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​How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield

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Tu-95MS of the russian Aerospace Force at the Engels Air Base
Tu-95MS of the russian Aerospace Force at the Engels Air Base

Satellite images of the russian strategic air base Engels, where the Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic heavy bombers are based, are available only in the radar range becose of a dense cloudiness in the area, but they can also tell a lot

The first unconfirmed information about the losses of russians at the Engels air base of the Russian strategic aviation has already appeared. In particular, according to activist and journalist Volodymyr Zolkin, who is known for numerous videos with captured russians, five Tu-95MS aircraft were damaged at once, 17 Russians died, another 26 were injured, three of them were in serious condition, as well as the "control tower" was destroyed as a result of the explosions on December 26.

He also noted that the source of information is quite reliable, but there are no satellite or other images that could confirm or refute this information.

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The latter is quite natural, because there has been dense cloudiness at the level of more than 95% over Engels for many days. And so far, there is no chance that visibility will improve. In particular, the Sentinel-3 satellite image taken at 9:00 a.m. Kyiv time shows this kind of "milk".

Satellite image of the Engels Air Base area from December 27 - cloudy (Sentinel-3), How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield, Defense Express
Satellite image of the Engels Air Base area from December 27 - cloudy (Sentinel-3)

In this situation, only a SAR satellite can help, in particular, the scientific and public Sentinel-1, which takes pictures in the radar range, thanks to which it is possible to "see" in any weather conditions and time of day. But it is unlikely that SAR images will allow us to see such details as damage to the aircraft, unless of course they are total.

The last publicly available image in the SAR range was taken by Sentinel-1 on December 26 at 5 a.m. Kyiv time (7 a.m. Saratov time).

Satellite image of the Engels Air Base in the SAR range from December 26 after the explosions (Sentinel-1), How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield, Defense Express
Satellite image of the Engels Air Base in the SAR range from December 26 after the explosions (Sentinel-1)

This picture was taken after explosions rang out at the airfield at 2:35 am (local time).

It should be noted that the analysis of a SAR image is many times more complicated than the usual - optical one. On it, it is possible to see several dozen radio-contrast objects that are located on the platforms and steering tracks of the air base, which we have additionally highlighted in red.

The extremely low resolution of these public scientific images does not allow even approximate identification of these objects. But the saving grace is that we are talking about planes with a wingspan of 50 meters. For convenience, we have superimposed contours from an old satellite image from August in the optical range.

An optical image is superimposed on the SAR one for convenience, they are not time-synchronized, How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield,  Defense Express
An optical image is superimposed on the SAR one for convenience, they are not time-synchronized

Now it becomes more clearly visible the high activity on the northern part of the airfield for planes where it is possible to find 12-14 objects that look like strategic bombers. Along with several large objects, there are other - smaller ones, which may indicate that there are some vehicles next to the planes. These can be both fire engines and full-time refuelers or other vehicles used in preparing aircraft for takeoff.

An optical image is superimposed on the SAR image for convenience - they are not synchronized in time, How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield,  Defense Express
An optical image is superimposed on the SAR image for convenience - they are not synchronized in time

Thus, it is possible to state that at the time of the explosions at Engels airfield on December 26, there were a significant number of planes that, it seems, were preparing for departure. In view of this, the damage to five strategic Russian bombers, which is referred to in today's reports, looks realistic.

And the information about the simultaneous damage to the aircraft and the "control tower" may indicate the theoretical possibility of damage to the site where the bombers were loaded with cruise missiles. The detonation of the cruise missiles could have caused such consequences.

In any case, we are waiting for clear weather over Engels Air Force Base in order to acquire satellite images in the optical range and analyze them too.

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