Source: Gladius Defense & Security
On July 19th, 2019 US Southern Command reported a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30Mk2 intercepted a US Navy EP-3 Aries II at an “unsafe distance” over the Caribbean in international waters. The Su-30Mk2 appeared on the EP-3s passive sensor. The Su-30Mk2 was operating alone and was one of 23 operated by the Venezuelan Air Force. The unsafe distance refers to the possibility of a collision.
The Su-30Mk2 is a variant of the Su-30 featuring AL-31FL turbofans and Bars Planer Array Radar. This variant differs from the Su-30SM which features thrust vectoring AL-31FP thrust-vectoring engines and frontal canards. The Su-30Mk2 is Venezuela’s primary fighter aircraft operating alongside early model F-16As. The Su-30Mk2s in Venezuelan service posses air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-ship capabilities. The Su-30Mk2 encountered on the 19th did not appear to be armed. The Gladius team was unable to identify any weapons on the aircraft’s hardpoints. There still is the possibility the Su-30 could have been armed with Gsh-23 mm cannon rounds. Typical air-to-air armaments consist of R-27 and R-73 air-to-air missile carried on as many as 12 external hardpoints.
The EP-3 Aries II operating in the area is a Maritime Patrol aircraft employed by the US Navy for SIGINT operations. Potential threats in the Caribbean include drug smugglers and surface vessels used by foreign adversarys that can approach the US coast. Tensions between the United States and Venezuela have been high the past two years as Maduro’s government forces have violently cracked down on civilians.
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