Tag Archives: Tu-22M

Russia: long-range bombers at War in Syria

UPDATED 20 November | For the first time the Russian strategic bomber fleet has been waging war in modern combat, launching long-range air strikes against targets / areas in Syria last night.

UPDATE | More footage has appeared of Russian bombers launching cruise missiles or dropping bombs, some of them under the watchful eye of -rather surprisingly – Iranian F-14 Tomcats. See here.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence the attack fleet last night included 5 Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack”, 6 Tu-95MS “Bear”, 14 Tupolev Tu-22M3s “Backfire, 8 Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” and 4 Sukhoi Su-27SM “Flanker” all flying in from land-bases in Russia with flights lasting 4 hours and several thousands of miles. With at least the fighter aircraft probably supported by IL-78 “Midas” tanker aircraft.

Cruise missiles

Sources in Western capitals have acknowledged their governments were informed far ahead of the Russian operations this time, which included the launch of 34 cruise missiles. The attacks were concentrated on the Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor areas, as well as Aleppo and Idlib. The Russian planned 127 sorties against 206 targets, with 82 sorties against 140 objectives done. Syrian troops are said to have started a ground offensive about 15 to 25 miles from Idlib.

Latakia Airbase

Part of the Russian Expeditionary Wing based at an Syrian military airbase near Latakia (Khmeymim) also went airborne. The wing now consists of eight fighter-bombers (4 Sukhoi Su-30SMs, 4 Sukhoi Su-34s), 12 strike/bombers of the Sukhoi Su-24M “Fencer” type, 12 close-air support and attack aircraft of the Sukhoi Su-25SM “Frogfoot” type, a dozen Mil Mi-24 “Hind” attack helicopters and 4 Mil Mi-8 “Hip” assault helicopters.

A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-22M3 of the type that simulated attack on Sweden during Eastern 2013 (Image © Max)
A Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire, an aircraft similar to the western Rockwell B-1B bomber. (Image © Max)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)
Archive photo of a Russian Air Force Su-27SM3 performing at the Zhukovsky airshow in August 2012 (Image (CC) Alan Wilson)
Archive photo of a Russian Air Force Su-27SM3 performing at the Zhukovsky airshow in August 2012 (Image (CC) Alan Wilson)

25 extra long-range aircraft

Moscow plans to augment the wing for now with 25 extra long-range aircraft (likely bombers and tanker aircraft), eight Su-34s and four Su-27SMs all operating from land-bases within the Russian Federation on lengthy strike missions to Syria against forces such as ISIL/Daesh.

French warcraft

Apart from Russia, French warcraft bombed targets they say are from ISIL/Daesh as well during the same night in Northern Syria, in what could may have been jointly co-ordinated attacks. France is stepping up its military operations in the area after ISIL has claimed responsibility of the terror attacks in Paris during the weekend. The attacks claimed the lives of at least 129 people. The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – with on board Rafale multi-role fighters – is steaming towards the Eastern Mediterranean.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Tu-160 (Image © Tupolev)

“Russian bombers provoke Sweden”

During the political week of Sweden in July, when all politicians of all parties are together in Visby on the island of Gotland, two Russian bombers executed a simulated attack on the major Swedish naval base of Karlskrona and performed a narrow fly-by of Gotland. “This kind of behaviour is very aggressive,” Swedish quality newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) quotes a Swedish intelligence officer on 1 November 2015.

A Sukhoi Su-24M ("Fencer") on a snowy airbase of the Russian Central Military District (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
RELATED POST: Swedes slow while Russian bombers invaded

According to DN, new information shows that two Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers went straight for Karlskrona on 4 July 2015, after taking off from an airbase in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. Apparently the Russian bombers changed course only 15 to 30 seconds before entering Swedish airspace. They seemed to ingore the two Royal Danish Air Force F-16s and two Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen jets scrambled to intercept.

The Backfires then headed north to Gotland and passed the strategic island just east of its territorial airspace, while practically all Swedish politicians were on it for the final days of the yearly main political event. The earlier released official statement of the Swedish Ministry of Defence on the incident did not include all these details.

Both Sweden and Finland have been strengthening their cooperation with NATO, causing both political and military protests from Moscow. While a full membership of the military alliance has not been asked for, the government in Finland recently ordered a quick investigation into the pros and cons of NATO membership to make a more fundamental decision on to join or not to join in 2016.

Sweden so far doesn’t go for full NATO membership, but more and more Swedish politicians are advocating in favour of joining while Russia is – in their eyes – acting more and more aggressively towards the Scandinavian nations.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Two Russian Air Force Tu-22M3s intercepted by Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornets in December 2014 (Image © Ilmavoimat)

A typical Swedish "incident readiness" flight of two JAS 39 Gripen fighters - here on an unarmed training mission in 1998 - fly by the city of Visby, the main town on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. (Image © Flygvapnet)
A typical Swedish “incident readiness” flight of two JAS 39 Gripen fighters – here on an unarmed training mission in 1998 – fly by the city of Visby, the main town on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. (Image © Flygvapnet)

War games as usual over the Baltic Sea

While NATO, Sweden and Finland are jointly engaged in large scale military exercises on the Baltic Sea coasts and in the countries neighbouring Russia, it is business as usual in the air above the Northern European waters with Russia sending up bombers and escorts, and the opposing side scrambling fighter jets.

Last week was somewhat special. The stars and stripes were promoted big time by two US Air Force B-52H bombers dropping training sea mines off the coast of Skåne in Southern Sweden. They were escorted by at least four Swedish Air Force Gripen fighter jets. The training mission, with the Buffs flying in from the United Kingdom, was part of the large scale Baltops 2015 exercise (5 – 20 June), that also saw Swedish and US Marines landing on the Scandinavian coast using the USS San Antonio as main floating base. Baltops 2015 also marked the first time the B-52s were on a real operational training mission inside Swedish air space.

The last couple of days saw the more usual suspects. Russian aircraft gave acte de presence in international airspace bordering Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark.

Royal Air Force Typhoons came home with nice pictures of a pair of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound long-distance interceptors. Saab JAS 39 Gripen planes of the Swedish Air Force shadowed a pair of Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers escorted by two MiG-31s twice in 24 hours, as the Russian Air Force package was making a routine flight from the St. Petersburg area over the Baltic Sea towards Kaliningrad.

Baltic Air Policing
NATO planes at Ämari in Estonia and/or Šiauliai in Lithuania and/or Malbork in Poland also scramble to intercept a Ilyushin IL-20 at least on one occasion. The recon/spy plane is a regular for the NATO jets. The more specials of this week were a Iluyshin / Beriev A-50 AWACS and an Antonov AN-26. Currently the Baltic Air Policing mission on the three bases mentioned, is run by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) and the Belgian Air Component – both each with 4 F-16AM Fighting Falcons – plus the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force – both each with 4 Eurofighter EF2000 / Typhoon jets.

Saber Strike
Meanwhile NATO forces “attacked” a military airfield, Swidwin Airbase in Poland, as part of the multinational exercise Saber Strike 2015 (8 – 19 June) that includes the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well. The Saber Strike airfield assault that included a paradrop was meant to prep ground and air forces for a possible combined operation of the future.

Raptors
In an attempt to keep things at bay in that future the US policy makers are now even considering sending half or a whole squadron of F-22A Raptor air-supiority stealth fighters to the other side of the Atlantic, but neither a time schedule or a possible base of operations has been revealed.

Looks like the start of a warm Summer in usually cold Northern Europe.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A MiG-31 in earlier action (Image © Olga Balashova / Russian Air Force)

Will the Lightning II be the state-of-the-art Spitfire against modern V-1s?

Will the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II be the today’s Spitfire and topple incoming modern versions of the V-1 flying bomb of World War 2? If the US Navy and Lockheed Martin have their way: “yes”.

It is called the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) and meant as a huge extra asset to protect a Carrier Battle Group or Amphibious Battle Group against incoming cruise / anti-ship missiles that can been launched at long ranges by for example Russian-made and -owned Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers.

At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, USA, Lockheed Martin is moving its NIFC-CA slowly to the next phase: a live-fire test planned for somewhere in the coming two years. The plan is that a US Navy or US Marines F-35B or F-35C uses a NIFC-CA sensor, and/or Link 16 transferred data of a ship’s Aegis radar plus the Grumman E-2D Hawkeye as airborne relay station to get a more complete threat image of the operations zone on beyond-visual range distances.

A Tu-22M3 Backfire of the Russian Air Force (Image (CC) Alex Beltyukov)
A Tu-22M3 Backfire of the Russian Air Force that can be a very lethal platform for launching anti-ship and cruise missiles (Image (CC) Alex Beltyukov)

Possible incoming anti-ship missiles will then be destroyed using a ship-launched Raytheon SM-6 missile, while adaption of the Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is likely considered as an airborne alternative to equip the F-35 with a cruise missile kill capability.

During World War II Royal Air Force pilots used the strong wings of their Supermarine Spitfire planes to topple and actively crash incoming Nazi-German V-1s, while the flying bombs were en route to their targets. Although the F-35 will not use the same technique the Lockheed Martin NIFC-CA project somewhat might turn the Lightning II in today’s state-of-the-art Spitfire.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: First live-fire launch of a guided air-to-air missile by a F-35 Lighting II in 2013 (Image © USAF)

A pair of surviving Supmarine Spitfires having fun (Image © Marcel Burger)
A pair of surviving Supermarine Spitfires having fun (Image © Marcel Burger)

Backfires and Bears over the Baltic Sea

While Norway reports business as usual, from Latvia, Estonia and Sweden total different reports have come in on 8 December on recent Russian military air activity in the area. The Russian Air Force sent a few of its rare sights – over the Baltics that is – out over sea during over the weekend: Tu-95 Bears and Tu-22M Backfires.

The strategic bombers were co-acting with Russian navy vessels during a maritime training exercise. Although closely watched by NATO, Sweden and Finland, sources say that none of the planes intruded airspace of other nations. But especially in Sweden the matter of nuclear capable planes has been noticed.

“Russia has been flying Tu-95 strategic bombers over the Baltic Sea. I doubt this has ever happened before. Certainly not in recent decades,” former Swedish Foreign Minister and currently “entrepreneur in future and peace” tweeted in response. With the current Swedish government waiting for the next elections only two months after it started its job, Mr. Bildt is still a main voice on foreign affairs for the largest Scandinavian country.

But Bildt’s statement has been somewhat downplayed from Latvia, where a defence sources say that it has happened as recently as September this year and many times before that. One thing is certain though, Moscow’s geopolitical game is getting noted.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Related: Norway: “Russian air activity not more than before”
AND: NATO: “Significant Russian military maneouvres over Europe”

A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-22M3 of the type that simulated attack on Sweden during Eastern 2013 (Image © Max)
A Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire, an aircraft similar to the western Rockwell B-1B bomber. (Image © Max)