For the First Time russia Loses Tu-95MS in Combat: Satellite Imagery of the Engels Air Base

Tu-95MS / Open source illustrative photo
Tu-95MS / Open source illustrative photo

The loss of even a single Tu-95MS is a painful blow for the russian army, as it has only 60 such aircraft, though it's difficult to say how many of them are in operational state

The Tu-95MS heavy bomber which is the main aircraft of russian strategic aviation was hit in a military campaign for the first time ever. On the web, there are already high-resolution satellite images of the Engels Air Base in russia after it suffered an explosion on December 5.

The satellite photos clearly show a Tu-95 covered in fire extinguisher foam: it indicates the plane caught fire in the incident. In fact, it is not the first damage this particular board got in combat.

Read more: Satellite Photos with Damaged russian Tu-95 Strategic Bomber Appeared in Network
russian Tu-95MS damaged
The satellite image was published by @SarahHa42 on Twitter

Based on this image alone, it is difficult to assess whether the fire managed to put the bomber out of order. In this context, we should recall how on February 26, 2013, a Tu-95MS with board number 21 "red" caught fire. The reason was a short circuit due to improper installation of electrical networks during repairs.

That time, the plane was not entirely on fire, and the bomber looked not like it had been severely damaged on the surface, however, it was destroyed by the fire. The condition was irreparable, so the remnants of the Tu-95MS were discarded.

russian Tu-95MS, board number 21
russian Tu-95MS, board number 21 "red", destroyed by fire in 2013 / Archive photo

On the other hand, in November 2016, at the russian Far East "Ukrainka" Air Base, the engine of an unidentified Tu-95MS caught fire. Despite the looks telling of a more destructive fire, some reports said the aircraft was repaired afterwards.

That is why a photo, especially a satellite one, cannot be indicative of the real condition of this aircraft. Although it will definitely go to repair hangars for a while anyway; so it's fair to be considered one of the russian aerospace forces' combat losses since it was put out of order, regardless of whether it can be repaired or not and how long the repair would take. Most importantly, it can no longer take part in air strikes launching Kh-101 and other missiles on Ukrainian territory.

Here we should also note that prior to the strike, this bomber was operational, as we can see the traces of movements on the airfield in the satellite photos made at different times before the explosion at Engels base.

The satellite image by @SarahHa42 on Twitter

Also, a sharp eye can spot another detail, which is the Tu-95 with the extremities of its wings cut away. It is neither a result of the incident nor some desperate "cannibalism" for spare parts at the air base caused by recent events. The plane's been remaining in such a state since 2019.

russian disassembled Tu-95
Satellite imagery by Maxar, Google Earth

Finally, we must say any loss of a Tu-95MS is painful for the russian aerospace forces. According to The Military Balance, as of the end of 2021, russia had only 60 aircraft of this type, how many of them can actually take off is unknown though.

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