British military intelligence reported on Tuesday that a recent drone strike on a Russian airfield, which Russia attributed to Ukraine, has likely destroyed a nuclear-capable TU-22M3 supersonic long-range bomber.
The attack has raised concerns about the vulnerability of Russia’s aging but potent fleet of long-range bombers, crucial to Moscow’s military operations.
Kyiv claimed responsibility for attacking another Russian military airfield, asserting that Russia employed the TU-22M3 to strike Ukraine with conventional munitions.
Analysts estimate Russia possesses approximately 60 of these aircraft.
The obliteration of the TU-22M3, which can be outfitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads, underscores the susceptibility of Russia’s bomber fleet to drone assaults.
The incident led Russia to relocate similar planes from the targeted airfield to alternative bases farther from the Ukrainian border, with unverified reports suggesting a northern Russian base as their destination.
Russia’s Defence Ministry attributed the drone strike on the Novgorod airfield to a Ukrainian copter-style drone that was downed by small arms fire.
This account led British military intelligence to suggest that the attacks might originate from within Russia, as the range of such drones would likely be insufficient for external strikes on the airfield.
This aligns with a pattern of similar assaults on Russian Long Range Aviation (LRA) airfields, raising doubts about Russia’s ability to safeguard vital installations within its borders.
Satellite images taken two days after the incident revealed a scorched patch of ground at the targeted airfield, along with debris resembling the remnants of an aircraft.
This differed from earlier images of the site, taken on August 8, which depicted an intact military plane.
Ukraine, historically reticent about acknowledging such attacks, refrained from immediate comment. However, the nation remains committed to undermining Russian military assets.
Russia, which views Britain as hostile due to its support for Ukraine, refrained from responding to the British assessment of the damage.
This incident highlights the intricate geopolitical dynamics between Russia and Ukraine, exacerbated by the employment of drones in military confrontations.
The destruction of the TU-22M3 emphasizes Russia’s challenge in safeguarding its critical military assets, while differing narratives on precision strikes and civilian casualties reflect the broader discord between the involved parties.