9 photos of the A-50U, the Russian AWAC plane in Syria that could harass US ships during a potential strike

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

The US appears on the verge of striking Syria after the government allegedly carried out a gas attack over the weekend.

But Russia has vowed to shoot down any US missiles with its air defenses, including the S-400, its most advanced missile defense system.

Russia’s A-50U airborne early warning and control plane could help Russian missile defenses with targeting acquisition, as well as disrupt the US’ missile targeting, according to Russia Today, a state-owned media outlet.

The “Russian military may use a limited response – using airborne electronic warfare equipment to harass the American ships, messing up their target acquisition, geolocation or even AEGIS anti-aircraft systems,” RT reported.

The A-50U is a “giant flying data processing center” used to detect and track “a number of aerial (fighter jets, bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles), ground (tank columns) and surface (above-water vessels) targets,” Sputnik, another Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.

It also informs “command centers about the developments in the air and sea, and directing fighter and strike aviation.”

Here’s what it can do:


The A-50U made its first flight in 2011, and is the most recent upgrade of the original A-50, which entered Russia’s service in 1989.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: Sputnik


Based off the Ilyushin Il-76 airframe, the A-50U can track surface targets up to 186 miles and aerial targets up to 373 miles.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: The National Interest


The A-50U’s dome on top, which Russian crews call the “mushroom,” is a 36-foot diameter Shmel-M radar consisting of two antennas that rotates 6 times per minute.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

The Shmel-M radar “works in a quasi-constant search mode,” according to The National Interest.

Source: The National Interest


The plane also functions as a control center, able to manage 10-12 fighter jets at a time.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: Globalsecurity.org


The A-50U holds a crew of about 15: “Two pilots, a navigator, an on-board engineer and a communications specialist operate the aircraft … three tracking operators, three guidance navigators and three engineers.”

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

The AWAC plane even has a galley and a toilet.

Source: The National Interest


Israel first spotted an A-50U in Syria in May 2017.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

The A-50U above is seen flanked by two Russian MiG-31s.

Source: The National Interest


And Moscow possibly sent the A-50U to Syria’s Hmemmem air base after the US’ cruise missile strike in April 2017.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

The US’ 59 Tomahawk missiles went within 44 miles of Hmemmem air base, and the A-50U could also give earlier warnings in future attacks.

Source: The National Interest


The National Interest has even dubbed the A-50U the “deadliest aircraft in Russia’s arsenal you’ve never heard of.”

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: The National Interest


Russia reportedly received four A-50U’s between 2011-2017, but Sputnik claims that Russia’s Air Force only has three of them.

source
Russian Ministry of Defense

Source: The National Interest, Sputnik