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British Army Intel Confirms Ukraine's First Shot Down of Russian Tu-22M3 Bomber with S-200 Missile

According to information released on April 20, 2024, by the British Army Intelligence Services, the Ukrainian Air Defense shot down a Russian Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE C strategic bomber on April 19, 2024, employing a Soviet-era S-200 (NATO code named SA-5 Gammon) air defense missile system. This significant event marks the first time Ukrainian forces have successfully downed a Russian strategic bomber, highlighting a critical enhancement in their defensive capabilities against Russian aerial assaults.
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A video published on social media shows a Russian Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE C bomber burning and falling towards the ground. (Picture source Social Network)

Citing information from the British Army Intelligence services, the incident occurred as Russia executed airstrikes targeting southern Ukraine using the Tu-22M3 bombers. The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine swiftly responded by deploying the S-200 air defense missile system (NATO codename SA-5 Gammon), which effectively neutralized one of the bombers. Subsequent online footage captured the crippled aircraft spiraling uncontrollably before crashing into an open field.

The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed the loss of the bomber, stating that a search and rescue mission for the crew was in progress. However, Russian officials have not acknowledged the shoot-down as a direct result of Ukrainian air defense actions. This downing is viewed by military analysts as a potent demonstration of Ukraine's growing capacity to counter advanced aerial threats, leveraging legacy defense systems with lethal efficiency.

The S-200, a long-range surface-to-air missile system developed in the 1960s, previously demonstrated its capability by downing a Russian A-50 MAINSTAY surveillance aircraft in February 2024. This system's successful re-application underscores Ukraine's strategic utilization of available resources to fortify its airspace against sophisticated aircraft.

The S-200 air defense missile system, also known as SA-5 Gammon, uses a single-shot rail launch system that is part of a larger, integrated defense setup. This system includes a missile launcher unit which is transportable, although it does not offer the same mobility as more modern systems. Each missile is housed in a transport-launch container and the system is typically operated from fixed sites that are strategically chosen for coverage and defensibility. The S-200 launcher is designed to launch missiles which are directed by radar systems capable of tracking and engaging targets at high altitudes and long distances.

The S-200's operational effectiveness comes from its ability to engage targets at ranges up to 300 kilometers and altitudes up to 40 kilometers. This system uses a dual-thrust, liquid-fueled rocket motor, complemented by four solid-fueled rocket boosters that propel the missile to high speeds, thus reducing the reaction time available to the target. The missile itself is equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead that can be detonated by proximity or command fusing, making it effective against a variety of aerial threats .

British Army Intel Confirms Ukraines First Shot Down of Russian Tu 22M3 Bomber with S 200 Missile 925 003
The S-200 is a Soviet-era long-range surface-to-air missile system able to engage aerial targets at altitudes ranging from 300 meters to 40,000. (Picture source Army Recognition Group)

The Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire is a long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber that showcases significant capabilities due to its design and armament. Introduced in the late 1970s, the Tu-22M3 is an evolution of the previous models with enhancements in speed, range, and payload capacity.

Operational since 1983, the Tu-22M3 has been a core component of both the Soviet and Russian air forces and has seen various upgrades over the years. These upgrades have focused on modernizing its radar systems and avionics, aligning it with contemporary military needs. The aircraft's combat role extends beyond strategic bombing to include anti-ship and maritime reconnaissance missions, underscoring its versatility as a multi-role platform. This capability makes the Tu-22M3 a critical asset in projecting power over long distances and executing a range of military objectives.

The Tu-22M3 Backfire is capable of reaching speeds up to 2,300 km/h and has a maximum range of about 6,800 km, which can be extended with in-flight refueling. This model significantly improved upon its predecessors by doubling the payload capacity, allowing it to carry a mix of up to three Kh-22 cruise missiles or ten Kh-15 short-range missiles, along with options for nuclear bombs. The aircraft's variable-sweep wing design enables it to perform at high speeds at low altitudes, enhancing its ability to penetrate enemy defenses

With this latest event, it is estimated that Russia has sustained over 100 losses of fixed-wing combat aircraft since the conflict's onset. This development is likely to have significant implications for the operational strategies of both Russian and Ukrainian forces as they continue to engage in a prolonged and intense conflict.

British Army Intel Confirms Ukraines First Shot Down of Russian Tu 22M3 Bomber with S 200 Missile 925 004
The Tu-22M3 Backfire is a Russian-made long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber. (Picture source Vitaly Kuzmin)

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