Russia is massing bombers at the Engels – 7 Tu-95s and 4 Tu-160s

The Russian Federation’s Aerospace Forces [VKS] continue to assemble long-range aircraft at their Engels [Engels-2] base, Saratov Region. New satellite images from November 13 captured a total of 11 bombers.

Russia gathers bombers at Engels base - 7 Tu-95s and 4 Tu-160s
Photo credit: eRadar

Seven Tu-95MS bombers are parked side by side, and four Tu-160 bombers are scattered around the northern end of the airport. As the Ukrainian Telegram account, eRadar, writes, the painted Russian bombers continue to stand on the runway, their paint not fading.

This is perhaps one of the rare cases since the beginning of the Russian special military operation [this term is used by Moscow instead of war] in Ukraine in which the assembly of a total of 11 long-range aircraft occurred simultaneously on the same day.

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Photo by Sergei Fedichev

It should also be noted that the photos clearly show the containers for storing the missiles, which are near the 7 Tu-95MS bombers. According to Ukrainian sources, at the end of September, Engels hosted only five Tu-95MS and two Tu-160 bombers. That’s almost a double increase in just over a month.

Significantly, aside from the four uniquely painted bombers, they share uncanny resemblances with other recent Russian innovations. You can see similarities like the use of car tires on both the fuselages and wings of these bombers. However, it’s worth noting that there isn’t any form of improvised drone defense in play yet, much like how the rapid-construction aircraft shelters we’ve discussed previously aren’t installed yet. But just as there is no such improvised drone defense, the Russians have not yet installed the quick-build aircraft shelters we wrote about before.

Kh-101/Kh-555 missiles

Russia gathers bombers at Engels base - 7 Tu-95s and 4 Tu-160s
Photo credit: eRadar

As mentioned, there are missile pods available near several Tu-95SMs. The last time they were seen in such a configuration, the Russian Aerospace Forces launched a massive missile strike on Ukraine.

Then, on September 27, a satellite photo was taken that showed open containers with Kh-101/Kh-555 missiles. They were placed near only two Tu-95 SMs, but a bustle of technical personnel was noticeable at the time of the satellite image.

The absence of technical personnel in the photograph taken on November 13 hints towards an unspoken narrative. The very appearance of the containers in the background subtly indicates that the process of loading missiles into the belly of the bombers is imminent.

Engels is known for some facts

In addition to the fact that at the end of 2022, the Ukrainian armed forces carried out a successful missile attack on the Russian Engels base, this home of Russian long-range aviation became famous for another fact.

Car tires. Yes, it was here that two Tu-95SM bombers were covered with car tires months ago. The tires covered both wings and the entire fuselage along the length of the aircraft. At the time, Russian experts suggested that it was an “improvised, quick and cheap” anti-drone device.

Russia's Tu-95 and Tu-160 signal reflections defy known geometry
Photo credit:

Later, a Russian Su-35 Fullback fighter bomber was photographed at the same base in the same condition [covered with car tires].

What do Tu-95SM and Tu-160 carry?

The Russian Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers are capable of carrying a variety of missiles and bombs. One of the primary missiles carried by these bombers is the Kh-101/102 cruise missile. The Kh-101 is a long-range, subsonic cruise missile with a range of up to 5,000 kilometers. The Kh-102 is a nuclear variant of the Kh-101, designed specifically for nuclear strikes.

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Kh-101 cruise missile, photo credit: Wikipedia

Besides the capability to carry the Kh-101/102 cruise missiles, the Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers have been engineered to accommodate the Kh-55 cruise missile as well. Featuring subsonic speeds and an impressive range of up to 3,000 kilometers, the Kh-55 is a cruise missile designed for long-distance capabilities. The Kh-55 is a subsonic, long-range cruise missile with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. 

Furthermore, the Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers can carry a range of air-to-surface missiles. One such missile is the Kh-15, also known as the AS-16 Kickback. The Kh-15 is a supersonic, air-launched missile with a range of up to 300 kilometers. 

In terms of bombs, the Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers can carry various types of free-fall bombs. Among the types of conventional bombs these bombers can carry are the FAB-500 — a general-purpose bomb that weighs 500 kilograms—and the FAB-1500, a hefty piece of ordnance tipping the scales at 1,500 kilograms. The bombers can also carry nuclear bombs, such as the FAB-1500-HE, which is a 1,500-kilogram nuclear bomb. 


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