Saturday, December 22, 2007

Russian Strategic Aviation - An Imagery Overview

INTRODUCTION

One of the primary missions of the Russian Air Force is that of strategic warfighting. To that end, there are various facilities and aircraft around the nation performing a variety of roles in support of the strategic warfighting mission. While there have been drawdowns and force reductions in recent years, the Russian military still maintains a very robust, capable, and varied strategic warfighting air arm.

AIRCRAFT

Russian strategic air assets fall into two categories: offensive and defensive. The offensive component consists of Tupolev bombers, primarily the Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE-C theater bomber and the Tu-95MS BEAR-H and Tu-160 BLACKJACK strategic missile carriers. The defensive component consists of MiG-31 FOXHOUND interceptors and Beriev A-50 MAINSTAY AEW&C platforms. A handful of Ilyushin Il-78 MIDAS aerial refueling platforms are also in service, primarily tasked with supporting the strategic aviation fleet.

Command and control assets such as the Il-86 CAMBER are also used to support strategic warfighting, but are not within the scope of this article. These assets are based at Moscow-Sheremetyevo.

Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE-C (Visible force: 171 aircraft)
The Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE-C is the primary theater strike aircraft for the Russian military. The Tu-22M3 is employed by both Long Range Aviation and the AV-MF. AV-MF aircraft are primarily tasked in an anti-shipping role. Both air arms employ the Kh-22 (AS-4 KITCHEN) standoff nuclear missile as the BACKFIRE-C's primary armament. Kh-15 (AS-16 KICKBACK) hypersonic strike missiles can also be employed, as well as unguided gravity bombs of various sizes.

Tu-95MS BEAR-H (Visible force: 39 aircraft)
The elderly Tu-95 remains one of Russia's most important combat assets. The Tu-95MS variant is employed as a cruise missile carrier, equipped with an internal rotary launcher for six Kh-55 (AS-15 KENT) ALCMs. Initially, the Tu-95MS was available in two versions, the Tu-95MS-6 and the Tu-95MS-16. The Tu-95MS-6 was armed with the internal rotary launcher, while the Tu-95MS-16 added two hardpoints under each wing allowing for the external carriage of a further ten Kh-55s. In accordance with the START agreement, the external carriage capability was removed, essentially resulting in a force of only Tu-95MS-6 variants. At least one Tu-95MS airframe has been active at Zhukovskiy as the Tu-95MA, being responsible for advanced weapons trials. This aircraft was responsible for launching the Kh-80 Meteorit supersonic ALCMs before that program was cancelled due to development problems.

Tu-160 BLACKJACK (Visible force: 16 aircraft)
The Tu-160 BLACKJACK remains the largest combat aircraft in the world. Approximately 25% larger than it's Western counterpart, the B-1B, the Tu-160 is a supersonic, intercontinental-range cruise missile carrier. Two internal rotary launchers allow for the carriage of twelve Kh-55 ALCMs. The USSR had planned on acquiring 100 Tu-160s, but the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union resulted in only a fraction of that number being completed, with 19 aircraft at Priluki AB being taken over by the Ukraine after the breakup. Eight Ukrainian aircraft eventually joined the six operational Russian examples at Engels AB via a debt repayment agreement, with a further aircraft being completed at the Kazan factory. Two or three other aircraft will still be completed at Kazan, and will join the operational fleet, along with two refurbished examples taken from the Tupolev test fleet at Zhukovskiy, one of which was delivered to Engels last year. One operational Tu-160 has been lost, leaving Russia with an eventual fleet of 18 or 19 aircraft, and a current strength of 15 aircraft.

MiG-31 FOXHOUND (Visible force: 213 aircraft)
The MiG-31 FOXHOUND is a strategic interceptor tasked with defending Russia's vast airspace from inbound strategic bombers, cruise missiles, or reconnaissance aircraft. The MiG-31's primary weapon is the R-33S (AA-9 AMOS B) long-range AAM. The R-33S, a SARH weapon, is an improved version of the initial R-33 (AMOS A). The R-33S was developed alongisde an avionics upgrade for the MiG-31 as a response to American espionage which compromised the initial systems, and has a maximum range of 160 kilometers. Three versions of the MiG-31 are presently fielded: the baseline MiG-31,the improved MiG-31B which added IFR capability, and the MiG-31BS, which is a MiG-31 upgraded to MiG-31B standard. Upgrades and overhauls are performed at the factory at Nizhny Novgorod.

A-50 MAINSTAY (Visible force: 19 aircraft)
Beriev's A-50 MAINSTAY is an AEW&C conversion of the Ilyushin Il-76 CANDID transport. Incorporating a Shmel' radar system in a rotodome above the rear fuselage, the A-50 is the airborne early warning component of the strategic defense network.

Il-78 MIDAS (Visible force: 19 aircraft)
The Il-78 MIDAS is an in-flight refueling tanker based on the Il-76 CANDID transport. Russia's Il-78 force is primarily tasked to support strategic aviation due to the small size of the fleet; when the USSR broke up, a good deal of the in-service Il-78s were in the Ukraine. Two versions exist, the Il-78 and Il-78M. The Il-78 is a single-point refueling platform incorporating a drogue system in the rear fuselage. The Il-78M is a three-point refueling platform, adding two additional drogues under the outer wings.

PRIMARY FACILITIES

Strategic aviation facilities are described in the following manner:
-Name (strategic aircraft assigned)
-Any relevant details in brief
-Location, in the form of geographic coordinates
-Visible ORBAT as of 20 December 2007; if the site is in low resolution, that is annotated and no visible ORBAT is listed
-Defenses are listed in the form of nearby SAM sites whose range rings overlap the airfield in question

Alekseyevka (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 49°14'09.85"N 140°11'31.40"E
-Visible ORBAT: 16 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Alekseyevka AB:
The following image depicts the Tu-22M3 parking area:
Bolshoye Savino (MiG-31)
-Location: 57°55'00.16"N 56°01'36.45"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

Engels (Tu-95MS, Tu-160)
-Location: 51°28'47.26"N 46°12'49.45"E
-Visible ORBAT: 13 Tu-95MS, 12 Tu-160
-Defenses: S-300P garrison 7 kilometers SSW

The following image depicts Engels AB:
The following image depicts the main parking ramp:
The following image depicts the north end of the parking ramp:
The following image depicts the eastern parking area:
Irkutsk Belaya (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 52°54'53.26"N 103°34'31.77"E
-Visible ORBAT: 26 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: S-300PM site 61 kilometers SSE

The following image depicts Irkutsk Belaya AB:
The following image depicts the Tu-22M3 parking area:
The following image depicts 2 Tu-22M3s in a possible maintenance area:
Ivanovo (A-50)
-Location: 57°03'28.62"N 40°58'51.91"E
-Visible ORBAT: 17 A-50
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Ivanovo AB:
The following image depicts the northern parking ramp:
The following image depicts the southern parking ramp:
Kansk (MiG-31)
-Location: 56°07'30.08"N 95°39'56.31"E
-Visible ORBAT: 27 MiG-31
-Defenses: S-300P garrison 49 kilometers W

The following image depicts Kansk AB:
The following image depicts the northeast parking area:
The following image depicts the southwest parking area:
The following image depicts five MiG-31s in a possible maintenance area:
Khotilovo (MiG-31)
-Location: 57°39'19.05"N 34°05'56.13"E
-Visible ORBAT: 15 MiG-31
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Khotilovo AB, apparently undergoing runway repairs:
The following image depicts the north parking area:
The following image depicts the central parking area:
Kotlas (MiG-31)
-Location: 60°59'42.35"N 46°52'04.65"E
-Visible ORBAT: 30 MiG-31
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Kotlas AB:
The following image depicts the north parking area:
The following image depicts the central parking area:
The following image depicts the south parking area:
The following image depicts two MiG-31s on a possible alert parking ramp:
The following image depicts a MiG-31 in a possible maintenance area:
Morshansk (MiG-31)
-Location: 53°26'18.15"N 41°44'13.72"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

Olenegorsk (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 68°09'06.94"N 33°27'55.42"E
-Visible ORBAT: 38 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: S-300PM-1 site 7 kilometers NW, S-300PM-1 site 99 kilometers N, S-300PM-1 site 119 kilometers N

The following image depicts Olenegorsk AB:
The following image depicts the northern parking area:
The following image depicts the southern parking area:
Omsk (MiG-31)
-Location: 54°58'25.86"N 73°33'20.49"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

Ostrov (Tu-22M3)
-Ostrov is home to the Tu-22M3 training unit.
-Location: 57°17'52.27"N 28°26'01.01"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

Petropavlovsk-Yelizovo (MiG-31)
-Location: 53°10'10.91"N 158°27'13.98"E
-Visible ORBAT: 29 MiG-31
-Defenses: S-300PM site 5.4 kilometers SW, S-300PM site 24 kilometers ESE, S-300PM site 25.5 kilometers S

The following image depicts Petropavlovsk-Yelizovo AB:
The following image depicts the northern parking area:
The following image depicts the southern parking area:
The following image depicts five MiG-31s in a possible maintenance area:
Ryazan (Il-78, Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS)
-Ryazan is home to the Tu-95MS training unit.
-Location: 54°38'44.53"N 39°34'18.49"E
-Visible ORBAT: 19 Il-78, 11 Tu-22M3, 9 Tu-95MS
-Defenses: S-300PM-1 site 130 kilometers NW

The following image depicts Ryazan AB:
The following image depicts the southwestern parking area:
The following image depicts the central parking area:
The following image depicts the northeastern parking area:
Sandagou (MiG-31)
-Location: 44°05'04.91"N 133°52'05.85"E
-Visible ORBAT: 20 MiG-31
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Sandagou AB:
The following image depicts the northwest parking area:
The following image depicts the northeast parking area:
The following image depicts two MiG-31s in a possible maintenance area:
Savasleyka (MiG-31)
-Savasleyka is home to the training unit for the MiG-31 fleet.
-Location: 55°26'30.13"N 42°18'42.75"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

Shaykovka (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 54°13'32.20"N 34°22'10.00"E
-Visible ORBAT: 25 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Shaykovka AB:
The following image depicts the southwestern parking area:
The following image depicts the southeastern parking area and a probable maintenance area:
-Soltsy (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 58°08'21.85"N 30°19'46.96"E
-Visible ORBAT: 20 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Soltsy AB:
The following image depicts the parking area:
Ukrainka (Tu-95MS)
-Location: 51°09'56.97"N 128°26'52.51"E
-Visible ORBAT: 16 Tu-95MS (airfield is partly low resolution)
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Ukrainka AB:
The following image depicts the visible parking area:
Ussuriysk (Tu-22M3)
-Location: 43°54'25.82"N 131°55'29.31"E
-Visible ORBAT: 27 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: S-300PM site 60 kilometers S

The following image depicts Ussuriysk AB:
The following image depicts the northern parking area:
The following image depicts the southern parking area:

STAGING FACILITIES

These locations are arctic air bases used to forward-deploy strategic aviation assets.

Anadyr
-Location: 64°44'08.67"N 177°44'34.02"E
-Visible ORBAT: None
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Anadyr AB:
Lakhta
-Lakhta AB is primarily used to support Tu-22M3 deployments.
-Location: 64°22'52.77"N 40°43'19.86"E
-Visible ORBAT: 2 Tu-22M3
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Lakhta AB:
The following image depicts the active parking ramp:
Tiksi
-Location: 71°41'51.07"N 128°54'12.69"E
-Visible ORBAT: None
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Tiksi AB:
Vorkuta East
-Location: 67°27'51.86"N 64°18'27.20"E
-Visible ORBAT: None (low resolution)
-Defenses: None

SUPPORT FACILITIES

These facilities provide a support role to the strategic aviation element.

Kazan
-Kazan is the location of the assembly halls which built the Tu-160, Tu-95, and Tu-22M3. Tu-160 airframes are still being completed here, and refurbishment work on Tu-95, Tu-160, and Tu-22M3 airframes is also conducted here.
-Location: 55°52'00.46"N 49°07'50.89"E
-Visible ORBAT: 1 Tu-160, 6 Tu-22M3

The following image depicts Kazan Airfield:
The following image depicts the parking area:
Nizhny Novgorod
-Nizhny Novgorod is the former location of the MiG-31 assembly line. MiG-31s are stored here as they await upgrade and/or refurbishment and a return to active service.
-Location: 56°19'09.49"N 43°47'55.64"E
-Visible ORBAT: 15 MiG-31

The following image depicts Nizhny Novgorod Airfield:
The following image depicts the western parking area:
The following image depicts the central parking area:
The following image depicts the eastern parking area:
Rzhev (MiG-31)
-Rzhev is a depot-level maintenance facility for the MiG-31 fleet. Many MiG-31s are stored here after being removed from service.
-Location: 56°15'34.72"N 34°24'31.07"E
-Visible ORBAT: 77 MiG-31
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Rzhev AB:
The following image depicts the western parking area:
The following image depicts the eastern parking area:
The following image depicts a MiG-31 taxiing out to the main runway:
Staraya Russa (A-50)
-Staraya Russa is a depot-level maintenance facility which serves various aircraft types, including the A-50.
-Location: 57°57'40.06"N 31°23'02.97"E
-Visible ORBAT: 2 A-50
-Defenses: None

The following image depicts Staraya Russa AB:
The following image depicts the parking area:
Zhukovskiy
-Zhukovskiy is the home of the primary flight test center for the Russian air forces. Each OKB maintains a flight test facility at Zhukovskiy for initial flight trials of prototype aircraft.
-Location: 55°33'11.07"N 38°08'57.53"E
-Visible ORBAT: 1 Tu-95, 3 Tu-160; 1 Tu-95 and 1 Tu-160 are present on the airfield but are in reality operational aircraft from Engels AB flown in for the 2007 Moscow Airshow.

The following image depicts Zhukovskiy AB:
The following image depicts the Tupolev OKB area at Zhukovskiy:

COMBAT PERFORMANCE

In order to fully appreciate the capability and reach of Russia's strategic air arm, the following images are provided depicting the combat radii of different aircraft types.

Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE-C
-The Tu-22M3 has a combat radius of 2,200 kilometers.

The following image depicts the coverage area of the Tu-22M3 in western Russia:
The following image depicts the coverage area of the Tu-22M3 in eastern Russia:
Tu-95MS BEAR-H
-The Tu-95MS has a maximum unrefueled range of 10,500 kilometers with six Kh-55SM ALCMs. Combat radius is notionally calculated at 5,000 kilometers. Bear in mind that range and/or endurance can be increased with in-flight refueling.

The following image depicts North America. Given that the Tu-95MS is a strategic weapons platform, two range depictions are given. Orange lines depict the radius of the Tu-95MS from the three primary BEAR-H airfields, showing the closest points of approach to North America. Red lines depict the inland reach of the 3,000 kilometer range Kh-55SM ALCM. Bear in mind that the inland reach of the Kh-55SM can be increased by forward deploying the Tu-95MS to one of the three Arctic staging bases:
Tu-160 BLACKJACK
-The Tu-160 has a maximum unrefueled range of 12,300 kilometers with twelve Kh-55SM ALCMs. Combat radius is notionally calculated at 6,000 kilometers. Bear in mind that range and/or endurance can be increased with in-flight refueling.

The following image depicts North America. Given that the Tu-160 is a strategic weapons platform, two range depictions are given. The Orange line depicts the radius of the Tu-160 from Engels AB, showing the closest points of approach to North America. The red line depicts the inland reach of the 3,000 kilometer range Kh-55SM ALCM. Bear in mind that the inland reach of the Kh-55SM can be increased by forward deploying the Tu-160 to one of the three Arctic staging bases:
MiG-31 FOXHOUND
-The MiG-31 has a combat radius with no external fuel of 1250 kilometers at Mach 0.8, or 720 kilometers at Mach 2.35. Bear in mind that range and/or endurance can be increased with in-flight refueling.

The following image depicts the coverage area of MiG-31 interceptors in western and central Russia, based on the subsonic 1250 kilometer combat radius:
The following image depicts the coverage area of MiG-31 interceptors in eastern Russia, based on the subsonic 1250 kilometer combat radius:

SOURCES

Satellite imagery is provided courtesy of Google Earth.

The following books were consulted:
-Mikoyan MiG-31 (Famous Russian Aircraft series), by Yefim Gordon
-Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, by Pavel Podvig
-Tupolev Tu-160 BLACKJACK (Red Star Series #9), by Yefim Gordon

-This article was updated on 22 December 2007 to account for newly available and updated overhead imagery; Dolinsk-Sokol and Morshansk were removed from the list of active MiG-31 bases as they have been found to have no aircraft present, airfield imagery has been updated in numerous places, and orders of battle have been updated accordingly.

7 comments:

Wengkius said...

I was looking at Alekseyevka AB. Apart from the Backfires, there appears to be 12 Bears parked on the apron, taxiway and several dispersals. Imagery updated perhaps?

Sean O'Connor said...

Those should be AV-MF Tu-142s, not DA Tu-95MSs, so I didn't include them. You can see one of them in the upper portion of the ramp image I posted.

borisglebsk@yahoo.com said...

Since when do MiG-31 belong to the DA?

Sean O'Connor said...

They don't. They are however strategic interceptors, which is why I included them in my article on Russian Strategic Aviation. I didn't mean to imply that the focus was on the DA only, or that all of the aircraft mentioned were part of the DA.

ELP said...

Great work !

T said...

Great work indeed. Much appreciated

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Interesting review of the Russian Air Bases. As one can see the layouts and quality of the bases are somehow low.