We reported about the crash of a Russian Tu-22M3 on January 22nd, 2019. The incident occurred while the jet was returning to Olenya Air Base in Russia's frigid Murmansk Oblast around 1:30pm Moscow time, with reports of poor weather possibly contributing to the incident that supposedly killed three crewmen. A horrific video has surfaced of the crash landing that supports this account.
The Tu-22M3 is seen approaching the runway at a high sink rate in very bad visibility conditions. The aircraft hit the landing area hard and fast on its main gear, stressing the airframe enough to snap the elongated structure connecting the cockpit and nose area to the fuselage. A fire is sparked at the point of the fissure and the nose, nose cone, and fuselage go flying down the runway separately. The cockpit section slides down the runway, nearly coming to a rest, just before the fuselage comes crashing down nearby, engulfing the wreckage in a huge fireball.
This incident, and another that occurred just four days before over the Sea of Japan, where a pair of Su-34s collided, killing at least two of the crewmen onboard, remain under investigation. The crashes come at a time of unprecedented Russian military aviation activity across its territory and especially in the Arctic region.
The Tu-22M3 Backfire works primarily as a maritime strike and bomber asset for the Russian military. An updated version is being produced under the Tu-22M3M designation that has almost all of its avionics upgraded along with other smaller enhancements. Roughly 30 out of 60 aircraft will receive this deep upgrade. The primary weapon of the Tu-22M3M is the Kh-32 high-supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. Largely referred to as 'carrier killers,' the Backfires continue to pose a standoff range threat to ships operating within hundreds of miles of their positions.
We will update this story as more information comes available.
Update: 5:30pm PST—
Russian officials claimed the Tu-22M was not armed when it crashed, but a close review of the video by IISS.org's Joseph Dempsey resulted in proof that a cruise missile form of some type was being carried under its wings:
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