In light of Russia’s continued use of its strategic bombers, including the Tu-95 and Tu-160, to launch conventional resistance strikes against Ukraine, satellite images have revealed an unexpected increase in these bombers in northern Russia near the NATO border.

The Barents reported that a new set of satellite images of the Olenya airbase on Russia’s Kola Peninsula has revealed that some 16 strategic bombers have been deployed to this airbase near NATO countries Finland and Norway. The airbase is located in the closed city of Olenegorsk-2, an hour’s drive south of Murmansk.

The base currently houses 14 Tu-5 bombers, two Tu-160 bombers and two Tu-22M bombers, and other heavy transport aircraft, as seen on satellite images.

Two Tu-160s are located at the southern end, while on the other platforms, large enough for heavier aircraft, you can see 14 Tu-95s positioned side by side. The Tu-22M aircraft are relocated to the northwest parking areas of the airbase.

The revelations come as various reports have indicated that Russia was launching attacks on Ukraine with its bombers from the Murmansk region on the Kola Peninsula.

Over the past week, a high-frequency radio observer monitoring the operations of Russia’s strategic aviation forces has recorded almost daily flights from the Olenya airbase. These are combat missions firing at targets in Ukraine and training flights over the Murmansk region.

The bombers have typically been deployed to carry out isolated missile attacks on Ukraine from within Russian airspace. The Tu-160 can carry up to 12 cruise missiles of the Kh-55 series or the same number of the more modern Kh-101/102 variants. The Tu-95MS can carry eight Kh-101/102 or 16 Kh-55.

Previously, the runway at Olenya airbase was used by a small fleet of outdated Tu-22M supersonic bombers, a few MiG-31 interceptors and a few An-12 military transport planes. However, with the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the airbase has been used for advanced deployment and launching attacks against Ukraine.

Russian Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers deployed near the NATO border.

It is not the first time that the presence of strategic bombers has increased at an air base. In December last year, the Engels airbase in Russia’s Saratov region experienced a surge in these bombers, foreshadowing a massive air raid.

However, shortly thereafter, the two Russian airbases (Engels Airbase and Dyagilevo Airbase) hosting these bombers came under an unprecedented drone strike. This has also been seen as a possible reason for Russia to move its bombers far to the northern part of the country, where Ukrainian drones or missiles cannot reach them.

Russian Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers deployed near the NATO border.

Russian bombers moved to a safe place.

In the early morning of December 5, two Russian airbases housing its Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers were attacked by a Tu-141 Stizh drone, allegedly modified and sent by Ukrainian troops to carry out this High airstrike value.

Although the Kyiv authorities never claimed responsibility for the attack, they did make statements insinuating that it was their “master plan.”

In the first demonstration of Ukraine’s long-range strike capability, the drone traveled hundreds of kilometers from the Ukrainian borders to the Russian regions of Saratov and Ryazan. 

The incident resulted in the loss of a Tu-95, which was sent to the repair hangars. The attack was a major setback for Moscow.

Most importantly, however, it exposed the vulnerability of Russian air defenses, in particular the Engels airbase.

Sakshi Tiwari