A Ukrainian drone destroyed a flagship Russian long-range bomber stationed at an airbase south of St. Petersburg, British broadcaster BBC reported.
Social media photos analyzed by the outlet show a large fire engulfing a Tupolev Tu-22 bomber at a military airfield in the Novgorod region in the northwest of Russia.
Moscow’s defense ministry said the bomber was attacked by a “copter-type” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on Saturday morning.
It further stated that the drone was initially hit by small-arms fire but managed to approach and strike the warplane.
“The UAV was detected by the airfield’s observation outpost and was hit with small-arms fire,” the ministry said. “One airplane was damaged.”
No casualties were reported in the incident.
#Russia: A Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber was destroyed whilst stationed at the Soltsy air base in Novgorod Oblast – 650km+ from the border with Ukraine.
Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the bomber "was damaged by a Ukrainian quadcopter UAV". pic.twitter.com/dYNopFhhao
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) August 20, 2023
About the Tu-22 Bomber
Russia’s Tu-22 is a Soviet-era aircraft designed to destroy sea- and ground-based targets by launching guided missiles and aerial bombs.
It travels at more than 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) per hour and can carry up to 24,000 kilograms (52,910 pounds).
Russia operates 60 Tu-22 bombers stationed at three military bases, including Belaya, Olenyegorsk, and Shaykovka.
The long-range aircraft was a major problem for Ukraine at the onset of the war because of its ability to drop Kh-22 and Kh-32 anti-ship missiles.
Kyiv’s Improving Air Defenses
While the destruction of a single warplane is unlikely to have a major effect on Moscow, the recent development highlights Kyiv’s improving air defense capabilities.
In December last year, a Tu-95 strategic bomber operated by the Russian air force caught fire and sustained considerable damage after a Ukrainian drone attack.
Satellite images showed the aircraft covered in firefighting foam to extinguish the fire.
Ukrainian forces also reported that they had shot down an entire swarm of Iranian-made drones launched by Russian troops.
“The terrorists started this morning with 13 Shaheds,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced. “According to the preliminary information, all 13 were shot down by our Ukrainian air defense systems.”