Russia’s using strategic bombers to attack Ukraine — how many and what type do they have?
In the early 2000s, due to the lack of strategic aircraft, Russia returned the morally and physically outdated Tu-95 to service, military expert Mykhailo Zhirokhov assures (Photo:REUTERS / Sergei Karpukhin)
Russia inherited its entire strategic aviation from the former Soviet Union and other former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, military expert and scientist in aviation history, Mykhailo Zhirokhov said in an interview with NV on May 24.
144 Ukrainian strategic bombers were eliminated in 1998-2001 under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the U.S. At the same time Kyiv transferred some Tu-160, Tu-95 and other strategic bombers, as well as about 600 Kh-55 cruise missiles to Moscow to pay off gas debts.
With that said, this is still a relatively small number of aircraft because even in Soviet times, this was very expensive equipment.
"In fact, we are talking about about 70 units. For example, there are only 13 Tu-160s in Russia," says the aviation expert.
After the USSR collapsed, there was no production or purchasing of new strategic bombers in Russia.
"Yes, Moscow claimed that it had mastered the manufacturing of modernized Tu-160, but it has managed to produce only two of them - Tu-160M and Tu-160M2," Zhirokhov said.
Besides, Russia had to redeploy in the early 2000s the morally and physically obsolete turboprop Tu-95, due to the lack of strategic aviation.
The modification of a Soviet fighter jet, MiG-31K, capable of carrying the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, was also included in strategic aviation in 2021.
"Therefore, Russians are flying on planes that are almost out of their lifespan," the expert emphasized.
The most modern Russian warplane, MiG-31, was built in 1994, while Tu-95 were manufactured in 1950-60s, and the Tu-22 and Tu-160 - in 1980s, Zhirokhov said.
As a reminder, after Russia's plan to plunge Ukraine into a blackout through massive missile strikes on its energy infrastructure failed, the enemy changed tactics.
Now, the Russian army conducts demonstrative massive takeoffs of strategic bombers almost every night, launching combined strikes with a small number of cruise missiles of various types.
The enemy has also changed its targets.
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