Per gli europei la Russia è un vicino del tutto scomodo.
Resta difficile dimenticarsi come i russi siano entrati da vincitori in Parigi nel 1814 e poi, dal 1945, abbiano occupato per quasi sessanta anni Berlino e gli stati dell’est europeo.
Le loro forze armate sono in grado di sopportare fatiche disumane e colmare perdite di estrema severità. Nel contempo, tutte le guerre portare dagli europei contro la Russia sono fallite sia per la resistenza militare, sia per le distanze cospicue, sia per un clima cui gli europei non sono adsueti, sia infine per un patriottismo ignoto in Occidente.
È quindi molto giustificabile la tendenza riduttiva a considerare la Russia come una attrice dello scacchiere continentale europeo.
Questa visione è però molto riduttiva. La Russia è anche la Siberia e la Siberia alla fine è delimitata dall’Oceano Pacifico. Sbocco al mare tormentato dai ghiacci e dai rigori invernali, ma sbocco che impone alla Russia di presentarsi anche come potenza marittima in quell’oceano. Magari anche in collaborazione con la potenza emergente, la Cina.
L’Oceano Pacifico ha estensioni grandiose. Lo domina solo la potenza che dispone di adeguate basi aeronavali. Dalla mitica Midway, fino alla corolla di isole che circonda e delimita il mare Cinese del Sud.
Fino a qualche anno fa il Pacifico era un lago americano. I suoi confini erano le spiagge asiatiche. Senza questa supremazia marittima la guerra in Vietnam sarebbe stata impossibile.
Adesso la situazione è cambiata, ed in modo consistente.
La Cina si è costruita una lunga serie di isole artificiali, che ha subito munito di basi aeree e navali di tutto rispetto, armate fino ai denti. Inutili le diatribe politiche e giuridiche: ci sono, sufficit. Penetrate quelle difese sarà sempre possibile, ma il pedaggio potrebbe essere davvero severo.
Adesso la Russia entra pesantemente in gioco in questo scacchiere: ha formato una nuova divisione di bombardieri pesanti che pattugliano l’Oceano Pacifico per circa 7,000 kilometri di distanza dalle proprie basi siberiane. Raggio di azione cui dovrebbe essere aggiunto quello dei missili di crociera anti-nave che essi possono trasportare. Armamento di tutto rispetto. Se sarebbe esagerato affermare che possano bloccare ogni iniziativa americana, ma sicuramente possono costituire un serio ostacolo alla penetrazione statunitense.
Il risultato sembrerebbe essere evidente. Anche in questo settore gli Stati Uniti sembrerebbero essere in grandi difficoltà.
Certamente, nel corso degli ultimi dieci anni gli equilibri sono drasticamente cambiati.
«But Cold War aviation genius Andrei Tupolev was no fool. He designed an adaptable plane that can carry one Hell of a load-out when it comes to bombs and missiles, fly thousands of miles from bases in Russia, loiter on the edges of enemy airspace, and deliver megatons of nuclear destruction.
As recently as July 4, multiple Bear bombers flew into U.S. air defense identification zones off California and Alaska. In fact, some of the Bears flew within 40 miles off the California coastline.
Technically, the bombers were still within international airspace. But call it Cold War 2.0 — the Kremlin is sending the same message the bomber has always sent.» [National Interest]
«the Kremlin is sending the same message the bomber has always sent.»
A new division of Russian strategic bombers will soon begin conducting patrols over the Pacific Ocean.
The Russian Aerospace Forces are in the process of setting up a new long-range Heavy Bomber Division in Russia’s Far East to patrol the Pacific Ocean inside the Japan-Hawaii-Guam triangle, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced last week, according to local media report.
“The formation of the division is almost complete now. It consists of several squadrons of long-distance bombers deployed in the Eastern and Central military districts,” an unnamed senior Russian defense official told Izvestia. The new bomber division will be based at Belaya and Ukrainka, in eastern Siberia.
The division will be composed of several dozen Tu-95MS strategic missile bombers and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.
The Tupolev Tu-95MS, an improved variant of the older Tu-95, is a four-engine, long-range, turboprop, strategic bomber that can be armed with a wide range of weapons including stand-off cruise missiles. Russia intends to operate 20 Tu-95MS by the end of 2016.
The Tupolev Tu-22M3, also an upgraded variant of an older aircraft developed for the Soviet Air Force, is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber. Around a hundred Tu-22Ms of all variants are currently in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces.
According to media reports, the new division is based on the 6953rd Guards’ Red Banner, Pacific Air Group. During the Cold War, Soviet bombers of the Pacific Air Group patrolled in close vicinity to U.S. military bases in Japan, Guam, and also U.S. naval bases in Hawaii.
Russia stopped conducting regular patrols in the 1990s and early 2000s, but has stepped up its military activities in the Pacific Ocean in the last two years. Russian bombers have routinely been patrolling airspace off the coast of Japan since 2014.
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled jets in response to two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers flying along the perimeter of Japan’s territorial airspace in January 2016. Russian bombers have also appeared near the Ryukyu Island chain in March 2015. As my colleague Ankit Panda reported in January:
In 2014, shortly following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and ensuing isolation from the West, including expulsion from the G8 within which Japan is a member, Russian Tu-95 bomber patrols picked up in intensity in the Asia-Pacific region. As General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Force, said at the time, the United States noticed that Russian bombers were coming out to airspace near California and, […], circumnavigated Guam.
However, as I reported in April, the JASDF reported a decline in the number of times it had to dispatch fighter jets to intercept Russian military aircraft in 2015. Last year, there were 873 overall sorties, with 288 targeting Russian aircraft. In 2014, Japan scrambled jets 943 times, 473 of which were in response to Russian incursions.
In October 2015, two Tupolev Tu-142 aircraft, another variant of the Tu-95, flew within one nautical mile of the USS Ronald Reagan, a U.S. aircraft carrier, prompting the dispatch of four F/A-18 Super Hornets from the Reagan to intercept the Russian warplanes.
Tupolev Tu-95MS (Nato code name: Bear-H) is a four-engine, long-range, turboprop, strategic bomber / missile carrier developed by Russian aerospace and defence company JSC Tupolev Design Bureau. The carrier is currently in service with the Russian Air Force.
Based on the airframe of Tu-142 (Bear F) maritime patrol aircraft, the Tu-95MS aircraft is a modernised version of the Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber. It is equipped with stand-off cruise missiles and can be deployed in combat missions to defeat cruise missiles and strategic enemy targets.
The Russian Defence Ministry intends to procure 20 modernised bombers by the end of 2016. The aircraft are expected to remain in service with them until 2040.
Tu-95MS strategic bomber combat aircraft orders and deliveries
A Tu-95MS prototype made first flight in September 1979. Serial production of the bomber was carried out at Kuibyshev Aircraft Works (now OJSC Aviakor Aviation Plant) in Samara between 1981 and 1992. The aircraft have been deployed by the 121st Heavy Bomber Regiment at Engels Air Base and the 73rd Heavy Bomber Aviation Division at Ukrainka Air Base.
In December 2014, Tupolev handed over two upgraded Tu-95MS strategic bombers with improved avionics and flying efficiency to the Russian Air Force, as part of the state defence order. A further delivery of upgraded Tu-95MS was made in January 2015.
Two Tu-95MS aircraft performed a 17-hour patrol flight over the Aleutian Islands in May 2011. It was followed by a 10h air patrol flight over the Pacific Ocean in November 2011. Two Tu-95MS strategic bombers also performed a patrol flight over the Arctic Ocean for 20h in April 2012. Another patrol flight, which lasted 13h, was executed over the Norwegian Sea in November 2013.
The Tu-95MS successfully launched six high-precision cruise missiles at ground targets during a tactical flight test that lasted 7h in June 2014.
Design and features of Tu-95MS strategic bomber
The Tu-95MS strategic bomber features high-aspect ratio spar wing design and an improved, all-metal airframe. It is capable of engaging major stationary enemy targets under extreme weather conditions both during day and at night.
The aircraft is 49.6m-long and 13.3m-high, and is equipped with semi-monocoque fuselage and a retractable tricycle landing gear consisting of steerable twin-wheel nose unit and four-wheeled main units. Its maximum take-off and landing weights are 185t and 135t respectively and its maximum payload capacity is 20,000kg. The wings are swept back at 35° and the wing span is 50.05m.
The cabin in the front section of the fuselage accommodates a crew of seven, including a pilot and a co-pilot.
The Tu-95MS Bear-H aircraft is armed with two Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 twin-barrelled, 23mm automatic cannons at the rear for self-defence against airborne threats. Each cannon has a rate of fire of 2,400 rounds a minute. Six 2,500km-range Kh-15 air-launched cruise missiles are carried in the drum launcher.
The Tu-95MS-6 variant can be equipped with six Raduga Kh-55 (AS-15) subsonic air-launched cruise missiles in a rotary launcher, whereas the Tu-95MS-16 variant can carry 16 Kh-55 missiles externally.
The aircraft can be further modified to carry up to eight Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles or 14 Kh-65 anti-ship missiles.
Avionics onboard the Tu-95MS Bear-H aircraft
The strategic bomber is installed with ANS-2009 celestial navigation system, developed by Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), to determine the plane’s coordinates. The onboard new-generation BINS-SP-2M strapdown inertial navigation system, also developed by KRET, determines location of objects and provides navigation and flight data in the absence of satellite navigation.
The aircraft is also fitted with Leninetz Obzor-MS clam pipe navigation and attack pulse-doppler radar, and Mak-UT missile approach warning system infrared (MAWS). It can be upgraded with new equipment for improved reliability.
The SPS-160 Geran series jammer aboard the Tu-95MS bomber provides self-defence from guided missiles. The bomber’s aerodynamic design allows it to fly at high-speed at a safe altitude. Two large fairings are fitted on the wings to reduce the drag.
An electric defrost system is installed protect the canopy, tail propeller blades, pilots and leading edges of the wings. The onboard electronic countermeasures (ECM) also include Meteor-NM computer-controlled ECM system, APP-50 chaff / flare dispensers and Avtomatika SPO-32 / L150 digital warning receiver.
Propulsion and fuelling
The Tu-95MS combat aircraft is powered by four NK-12MP turboprop engines, driving one eight-bladed, counter-rotating AV-60N auto-feathering propeller each. Manufactured by Kuznetsov Design Bureau, the engine has a take-off power of 15,000bhp and a pressure ratio of 9.7.
Internal fuel capacity of the aircraft is 84t. Fuel is stored in four tanks integrated in the outer wings, two centre wing tanks, and in the central fuselage tank. An air-to-air refuelling probe is fixed on the nose.
Tu-95MS bomber performance
The engines provide a maximum speed of 830km/h, a cruise speed of 550km/h and a flight range of 10,500km. The range can be extended up to 14,100km with one flight refuelling. Take-off and landing rolls of the bomber are 2,540m and 1,700m respectively, and the service ceiling is 10,500m.