podgotovki i Pereuchivaniya Letnogo Sostava - Combat Training and Flight Personnel Conversion Center) at Lipetsk. The six aircraft became Ukrainian after the dissolution of the USSR and they would have finished their careers stored at the Nikolayev Aviation Repair Plant (ARZ).

Su-24MP & MR at Welzow

11.ORAP  < Part 1

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