It’s always a
good idea to know your enemy’s capabilities.
Let’s take a look, today, at Russia’s bomber force.
As you know,
during the Cold War the Soviet Union’s main
counter to US carrier groups was long range bombers armed with long range
cruise missiles. The US and the Soviet
Union played a continual cat and mouse game with the Soviet Union attempting to
find US carriers and simulate attacks while the US carriers tried to hide and
detect the Soviet bombers and intercept them far enough away to demonstrate
that they could prevent an attack.
of the Russian bomber force has fallen into disrepair and most of what’s left
is obsolete. However, what exists is
still a potential threat especially given our greatly reduced air wings and
shorter ranged aircraft.
the current active bomber force as: (1)
As seen, the
numbers of active aircraft are very small and likely overstated even at those
reduced levels due to poor maintenance.
In a war, the aircraft would be a nuisance but not a serious, on-going
specs and features of the aircraft:
- Speed = Mach 2
- Combat radius 4000 nm
- Produced 1984-1992
- Built 27
- Currently active qty=16
- 2x internal weapon bays; 2x rotary launchers each holding 6x AS-15
Kent subsonic cruise missiles with 1350 nm range
- Payload = 88,000 lbs
- Swing wing
- Russian version of US B-1
- Currently undergoing modest
modernizations although industrial, financial, and quality issues are
significantly impacting the effort.
- Speed = Mach 1.9
- Combat radius = 1500 nm
- Produced ‘70s-‘90s
- Built 497
- Currently active qty = 69
- Internal weapons bay, fuselage and
- Payload = 53000 lbs
- Major update to the Tu-22 Blinder
- Swing wing
- Speed = 510 kts
- Combat radius = 4000 nm
- Produced 1952-1994
- Built 500+
- Currently active qty= 60
- Wing pylons
- Payload 33,000 lb
- 4x propeller engines with dual
The bombers are all basically 1970’s era technology. While some of the aircraft have undergone
modernizations, the effectiveness of that effort is questionable. For example, no amount of modernization can
turn a large, non-stealthy aircraft into a stealthy, penetrating bomber
(consider our own B-52!). In addition,
Russian quality control is notoriously poor and the Ukraine war has
demonstrated that Russian systems have performed well below expectations. There is no reason to believe that their
aircraft upgrades have fared any better.
While the numbers of active aircraft are quite small, the weapons they
carry are reasonably formidable and constitute a serious threat.
Kickback) Mach 5, 160 nm, may be retired
Kh-22 (AS-4 Kitchen) 1960’s tech,
Mach 4.6, 320 nm
Kh-32 updated Kh-22, updated, anti-ship, long range
Kinzhal hypersonic, long range, ?accuracy
It should be
noted, however, that most Russian cruise missiles are older generation and far
less of a threat than current, state of the art missiles. In addition, reports from Ukraine suggest
that the Kinzhal may suffer from accuracy/guidance issues although any reports
about the Ukraine conflict are suspect.
Carrier Groups – Carrier groups have a multi-layered defense and the furthest
layer is long ranged aircraft which serve two purposes: one, they shoot down bombers before they can
launch their missiles and, two, they shoot down the targeting aircraft (Bear
recon aircraft) to prevent the acquisition of targeting data. The attacking aircraft+missile range is
irrelevant without targeting data. This
outer layer aerial defense was the exact mission of the F-14 Tomcat. It is a staggering dereliction of duty on the
part of Navy leadership to have allowed the Tomcat to pass without replacement.
targeting, Russian bombers are large and non-stealthy (by today’s standards, at
any rate) and cannot be considered penetrating aircraft. Their ability to penetrate a carrier groups
layered defense is nearly non-existent.
considered the threat to US carrier groups has to be considered very low.
– Due to age, maintenance, quality, and personnel issues, the Russian bomber
fleet is likely barely able to assemble a handful of flightworthy aircraft at
any given moment. Thus, severely limited
numbers, alone, make the bomber fleet a nuisance but not a serious threat.
bomber fleet is old, obsolete, poorly maintained, suffers from quality issues,
and is operated and maintained by poorly trained and ill-equipped
personnel. The vast majority of the
fleet is not flightworthy, notwithstanding the occasional publicity stunt of a
few aircraft flying a photo op mission.
The days of Russian bomber regiments are over.
usual caveats, the Ukraine conflict seems to be clearly demonstrating all the
worst qualities and characteristics of the Russian system, meaning, poor
equipment, poorly maintained equipment, poorly trained personnel, unmotivated
personnel, inadequate logistics, and so on.
The ultimate proof that this is true is the fact that Ukraine, a
fraction of the size, population, and military of Russia is not only still
fighting but may be winning. That
doesn’t happen to Russian forces unless the statements about their problems are
true. You don’t have major ships sunk,
apparently without even defending themselves, unless the statements about their
systemic problems are true.
Russian bomber fleet poses little threat to US carrier groups, we still
desperately need a very long range air superiority fighter to effectively
execute the carrier’s role of escort for the cruise missile shooters. In short, we need a conceptual, longer
ranged, naval F-22.
of active Russian military aircraft”, retrieved 26-Mar-2018,