‘Surprising downfall’ of a Tu-22 Blinder in the face of UAV attack

Delving deeply into Russian terrain, unmanned Ukrainian aircraft have executed a strike that resulted in substantial damage to a Tu-22M strategic bomber. This event unfolded at the Soltsy-2 Airbase, located in Novgorod.  

Surprising 'downfall' of a Tu-22 Blinder in the face of UAV attack
Photo credit: Twitter

The Russian Defence Ministry issued a statement concerning an incident that transpired earlier today. “At approximately 10:00 Moscow time, the Kiev regime implemented a terrorist attack utilizing a copter type Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] directed towards a military airfield in the Novgorod region,” the statement read. The UAV, it was noted, was promptly detected by the airfield’s vigilant observation outpost and subsequently subjected to small arms fire. 

The statement further detailed the aftermath of the attack. “Following the terrorist attack, a conflagration ignited in the airfield parking lot. Quick and efficient response from firefighting teams managed to douse the flames promptly,” it stated. The attack did result in some material damage – one airplane was reportedly harmed during the incident. However, the report concluded on a somewhat positive note, stating, “there were no casualties or loss of life as a direct consequence of this act of terrorism.”

Could be a Tu-22 bomber

In the official ministry report, the specific aircraft impacted was not delineated. However, photographic evidence surfaced in the aftermath, portraying a Tu-22M engulfed in flames, with the severity of damage suggesting potential irreparability. This assertion was later corroborated by satellite imagery from public sources.

The strike stands as an emblematic triumph for Ukrainian drone operations on Russian soil, capitalizing on the unique capabilities of compact, low-velocity aircraft to elude the nation’s air defenses. This marks a significant milestone in the strategic use of drone technology in military conflict.

In response to the burgeoning threat, the development of new radar systems, specifically optimized for neutralizing these challenges, has been initiated.

Back in December

Incidents of drone assaults on Russian bomber bases are not entirely uncommon, as evidenced by a notable, albeit unsuccessful, attempt that transpired at the Engels Airbase in December. This particular base is of strategic importance, serving as a hosting facility for Russia’s formidable Tu-160 intercontinental range strategic bombers.

Tu-22 bombers in Soltsy-2 airbase

Soltsy-2 Airbase, a prestigious home to the 40th Composite Aviation Regiment, stands out as one of the rare facilities entrusted with hosting Russia’s strategic bombers. The regiment’s exclusive utilization of the Tu-22M, a medium-range aircraft, underscores the significance of this base.

Specifically designed for tactical operations, the Tu-22M is optimally suited for deployment in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. This aircraft has been a pivotal asset in the Russian-Ukrainian War, underscoring its critical role in Russia’s military strategy.

Tu-22 armament

In the realm of military operations, their main function has been the deployment of cruise missiles against significant objectives. This includes a substantial quantity of Kh-22 missiles, a legacy inherited from the erstwhile Soviet Union. The passage of time had brought many of these missiles perilously close to the brink of decommissioning, rendering them as highly expendable assets.

Russian VKS will receive modernized Tu-22M3M long-range bombers
Photo credit: The National Interest

The Kh-22, serving as the principal weapon for the Tu-22M, was ingeniously engineered to evade interception through its near hypersonic speed and irregular flight path. However, its design focus on carrier group strikes has purportedly hindered its precision when aimed at terrestrial targets.

The aging Tu-22

It was initially anticipated that the Tu-22M, a long-standing pillar of service, would be gradually decommissioned and superseded by the Su-34M strike fighter. This latter model, boasting a comparably extensive operational range, is perceived as being significantly more cost-efficient, thus making it a seemingly logical replacement.

In the context of the Syrian War, the performance of the aged bomber aircraft, specifically its capacity to deploy substantial quantities of unguided bombs on distant targets, is believed to have significantly influenced the decision of the Defence Ministry. The ministry’s decision to maintain this class of aircraft in service was primarily driven by the fact that no other aircraft demonstrated a comparable aptitude for these particular operations.

The aspiration to upgrade the mid-range bomber fleet to the Tu-22M3 prototype has encountered substantial financial constraints, resulting in the service numbers dwindling to a mere portion of their original strength in the past twenty years. Nevertheless, the presence of numerous Tu-22M3s in reserve implies that the Russian Air Force is unlikely to face major challenges in substituting the obliterated aircraft.

There is room for concern

The vulnerability of military bases to potential future assaults is of significant concern, especially in the context of a broader conflict with NATO. In such a scenario, Ukraine could serve as a pivotal launching pad for strikes on crucial assets located further within Russian borders.

Russian VKS will receive modernized Tu-22M3M long-range bombers
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The assault on the bomber base emerges as a paramount exemplar, highlighting the grave implications of Russia’s dramatically reduced strategic depth following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and, in due course, the Soviet Union. The relocation of the frontlines from Germany to Ukraine has empowered even modest-sized adversary aircraft to inflict damage on an extensive array of sensitive targets.

Unlike other nations, the United States enjoys a unique advantage in terms of its strategic positioning. Despite occasional instances where bomber units have been temporarily decommissioned due to unforeseen mishaps, the country’s geographical location provides a significant buffer. This strategic depth ensures that its bomber bases remain well beyond the reach of comparable enemy offensives.


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