On Friday, April 19, the Ukrainian Forces shot down a Russian long-range strategic bomber, the TU-22M3 (NATO: Backfire), for the first time. Kyiv Post sources confirm that it was an operation planned and executed by the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine (HUR).

The source said that an S-200 air defense system had been used to shoot down the Russian plane at about 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Ukraine.

According to Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of HUR, the long-range Russian bomber plane that was shot down was returning to its base after it had fired on the city of Odesa causing significant destruction to civil infrastructure. 

It had been part of a mass missile and drone attack that also included missile strikes that caused the death of 8 people including two children in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Illya Yevlash told AFP.

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According to the HUR, it had used the same type of air defense missile to bring down the Tu-22M3 aircraft, as they had to previously used against a Russian A-50 long-range radar and control aircraft. Despite the damage caused by the hit, the bomber attempted to return to its base before crashing in the Stavropol area.

“It should be noted that this is the first successful destruction of a strategic bomber in the air during a combat mission during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” the HUR said.

Earlier, the governor of Russia's Stavropol Territory confirmed that an airplane had crashed in a field in the Krasnogvardeysky District without causing any damage. His initial post said that the crew of the aircraft had ejected safely without injury.

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A video was widely shared on both Ukrainian and Russian social media showing the stricken bomber spinning as it fell to the ground:

According to a Russian Ministry of Defense statement the aircraft had crashed after it suffered a “technical malfunction” on its return after completing a combat mission. The announcement said there had been no munitions on board at the time of the crash.

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Russian media reported that two crew members were transferred to hospital. Search teams found a third airman who had died and were still looking for the fourth man who remained missing.

The Ukrainian air force said on its Telegram channel that this TU-22M3 had participated in an overnight Russian attack on Ukraine when 22 various types of missile and 14 Shahed attack drones had been used, of which all the drones and 15 of the missiles had been intercepted. It is likely that the aircraft had fired some of the Kh-22 cruise missiles.

The Tu-22M3 bomber

The Tupolev Tu-22M3 is a supersonic, variable-geometry winged, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the 1960s and upgraded between 1977 and 1993 with almost 270 being built. The aircraft have been one of those regularly used to attack Ukrainian cities with cruise missiles.

What is the S-200 air defense system?

The S-200 (NATO: SA-5 Gammon) is a long-range anti-aircraft missile system first developed in the USSR in the 1960s with a range of around 160 kilometers. The system has since undergone upgrades and modernization.

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The latest air defense versions are resistant to electronic jamming and intended to engage combat aircraft, cruise missiles, and drones at altitudes of 0.3-40 kilometers flying at over 4000 kph and at ranges of up to 300 kilometers.

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