Well, this is an interesting one! Russia's Zvezda military channel on YouTube posted a teaser video for its upcoming special on the Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot close air support attack jet. In it there is a clip showing a Frogfoot's weapon system engaging a Tu-16 Badger bomber with one of its 9A4172 Vikhr anti-armor missiles. These weapons are usually used to kill tanks and take out other ground vehicles and targets, not for taking down strategic bombers, which makes this video especially fascinating and remarkably spectacular.
The Vikhr missile is a relatively high-speed weapon that is traditionally mounted in packs of six or eight, mainly on KA-50 attack helicopters and Su-25 attack jets. It primarily uses 'beam riding' guidance via a laser designator that works in conjunction with television and infrared camera systems mounted in the nose of the aircraft. This combination allows the aircraft to make precision attacks on moving targets during both day and night.
Like some other anti-armor missiles, Vikhr does have a secondary anti-air capability. For most of these types of weapons, this mode is usually reserved for slow and low-flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, not lumbering nuclear-capable bombers. Vikhr's extended range, out to nearly seven miles, and its high-speed, allows it to engage a bit faster aircraft under certain circumstances and specific engagement geometry. In this case, the bomber turned drone in question was configured with its flaps and gear down, so the flight profile was likely used to mimic a larger aircraft on approach to landing or early on during departure, where it is most vulnerable. Still, it seems like an odd and remarkably elaborate test to prove such a niche capability.
Seeing the lumbering bomber get absolutely decimated by the Vikhr's high-explosive anti-tank warhead is a sight to behold. The video does prove just how vulnerable such an aircraft is during its terminal phases of flight to a Su-25 or KA-50 ambush using Vikhr missiles, but these slower-flying attack aircraft would have to be the very unique position to spring such a trap in the first place. Such a target could potentially present itself opportunistically, as well.
Using laser-guided air-to-ground projectiles in an air-to-air role is not a dead idea by any means. The Air Force just pitted an F-16 equipped with laser-guided rockets against an aerial drone. The concept could greatly enhance the magazine depth and flexibility of American and allied fast jets, especially those flying air sovereignty or other counter-air missions against lower-end threats.
Regardless, the test shown in the video was well worth it because it provided us with a crazy video of a Badger taking a Vikhr to the rear left engine and wing-root, sending the bomber tumbling and consequently disintegrating in spectacular fashion as a result.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com