Photo: Russian aircraft Tu-22M3 (rosSMI) Author: Danila Kramarenko
Expert: Alexander Musienko, Alexander Kovalenko
Against the backdrop of massive missile attacks in Ukraine, on December 29, information appeared about the alleged interception of a Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber over the Kursk region (RF). At the moment there is no official confirmation.
RBC-Ukraine found out how realistic it is to shoot down such a plane over Russian territory.
In preparing the material, we used: publications of Ukrainian Telegram publics, comments from a source in the Defense Forces, as well as military experts Alexander Kovalenko and Alexander Musienko.
What they write on the Internet
A number of Ukrainian Telegram publics reported about the possible defeat of the plane. According to them, the plane suddenly disappeared from radar.
Journalist Andrei Tsaplienko posted a screenshot, possibly from one of the Russian channels.
“Information has appeared about the downing of a Tu-22M3, which had just fired missiles at Ukraine. Probably belongs to the 52nd heavy bomber aviation regiment, which killed civilians in Kremenchug, Uman and Dnieper,” we are checking,” he wrote.
It should be noted that the Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber, which is usually one of the first to report aircraft losses, is silent for now.
What is known about Tu-22M3 aircraft
The Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber has been in use since the first months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In particular, for attacks with Kh-22 missiles , one aircraft can carry up to three such missiles.
The Tu-22M3 is capable of rising to a maximum altitude of about 13,000 meters, reaches a speed of up to 2,300 km/h, and has an estimated flight range of 6,800 km. Kh-22 missiles can hit targets at a distance of up to 600 km, they reach speeds of over 4,000 km/h, slowing down at the terminal section to over 2,000 km/h and attacking the target along a ballistic trajectory from an altitude of about 60 km.
All this together makes it possible to avoid a significant approach to the Ukrainian border and, accordingly, not to enter the range of our air defense. However, it is no secret that the capabilities of Ukrainian air defense are expanding.
Is Ukraine capable of shooting down such a plane?
Theoretically, yes. According to military-political observer of the Information Resistance group Alexander Kovalenko, something similar was implemented in May.
“It is quite possible to shoot down a Tu-22 in the Kursk region. But we need to wait for official reports and only after that draw some appropriate conclusions. Our Air Force carried out a similar type of operation in May, when Su-34 and Su-34 aircraft were shot down simultaneously in the Bryansk region Su-35, two Mi-8MTPR-1 electronic warfare helicopters and one Mi-8 ,” he noted in a commentary to RBC-Ukraine.
This is not the first time Tu-22M3 aircraft have attacked from the Kursk region. Apparently, Ukrainian forces have an understanding of where they are based, where they are taking off from, and what their approximate flight path is. Strategic aviation of this type is based at the airfields “Shaikovka” (Kaluga region), “Soltsy” (Novgorod region) and “Mozdok” (North Ossetia), explains the head of the Center for Military Legal Research, Alexander Musienko.
“Taking into account the fact that they have been used by Russia for a long time, we can proceed from the fact that all the necessary information is available. In principle, we can calculate and evaluate their capabilities. Next, work is underway to identify opportunities to shoot down such a plane. If we are talking about Patriot , then they intercept targets at a range of 80 km,” he emphasized in an interview with the publication.
In other words, if the plane approaches such a distance, then in general the air defense system can intercept it.
“Last week we saw the defeat of aircraft over the occupied territories and even over the Black Sea. And we admit that our capabilities are expanding. Therefore, I cannot exclude that in this case we are talking about a special operation that took into account those data and indicators , which I’m talking about. And then it’s up to the execution technique. It’s not a fact that we will learn about it in detail,” the expert added.
From this point of view, the news about the possible interception of a long-range aircraft can be called unexpected, since the enemy is also familiar with the capabilities of the air defense system in the arsenal of Ukraine. After all, simultaneously with missile attacks, long-range radar detection aircraft (AWACS) take off into the air, conducting quite powerful reconnaissance.
“But, as it turns out, Patriot can turn around very quickly. And this can be seen in the example when Russia fires at Kyiv with ballistic missiles: there is no air raid alert yet, but the exits of Patriot missiles can already be heard,” Musienko noted.
Could Russia itself shoot down its Tu-22M3?
Experts interviewed by RBC-Ukraine doubt this.
“I don’t think that friendly fire (friendly fire – ed.) is possible, because it is a very large target. And it is difficult for Russian air defense to mistake it for some Ukrainian object. This is a fairly large aircraft, which is quite difficult to confuse, for example, with a Ukrainian MiG-29 or some kind of drone,” said Alexander Kovalenko.
According to Musienko, the Russians should have definitely seen that it was their plane on the radar.
“It seems to me that something interesting is happening. But I doubt that it was friendly fire,” he added in a conversation with the publication.
RBC-Ukraine asked sources in the Defense Forces for comment.
“Perhaps the Russian air defense activated by accident. We don’t know why these Tu planes disappeared from the radar,” one of the interlocutors noted.
Read more about the Tu-22MZ aircraft and the threat they pose to Ukraine in a separate article.
On the morning of December 29, Russia launched the most massive attack on Ukrainian cities since the start of a full-scale invasion in 2022. More than a hundred missiles were reported to be launched in the morning, and attacks continued throughout the day.
At the moment, about 20 people are known to have died. Several dozen more were injured. Kyiv, Dnieper, Lvov, Kharkov, Zaporozhye, Odessa, Konotop and Smela came under attack.
RBC-Ukraine also published photos of the consequences of the arrivals in Ukrainian cities.
Read urgent and important messages about Russia's war against Ukraine on the RBC-Ukraine Telegram channel.