Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why would Russia deploy bombers in Crimea?

July 24, 2015 (BBC News Europe) Russian defense ministry sources say a squadron of Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bombers will be based in Crimea - but experts question the strategic value of such a move for Russia. Russia's Interfax news agency reported the plan, quoting an unnamed ministry source, though it has not been officially confirmed. Other Russian media also reported it. Russia has previously pledged to beef up its military forces in Crimea, which has been internationally isolated since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in March 2014.

On 9 May the bombers were a highlight of Moscow's Victory Day flypast

Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation and tightened them over Russian support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian commentators see the Tu-22M3 bomber move as a response to US plans to deploy surface-to-air missile interceptors in Romania. Work at Romania's Deveselu airbase began in October 2013. It is part of a Nato missile shield plan to defend Europe from a possible "rogue state" missile attack. The US missiles are a ground-based version of Aegis, a system used by the US navy since 2004. The Russian bombers could be used against large surface ships, including aircraft carriers.

The Soviet-era Tu-22M3 bomber entered service in 1989 but has been modernised since then

However, military expert Viktor Murakhovsky argues that sending them to Crimea will only make them an obvious target in the event of an armed conflict, and they will do little to improve Russia's combat capability there. Russia also opposes the positioning of US missile interceptors in Poland. It threatened to put Iskander short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad region in response. However, despite reports of temporary deployments, Iskanders have not been moved there permanently.

Tupolev Tu-22M3
·         About 500 Tu-22Ms (various models) serving in Russian air force since 1989
·         Long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber - Nato codename "Backfire"
·         Max speed - 2,000km/h (1,200mph; Mach 1.88 - nearly twice speed of sound)
·         Length - 42.5m (140ft) and variable geometry wings
·         Four-man crew (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, weapon systems operator)
·         Two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofan engines
·         Combat range - 2,200km (1,364 miles)
·         Max weight - 124 tonnes
·         Flight ceiling - 14,000m (46,200ft)
·         Carries missiles and bombs and has a cannon in tail turret

The full article is available at