Russian bombers gather at Olenya base near Murmansk, far from Ukraine but within striking range
Recent satellite images reveal that on Sunday, February 4, the Olenya air base harbored 10 strategic Tu-95MS bombers and 35 Tu-22M3 bombers. In addition, three An-12 transport aircraft and two Su-30SM fighters were observed.
It is suggested by Unian that the Russians may be amassing high-value equipment to prepare for possible escalated attacks on Ukraine. Still, it's important to note that the Olenya air base is located about 1,242 miles from the Ukrainian border. As such, it may be a considered a secure site for the Russian Federation, out of Ukrainian drones' range - which, as we previously reported, can now cover over 621 miles.
Moving equipment to the Murmansk region is not a new strategy for the Russians. Last year, they relocated Tu-22M3 bombers previously stationed in Solotchi, which is closer to Ukraine, to the Olenya airport. So, Olenya may now serve as a repository for the aggressor's valuable machinery.
The machinery stationed at Russia's northernmost part as of early February 2024, notably the numerous Tu-22M3s, proffers significant interest. These bombers, designed for bombing and missile strikes on ground targets, have been in production since the 1960s. The Tu-22M3, made by Tupolev, is an aircraft equipped with adjustable wings (from 20 to 65 degrees) and propelled by two NK-25 jet engines.
The Tu-22M3 measures 139 feet long, with a wingspan of roughly 148 feet and a weight of 118,000 lbs. This large-scale construct can accelerate up to 1,428 miles per hour and reach an altitude of approximately 59,055 feet. With a maximum range of 4,349 miles, it possesses more than enough reach to strike Ukrainian targets, taking off and returning to the Olenya airport. In 2023, the Russian Federation announced plans for upgrading all Tu-22M3s to the Tu-22M3M variant, encompassing adapting the aircraft to carry Ch-32 missiles and extending the machine's range.
Meanwhile, the Tu-95MS bombers, of which 10 examples have been located in the country's north, hail from the 1980s but have been modernized from the original Tu-95 bombers designed in the 1950s. They are capable of carrying Ch-55SM missiles effective up to about 1,864 miles or Ch-102 missiles with a distance of over 3,107 miles (equipped with thermonuclear warheads).
The haul of the Tu-95MS bombers reaches 44,092 lbs, while their maximum speed exceeds 515 miles per hour. Additional equipment includes two AM-23 cannons and GSz-23 caliber 22 mm, aside from variable armament carried depending on the mission.