TechRussians revive powerful "bears" but face defeat

Russians revive powerful "bears" but face defeat

strategic bomber Tu-95MS.
strategic bomber Tu-95MS.
Images source: © PAP | YURI KOCHETKOV
3:12 PM EST, December 8, 2023

After almost a quarter of a year, the Russians chose to exercise a missile attack on Kyiv, deploying T-95MS strategic bombers equipped with maneuvering missiles from the Kh-101/555/55 family. We detail their operation below.

On Friday morning, the Russians resolved to launch a volley of maneuvering missiles toward Kyiv, originating from ten Tu-95MS strategic bombers housed at the Engels base.

All missiles, loosed by Russia from airborne units towards Kyiv on Friday morning, were intercepted and destroyed by air defenses as reported by Ukrainian capital's authorities. The attack was carried out using ten Tu-95MS bombers by Russian forces.

Utilization of old Tu-95MS bombers and maneuvering missiles — Ukrainians' recurring fear

The Russians have resumed using Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers, armed with maneuvering missiles, to target Ukrainian cities. Tu-95MS Bear bombers represent an enhanced version of the 1950s designed Tu-95 bombers, upgraded during the 1980s.

These kinds of aircraft constitute the aerial division of the Russian nuclear triad, as they carry the Kh-55SM missiles having an operational range of roughly 1864 miles, or Kh-102 missiles boasting an even larger range between 2796-3417 miles armed with thermonuclear warheads.

When deployed in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, the Russians utilize them primarily for launching missiles with conventional or even concrete counterweights designed to act as decoys for the Ukrainian air defense. Here, the Kh-55, Kh-555, or Kh-101 missiles are the prevalent choices. Of those, the Kh-101, a design from the last century's 90s, is conceived as an advancement of the older Kh-55 missile, featuring a slight modification in the fuselage shape to lower the radar signature while enhancing the guidance system.

In the preceding model, it comprised only inertial navigation and a radar altimeter; however, satellite navigation and an Otblesk-U optoelectronic system, which operates passively to track terrain, were incorporated into the new missile. These enhancements significantly boosted the delivery precision of the 1058-pound warhead.

This reality poses a serious challenge, as the Ukrainians lack any means to counter the Russian aircraft when they commence missile launches while still safely within Russian airspace. The only remaining defensive option is the difficult and expensive task of shooting down the maneuvering missiles once they approach their targets.

Nonetheless, Ukrainian air defenses were successful in intercepting and destroying all the missiles launched in this instance. It should be noted that at least one Patriot system is tasked with guarding Kyiv, supplemented by shorter-range systems like NASAMS launchers or Gepards. This comprehensive defense network is sufficiently robust to counter maneuvering missiles that fly at subsonic speeds and at altitudes of several dozen feet.

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