Russian bomber crashed after firing a Kh-22 missile over Odesa

In a recent incident, a Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber crashed, as shown in videos circulated by both Ukrainian and Russian sources. The crash site was identified as the Stavropol Region of Russia, positioned over 300km away from Ukraine. Russian resources indicate that both pilots successfully ejected from the bomber. The exact cause of the crash remains uncertain, but the theory most commonly touted is “due to a technical malfunction”. 

The Ukrainian discourse suggests that the faulty Tu-22M3 was involved in a missile strike on Odesa earlier the same day. According to a tweet from Ukraine Battle Map, the crash occurred “after firing a Kh-22 missile over Odesa”. In the short video clip making rounds on the internet, you can see the burning plane descending rapidly, with intense flames trailing from the rear end where its two engines are located. There’s no sight of any ejected pilots in this particular clip, but given its brief 12-second duration capturing the final moments of the plane’s life, the pilots’ ejection wouldn’t likely have been included anyway.


Russian bomber crashed after firing a Kh-22 missile over Odesa
Photo credit: Telegram

Reports from Ukraine’s Air Defense Command suggest a significant victory in their conflict with Russia. They claim their air defense system successfully intercepted and destroyed a Russian Tu-22M3, along with two Kh-22 missiles following an assault on Odessa. Assuming these reports are verified, this event would mark the Kh-22’s first downing since the war’s initiation. 

Some Ukrainian media outlets attribute the successful downing of the Tu-22M3 to GUR operation, carried out using a Soviet S-200 anti-aircraft missile system. As reported by RBC Ukraine, “It is the S-200 air defense system, enhanced by the expert team of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, that has reportedly been utilized.”, according to their sources. 

There are also unconfirmed reports stating the death of a fourth member of the Tu-22M3 crew. “The fourth member associated with the Tu-22M3 military plane that crash-landed in the Stavropol region is no more, as per source 112,” is the statement published by eRadar on its Telegram channel. The Voenny Osvedimittel, a pro-Russian Telegram channel, has also reinforced these claims of the fourth crew member’s death in its posts.

Soviet S-200s delivered to Ukraine are adapted for ballistic fire
Photo credit: Reddit

Russian Ministry of Defense

In light of recent events, the Russian Ministry of Defense has issued an official statement attributing the crash of the Tu-22M3 to an unexpected technical glitch. Moscow revealed that the unfortunate incident occurred during the return journey to the aircraft’s home base airport.  

The Russian military further asserts that they have successfully located and rescued three out of the four crew members. At the time of issuing this press release, the status of the fourth crew member was still unknown, with the statement noting, “Three crew members have been successfully evacuated by the designated search and rescue team, with ongoing efforts to locate and rescue the final pilot.”  

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

Also worth noting is that the defense forces categorically deny any munitions being onboard the crashed bomber, supporting Ukraine’s assertion that the aircraft was on an airborne assignment. The statement continues, “The Tu-22M3 went down in a deserted area, causing no collateral damage to surrounding habitats. Initial information suggests that the root cause of this accident was a technical malfunction.” Meanwhile, the regional governor has made a public statement confirming the crash of the Tu-22.

About Tu-22M3

The Tupolev Tu-22M3, also known as Backfire C by NATO, is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau during the Cold War. It is a significant part of the Russian Air Force’s arsenal and is often seen as a symbol of Russia’s military might.

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

The Tu-22M3 measures approximately 42.4 meters in length, with a wingspan of 34.28 meters when fully spread and 23.30 meters when swept back. It stands about 11.05 meters high. The aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 124,000 kilograms, and it is powered by two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofan engines, each providing a thrust of 25,000 kilograms.

In terms of avionics, the Tu-22M3 is equipped with a Leninets PN-A radar for navigation and bombing, a separate tail-warning radar, and an OPB-15T optical bombing sight. It also includes a modernized navigation system, a new radar with a phased antenna array, and an electronic warfare system.

Tu-22M3’s range and armament

After 98 days, Tu-22M3 struck Ukraine again with AS-4 Kitchen
Photo credit: Weapons Parade

The operational range of the Tu-22M3 is impressive, with a maximum range of about 6,800 kilometers without refueling. This allows it to carry out long-range strategic missions. Its maximum speed is approximately Mach 1.88 [2,300 kilometers per hour] at high altitude.

The Tu-22M3 is armed with a variety of missiles for different mission profiles. Its primary armament is the Kh-22 stand-off missile, which can carry either a conventional or nuclear warhead. It also carries the Kh-15, a short-range, supersonic missile. More recently, the Tu-22M3 has been upgraded to carry the Kh-32, an anti-ship missile designed to target large naval vessels. The aircraft also has a GSh-23 cannon mounted in a tail turret for self-defense.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

russian / soviet S-200 missile system
Photo credit: Twitter

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.


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