Local media reported and shared links on social media that a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber was recently recorded on film firing a huge number of heat traps over the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine, where it has upped its airstrikes.
A video of a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber travelling over the Donetsk region leaked on the internet, according to sources. Onlookers and netizens were drawn to the combat aircraft not because of its looks, but because of its massive shooting of misleading thermal targets.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) April 6, 2022
The video was released immediately after Ukrainian authorities released another video showing a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter plane being shot down over Kharkiv by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile. A video of a big flaming object falling from the sky was uploaded on Facebook by Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces a few days ago, claiming it to be a Russian Su-34.
Russia dispatched Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft to bolster its military effort against Ukraine during the invasion. Seven SU-34 fighter-bombers were seen flying over Kharkiv in online videos at the time.
According to Russian official media, the Su-34 is Russia’s newest fighter jet, costing $36 million each unit; nonetheless, it has fallen far short of its promise during the Ukraine conflict. Ukraine claims to have shot down a number of Su-34 fighter jets, including one on March 27. The claims could not be independently verified.
According to local media sources, Russian aircraft is actively utilising heat traps in Ukraine, particularly in the airspace of the Donbass republic, due to the large-scale supply of air defence equipment to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Russian pilots flying at low altitudes are at risk from the anti-aircraft missiles. The Russian military has been devastated by the Man-Portable Air Defense systems such as Javelins, Stingers, NLAWs, and Starstreak that have been widely given to Ukraine. Ukraine also has formidable air defence systems, such as the S-300 and S-125 Neva, which have shot down a number of Russian fighter jets.
Due to the threat of ground-based surface-to-air missiles, Russian aircraft are forced to fly at lower altitudes for military operations, making them ideal targets for NATO’s ‘heat seeking’ MANPADS. This is when countermeasures such as flares/heat traps come into play, as blasting thermal targets diminishes anti-aircraft missile success.
The last time Russia was in the news for utilising heat traps was onboard a Tu-124PU during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Syria in 2017. The accompanying Sukhoi Su-30SM aircraft drew closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plane as they dropped, forming heat traps that would defend Putin’s plane from a MANPAD strike. The video has been removed from YouTube.
What Are Heat Traps and How Do They Work?
Heat traps, also known as decoy flares, are extremely hot, burning devices that are launched from an aircraft to deter an approaching missile from damaging it.
The majority of decoy flares are made of materials that burn instantaneously when they come into contact with air. These pyrophoric flares, often known as decoy flares since they burn up as soon as they ‘touch’ the air, work wonders in preventing a heat-seeking missile from hitting its (intended) target.
These are countermeasures that, when fired, burn at high temperatures, fooling heat-seeking missiles into thinking their target is somewhere else. After launching decoy flares, the pilot may manoeuvre the plane away from the steep angle at where the flares were shot. The engine power is regulated in order to regulate or minimise the plane’s thermal signature.
Infrared rays generated by a moving target are detected by heat-seeking missiles. Heat traps are thus an extremely effective solution for protecting pilots onboard lethal and expensive combat jets.
Even if they are not in actual conflict, helicopters and ground attack aircraft will practise firing flares while entering high-risk sections of their flight envelope and missions where shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles may be present. During training dogfights, fighters will release flares when an adversary is within the firing envelope of their short-range missiles.
Several MANPADS and anti-aircraft missiles have been reported as shooting down Russian aircraft, including the first-ever shooting down of the Su-35 since it entered combat in 2016. The S-125 air defence system is said to have shot down the plane.
MANPADS and air defence systems have wreaked havoc on Russian fighters and military helicopters, despite NATO countries’ refusal to deploy fighter jets and bombers to Ukraine for fear of an unjustified escalation.