by Kyle Mizokami / PopularMechanics
A Russian bomber crew successfully landed their stricken aircraft in a field after the one of the airplane’s engines failed. The Tu-22M3 bomber was put down away from populated areas and Russia’s air force is now trying to figure out how to recover it for repairs. The incident is just the latest in a long line of disasters—big and small—plaguing the Russian military as it tries to wring as much use out of old, outdated equipment.
The incident, according to Russian state media outlet TASS, took place in southern Russia at the Chkalov State Flight Testing Center. The two-man crew, discovering that an engine had failed, guided the airplane away from populated areas and performed a belly landing. Neither of the crew members were injured but the aircraft itself reportedly sustained some damage.
The Tu-22M3 bomber, known as “Backfire” to NATO, is a long-range bomber originally designed to strike the continental U.S. with nuclear weapons. The aircraft were produced in the 1970s and 1980s and updated versions currently serve with the Russian Air Force. The bombers were recently used to strike targets in Syria.
The incident is the third involving a Tu-22M3 in three years. In 2017 a Backfire crashed on takeoff, losing a wing. In January of 2019, a Tu-22M3 landing killed the three-person flight crew. Here’s a video of the 2017 incident:
The crash in Astrakan is also just the latest in a series of accidents and disasters involving Russian military equipment. Last week, the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov caught fire during a planned upgrade in port. In July a fire swept through the Russian spy submarine Losharik, killing fourteen sailors. In late 2018, Russia’s largest floating drydock, PD-50 sank, narrowly taking Admiral Kuznetsov with it, and two days ago another floating drydock, PD-16, also sank.
A common denominator among these accidents is aging equipment. Almost all of the equipment involved in these disasters was made (or in the case of PD-50 purchased) by the Soviet Union decades ago. Russia is stuck with the dilemma of trying to keep aging bombers flying and aircraft carriers sailing to prop up its military power, sometimes with tragic results for Russian military personnel.
Old equipment is not necessarily less reliable—the U.S. Air Force has flown the same B-52 bombers and KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling planes for more than 60 years. The difference is that Soviet equipment was never meant to last for three decades or more, as Moscow assumed it would replace aircraft like the Backfire on a regular basis.
Now Russia has not only lacked the funds to buy new bombers, but there was a time after the fall of the Soviet Union when it could not maintain the equipment it had. Many Russian aircraft are likely maintained at a level less than what the U.S. Air Force would consider acceptable, with predictable—and tragic—results.
(Sources : popularmechanics.com)