After the video of the MiG-29 Fulcrum shooting HARMs, photos show the Flankers flying with the American anti-radiation missiles.
Last week we got the visual confirmation of the Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets employing US-made AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. Now we have photographic evidence of the missile being used also by the Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker heavy fighters. The aircraft can be seen carrying also two R-27R/AA-10 Alamo and two R-73/AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles.
As we have already reported, in early August, photos emerged online showed debris left by an AGM-88 after it struck a Russian Surface to Air Missile site. A couple of weeks later, the US government confirmed that the US-made anti-radiation missiles were delivered to Ukraine and were being employed by the MiG-29s.
The officials did not provide details about how the missile was integrated on the Soviet aircraft; thus, it is not 100% sure how they got the missile to work on this platform.
Some analysts are suggesting a solution which involves a simple tablet linked to the missile to perform the targeting, possibly through the HARM in sensor mode. As the name suggests, the missile’s sensor provides the pilot with a list of emitters being detected, from which one is selected for the missile about to be launched. Another mode could be the Pre-programmed mode, however it does not seem very practical in a quickly evolving battlefield as the position of the enemy radar is programmed on the ground and cannot be changed anymore by the pilot once the aircraft takes off.
The video released by the Ukrainian Air Force provided some details about the integration which might have been less elaborate than expected. The same details should also apply to both the MiG-29 and the Su-27. The AGM-88 appears to have been loaded directly on the APU-470 missile launchers used by both jets to carry R-27/AA-10 Alamo radar-guided air-to-air missiles.
Another interesting detail was found on the MiG-29 display, showing the AGM-88 recognized by the aircraft as an R-27EP. What makes this interesting is that the R-27EP is anti-radiation variant of the air-to-air missile, with a range of up to 70 nm (110 km) and which homes on airborne radars (so it is still an air-to-air missile). This means that the Fulcrum and the Flanker are using their own avionics without modifications to shoot the US-made missile, even if in an air-to-ground role instead of the air-to-air role for which that avionic mode was designed.
This leads us to believe that the integration might have been way simpler than expected, maybe requiring just an interface for the different wirings and the hanging points of the missile. Either way, the Ukrainians found an ingenious way to quickly bolster their Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses capabilities with both their frontline fighters and, even if the integration gives basic capabilities compared to a dedicated asset fully compatible with the HARM, they put the new capability to good use.
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