The ears of Chkalovsky Russia’s Il-20M spy planes

Babak Taghvaee details the current disposition of the Russian Air Force Il-20M fleet, its modernization, and the key role the aircraft have played in Syrian war

One of the most top secret aircraft in the Russian Air Force arsenal is the Ilyushin Il-20M Coot-A, a signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) platform. Since 1994, the Il-20M has been used by the Russian Air Force in its war against Islamic terrorism. Since September 2015, the fleet of six Il-20Ms has played a key role undertaking multi-intelligence gathering missions. During such missions the aircraft were able to precisely detect a variety of terrorist facilities that included headquarter sites, communication centres, weapon storage facilities and even hideouts used by the leaders and commanders of various Islamic terrorist groups. The intelligence gathered by Il-20s was regularly used for the targeting of cruise missiles launched by the Russian Air Force and Navy.

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