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Russia attacking Ukraine from Belarus

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Tupolev bombers and X-22 missiles: Putin’s formula for attacking Ukraine from Belarus

The support of Belarus is being key for the resistance and the offensives ordered by Vladimir Putin on Ukraine. The Russian army has in that country a very important base of operations from where to execute attacks on Ukrainian soil, the last days especially focused on Kiev with the launching of missiles from the ground and from Tupolev bombers that the defenses sent by NATO are unable to repel.

Ukrainian military authorities announced a few days ago that “Russia resumed Iskander missile attacks from the territory of Belarus and, for the first time, used long-range Tu-22M3 bombers from Belarusian airspace. The enemy fired more than fifty X-22 missiles from Tupolev Tu-22M3 and Iskander and Tochka-U missiles located on the ground.”

The offensive is completed, according to the same military sources, with the firing of Kalibr type cruise missiles, a very specific model specially designed for deployment from marine environments and which has already demonstrated its potential over the last months.

Tupolev bomber

It was the early 1960s and the Cold War was setting the pace for military developments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with a special predilection for bomber aircraft. On the Soviet side, a recently introduced Tupolev T-22 was performing its first missions with an unsatisfactory result from the technological point of view.

The speed of the T-22 was 100 kilometers per hour higher than that of its immediate predecessor and the aerodynamics tended to crash the tail cone in this delicate maneuver. It also did not demonstrate great reliability in the first hours of flight and Tupolev’s own design bureau began work on an upgrade mandated by Moscow.

In little more than 5 years, they managed to design a replacement and the US intelligence services managed to photograph it for the first time in 1970, already under the name of Tupolev Tu-22M. The Tu-22M3 version first entered service in 1989 in the last stages of the Soviet Union and has subsequently formed the mainstay of the Russian Air Force.

The main differences of the Tu-22M3 with respect to the previous version are the incorporation of new, significantly more powerful engines, a more advanced radar and certain aerodynamic tweaks that manage to increase the maximum speed and range by 33%. Subsequently, they have been updated with new equipment such as flight computers, avionics, navigation systems…

Tupolev Tu 22M3M
Tupolev Tu-22M3, the Russian “carrier-killer” bomber Putin is using against Ukraine

Each bomber requires a crew of 4 people who are accommodated at the front of the aircraft. It is 42 meters long by 34 meters wingspan when the wings are fully deployed in low speed position. At higher speeds the wings fold back to form an arrow with the Tupolev fuselage, giving a wingspan of 23 meters.

The 126 tons maximum take-off weight is assisted by a pair of NK-25 jet engines -in the 22M3 version- that exert a thrust of 248 kN with the afterburner activated. It achieves a maximum speed close to 2 times the speed of sound corresponding to 2,000 kilometers per hour, according to the technical data sheets.

It can reach a flight ceiling of 13,000 meters with a combat range of 2,500 kilometers with a typical configuration of 10,000 kilograms of onboard armament. However, it can reach 6,000 kilometers without refueling.

Initially, it was designed for mid-air refueling by means of a lance in the nose of the aircraft, but was disinstalled due to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) conducted between the Soviet Union and the United States during the 1960s.

X-22 and Dagger missiles

“It should be noted that the X-22, Onyx and Iskander missiles are extremely difficult targets for the air defense systems used by the Ukrainian Air Force,” Ukrainian military officials noted in the wake of the latest Tu-22M3 attacks.

The X-22 is an anti-ship missile developed in the Soviet era that has been starring in some of the military’s deterrence and strike operations since 1962. It is also one of today’s Russia’s favorite nuclear platforms and has integration with Tupolev bombers.

Also known as Kh-22, it has an operational radius of 600 kilometers at an altitude of up to 27,000 meters. It has a liquid-fuel engine and employs an inertial guidance system and active radar for the terminal phase before reaching the target.

The Tupolev’s onboard weaponry is complemented by FAB-500 bombs, Kh-15 missiles and one of the latest additions: Kh-47M2 Kinzhal. The Kinzhal or Dagger is a hypersonic missile that the Kremlin has tested in the invasion of Ukraine, positioning itself as one of the most powerful weapons in the entire Russian arsenal.

It employs an engine specially designed to work at hypersonic speeds allowing it to penetrate current air defenses. It shares the propulsion system with the Iskander missile – another of the protagonists of recent days – and is designed to carry nuclear warheads, according to the Russian government agency TASS.

The technical specifications of the Dagger missile are one of the Kremlin’s best-kept secrets. Some reports indicate that it has a flight ceiling that reaches 400 kilometers in altitude, and is capable of traveling a distance of 3,000 kilometers at a speed of between 12,000 and 14,000 kilometers per hour.

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