The Russian Air Force has contracted the Tupolev design bureau to develop and produce two prototypes of special-mission versions of its Tu-214 commercial transport aircraft, designated Tu-214R, developed under the codename ‘Project 141’.
The aircraft is considered as the successor of the Ilyushin IL20MELINT aircraft, which has remained in operational service for five decades. The Tu-214R was originally scheduled to enter service in 2008 but by that time the aircraft hasn’t made its first flight yet. At present the scheduled Initial Operational Service milestone is expected by mid 2013 with the follow on prototype fielded a year later.
The aircraft is configured to carry the MRC-411 multi-intelligence payload, to include electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors, side-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and other Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT). In addition, the aircraft will carry multi-spectral electro-optical systems, providing a true Multi-Int support to Russian military forces.
Tu-214R first flew in 2009 and is expected to become available by 2013, following the completion of the test flying campaign. The second prototype, currently in assembly at Kazan Aircraft Production Association (KAPO) will enter service in 2014. KAPO has teamed with the Tupolev Design Bureau to become the manufacturing center for its civil and military aircraft, including the Tu-214R. The delay has exposed KAPO to legal actions by the Ministry of defense but Moscow is still supportive of this program.