How Ukraine destroyed the Tu-22M3 during a massive Russian attack

Photo author, Russian Ministry of Defense

Photo caption: The Russians are preparing one of the Tu-22M3s for takeoff.

April 19, 2024

The Ukrainian military announced that on April 19 they managed to shoot down a Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber for the first time. This is the carrier of Kh-22 cruise missiles, with which it could attack Ukrainian cities even today, during another massive strike.

This time, for the first time, the military managed to destroy both the Tu-22M3 and two Kh-22 cruise missiles.

It was a joint operation of military intelligence and the Air Force, the GUR reported. There they published a video, apparently from the headquarters at the time of the alleged downing of the plane.

“It was a kind of vendetta for the fact that Russian strategic aviation attacked our peaceful cities today, where civilians died,” Air Force spokesman Ilya Yevlash said on Radio Svoboda.

“This is a combo. Today is a rainy day in the Russian propaganda media. I think they will be very, very unhappy there today. Everything happens for the first time. We shot down Dagger for the first time, and Zircon for the first time. Now, for the first time, we shot down Tu- 22. Well, we are now waiting for the Tu-95,” the spokesman added.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has another version – the Tu-22M3 missile carrier “crashed after a combat mission.” According to their preliminary data, the cause of the fall could be a “technical malfunction”.

The author of the photo, screenshots from social networks

Photo caption: A video from social networks shows the rapid fall of the Tu-22M3

The Russians say that the plane crashed in the Stavropol region in a deserted area, there is no destruction on the ground and there was apparently no ammunition on board the Tu-22MZ.

“The pilots ejected, three crew members have already been found, the search for one more pilot continues,” the Russian agency says.

The Russian agency “RIA Novosti”, referring to the governor, writes that at least one pilot died.

Photo author, Russian Ministry of Defense

Photo caption Russian Tu-22 on the runway

What managed to shoot down the plane?

The GUR claims that the Tu-22MZ was shot down at a distance of about 300 kilometers from Ukraine “by the same means that were used to shoot down the Russian A-50 long-range radar detection and control aircraft.”

The bomber was able to fly to the Stavropol region, where it later fell and crashed.

It is still not known exactly what exactly the Ukrainian military shot down a valuable A-50 aircraft in February 2024. In that February, Ukraine managed to shoot down a total of 13 Russian planes.

Sources in the Defense Forces told the RBC-Ukraine publication that the Tu-22M3 was shot down from the S-200 complex, which was apparently modified by GUR specialists.

Analysis of Russian and Ukrainian versions

Ilya Abishev, military columnist of the BBC

From the village of Bogomolov in the Stavropol Territory of the Russian Federation, where the Russian Tu-22M3 fell, it is almost 400 km to the nearest point on the front line in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense of Russia calls the cause of the plane’s crash a technical malfunction.

The GUR of Ukraine claims that the bomber was shot down “by the same means that were used to shoot down” the Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft over the Krasnodar Territory.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, the Tu-22M3 was shot down at a distance of about 300 kilometers from Ukraine (probably meaning the line of contact), it was able to fly to the Stavropol Territory and crashed there.

Theoretically, this is possible. The armed forces of the Armed Forces have an air defense system that is technically capable of firing at a distance of 300 km — the Soviet-developed S-200D “Dubna”.

The maximum range of the Kh-22 missiles, which the Russian Tu-22M3s launch over Ukraine, is 600 km. They also have low accuracy, so it can be assumed that the bomber pilot was trying to get as close as possible to the target.

But this ends the arguments in favor of the version of the GUR of Ukraine. There are more arguments against.

The deployment time of the S-200 system is 19 hours, and it must be done near the front line. Is it possible to deploy such a valuable anti-aircraft missile defense system in the area of ​​fierce battles for almost a day, imperceptibly for the enemy, is a big question.

The A-50, which the GUR of Ukraine says, fell in the Krasnodar region 230 km from the front line. In this case, it can still be assumed that it was shot down by a S-200 missile at the limit range (which is very difficult and possible only under favorable conditions for an attack). But 400 km in the case of the Tu-22M3 is too far.

The warhead of the S-200 missile is high-explosive and very powerful. Damage to the aircraft by numerous fragments of this missile usually leads to a complete failure of the control systems, after which it is practically impossible to turn around and fly another 100-200 km.

The video from the scene shows that the Tu-22M3 falls to the ground in a flat corkscrew, its right engine is on fire. An engine fire is a frequent occurrence due to a technical malfunction. It can be caused by a missile hit from a portable anti-aircraft system or a collision with a bird, but this is unlikely, since such vessels fly at a high altitude.

In addition to these assumptions, there is also the “friendly fire” version, as well as the possibility of Ukraine’s use of new air defense means that were not advertised before. It is noteworthy that on Friday, for the first time during the war, the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported two downed Kh-22 supersonic missiles fired from a Tu-22M3.

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