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What Is Special About the Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber, And Why This Aircraft Is Chosen For Strikes On Ukraine

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rusia's Tu-95MS / Illustrative photo from open sources
rusia's Tu-95MS / Illustrative photo from open sources

And is it possible to estimate the real number of combat-capable strategic bombers russia has at its disposal

During the last few aerial missile attacks, russia used only Tu-95MS missile carriers, and did not launch more powerful Tu-160s, which is not really logical. At least because the Tu-160 can carry up to 12 Kh-555 or Kh-101 cruise missiles, and the Tu-95MS or up to 6 Kh-555 missiles on the internal suspension nodes, or up to 8 Kh-101 missiles on external suspension nodes.

Even if russians are guided by "saving the resource" motive for their newer Tu-160s, and want to complete the resource of the formally older Tu-95MS, the explanation is different. Because in the first few months of the war, russia used both the Tu-160 and the Tu-95MS for strikes on Ukraine with equal activity, and then nobody was interested in the issue of motor resources.

Read more: ​How Many Tu-95MS Aircraft Could Be Destroyed After the Second Attack on the Engels Airfield
What Is Special About the Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber, And Why This Aircraft Is Chosen For Strikes On Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The Tu-95MS arsenal: either up to 6 Kh-555 missiles on internal suspension nodes, or up to 8 Kh-101 missiles / Illustrative photo from open sources

It is quite likely that the explanation is the following: during the months-long campaign of missile strikes on Ukraine the Tu-95MS bomber proved to be much more reliable and easier to maintain than the Tu-160. Therefore, russians prefer to use the Tu-160 for demonstrative "actions of intimidation", and allcombat work such as joint flights with the strategic aviation of the People's Republic of China or shelling of Ukraine is "carried out" by the Tu-95MS.

This turboprop bomber is usually judged to be very old and ineffective. But firstly, the age of the aircraft is not always directly proportional to the efficiency, and this is shown by the example of the American B-52. And secondly, the Tu-95MS is actually not that old, its serial production took place from 1982 to August 1992. Accordingly, the "oldest" board is 40 years old, the "youngest" is 30 years. And it is actually not much more than in the Tu-160, the serial production of which took place in 1987-1992.

What Is Special About the Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber, And Why This Aircraft Is Chosen For Strikes On Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Refueling of the Tu-95MS in the air from the Il-78 / Illustrative photo from open sources

Indeed, serial production of the Tu-95 in the basic version started back in 1954, and service began in 1956. But between the "basic" Tu-95 and the Tu-95MS there are 30 years of production and various improvements, about 10 serial modifications and several more derivatives: the passenger Tu-114, the Tu-126 radar surveillance aircraft and the anti-submarine Tu-142.

What Is Special About the Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber, And Why This Aircraft Is Chosen For Strikes On Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
russia's Tu-95MS / Illustrative photo from open sources

Three decades were enough for the Soviet military-industrial complex to bring the level of ergonomics for the crew and the reliability of on-board units on the Tu-95MS to an acceptable level. That is why, for example, in the 1990s, russians even stole more than 10 of these aircraft in Kazakhstan and "extracted" four of the same bombers from Ukraine "in exchange" on gas, but the Tu-95 of older modifications (for example, the Tu-95K-22, the carrier of the Kh-22 missiles) were disassembled without regret, in order to "save resources".

What Is Special About the Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber, And Why This Aircraft Is Chosen For Strikes On Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
russia's Tu-95MS / Illustrative photo from open sources

The Military Balance 2022 indicates that at the end of last year, russians had 60 Tu-95MS aircraft at their disposal. But it seems that the real number of combat-capable bombers of this type is significantly less.

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