Tag Archives: Tu-22M3

Tupolevs Over Tajikistan

Tu-95 MS Bear (photo TVZvezda)

Tu-95MS / Bear (photo: TVZvezda)

Moscow integrated Tu-95MS / Bear and Tu-22M3 / Backfire bombers into a “large-scale” exercise with Tajikistan this week.

Bears and Backfires (and Tu-160 / Blackjacks) participated in strikes on Syrian targets last November, and we’re accustomed to Russian bombers probing U.S. and NATO air defenses.  But this might be the first time the Russians have deployed strategic bombers for training over a former Soviet / CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization partner.

If not, it is uncommon.

This somewhat dubious distinction might indicate that Kremlin concern about Tajikistan’s security (and its impact on Russia’s) is a notch above worries about other allies right now.

The Bears flew from their base at Engels in Saratov Oblast by way of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to get to Tajikistan.  The TVZvezda video below shows one hooked up to a tanker aircraft.

The Backfires operated from Tajik airfields along with 30 Russian Su-24M and Su-25SM aircraft and combat helicopters, according to TVZvezda.

The “anti-terrorism” exercise began on 14 March, and involved roughly 2,000 troops from the two sides, news agency TASS reported.

The combined force, including troops from Russia’s 201st Military Base in Tajikistan, VDV, and VDV Spetsnaz, blocked and destroyed a large notional motorized insurgent group that violated the country’s border.  The VDV conducted tactical airborne and air assault operations against the notional enemy along the Tajik-Afghan border.

Central MD commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy and Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo observed the exercise.

So why the bombers?  First, it’s good to get flight familiarization over terrain where one might fly a real combat mission one day.  Second and more important, bombers armed with cruise missiles make a more immediate and tangible impression than equally threatening submarines cruising in the Black Sea or Med.  It’s almost the inverse of Syria where subs got the first action but LRA also had the chance to conduct real-world operations.

What of Tajikistan, the ostensible reason for the entire military display?

For Jamestown.org, Paul Goble has written about its vulnerability to Islamic State or Taliban forces.  But, he says, Turkmenistan might actually be a more vulnerable and more attractive target.  It has natural gas for the taking and it lacks a fairly strong and proactive ally like Russia.

Also writing for Jamestown, Steve Blank speculated that Tajikistan could become a “fourth front” for Russia, along with Ukraine, Syria, and the North Caucasus. Tajikistan is a key part of Moscow’s “domino theory.”  If Dushanbe falls into hostile hands, the rest of Central Asia and Russia itself become more vulnerable.

Come what may, an exercise involving strategic aviation just beyond Russia’s periphery is an interesting and rather unnoticed event that we could see again.

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VVS Taking VMF’s Land-Based Fighters and Bombers

Vesti.ru has rebroadcast Interfaks information from a Main Navy Staff source who says, on 1 April, Naval Aviation (VMA) will begin transferring its land-based fighter and bomber aircraft to the Air Forces (VVS).

By year’s end, the VVS will get the Navy’s remaining Su-27 fighters, MiG-31 fighter-interceptors, long-range Tu-22 [sic] supersonic bombers, and also part of the VMA’s transport aircraft.

Russian Naval Aviation Tu-22M3

The Interfaks report will probably get garbled into all aircraft, or all land-based aircraft, going to VVS, which is not the case, as it makes its way into other Russian and English language news stories.

VMA will retain control of its Il-38, Tu-142, and Be-12 ASW aircraft, and its deck-based aircraft, the Su-33 fighter and Ka-27 helicopters, according to the Interfaks source. 

According to the Vesti.ru article, missile-carrying naval aviation has deteriorated since the Soviet collapse, and only the Northern and Pacific Fleets have long-range ASW aircraft which, it claims, amount to only 25 Il-38 and 15 Tu-142.  It says the Baltic Fleet has no ASW aircraft, and the Black Sea Fleet only four old Be-12 likely to be completely worn out by 2015.

The article notes that the Su-33, Su-25UTG trainer, multipurpose Ka-27 and Ka-29 combat-transport helicopters will remain in the air wing of heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov.  There are reported plans to procure 26 MiG-29K fighters for Kuznetsov.

Here’s a nicely done, data-filled Russian language Wiki article on Russian Naval Aviation.

VMA lost something else recently.  A BMW-X5 used by VMA Chief, General-Colonel Igor Khozhin was stolen in Moscow on Friday, according to Interfaks.

ITAR-TASS also reported Friday that more than 80 RVSN aircraft — An-72, An-26, and Mi-8 helicopters — will also be going over to the VVS starting on 1 April.

Strategic Forces Training

Russia fired two SLBMs and an ICBM today.  Pacific Fleet Delta III SSBN Saint Georgiy Pobedonosets launched an SS-N-18 (RSM-50) SLBM from the Sea of Okhotsk.  Northern Fleet Delta IV SSBN Bryansk fired a Sineva (RSM-54) SLBM from the Barents Sea. 

And a crew from the Vladimir Missile Army’s Bologoye Division launched an SS-25 (RS-12M/Topol) ICBM from Plesetsk.

An RVSN spokesman said this launch allows Russia to extend the service life of this grouping of SS-25s to 23 years or until about 2015, and to conduct a planned replacement of these missiles without overburdening the military’s budget.

Yesterday Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3 bombers launched weapons on ranges in Irkutsk and Komi as part of an Air Forces exercise.

According to some reports, the Navy may test fire the Bulava SLBM for the second time in 2010 tomorrow.

LRA Command-Staff Exercise

Today Russian Long-Range Aviation (LRA or ДА) began a large three-day command-staff exercise (CSX or КШУ) under Air Forces CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin’s direction.  The CSX involves units from Siberia, the Far East, but also Lipetsk, and 40 aircraft including the Tu-160, Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, Il-78, A-50, MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-27SM.  They will operate both from their home and temporary bases, and fly over central Russia, the Far East, and extreme northern parts of the Russian Federation.  A-50 crews will control the airspace for the exercise.  Il-78 tankers will conduct mid-air refueling, and ranges at Pemboy near Vorkuta and at Nogotay in Irkutsk Oblast will be used for missile launches and other weapons training.