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KIEV, Ukraine—A video surfaced on Jan. 27 showing a fatal crash of a Russian Air Force bomber that occurred five days earlier at a military aerodrome in the Murmansk region on Russia's far northern Kola Peninsula. The aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire that carried the unit designation of "35 Red" and tail number RF-94159, was reportedly on a training mission. All but one of the four-man crew died in the resulting crash with the fourth in the hospital being treated for serious injuries.
The video has gone viral on a number of Russian web portals, as it shows the aircraft on approach in very poor weather conditions—heavy snow, very dense fog—that are common to this region. It shows that the pilot did not realize how close the aircraft was to the ground until it was too late and he lands going much too fast and at a far too high sink rate. The aircraft breaks into two pieces and is consumed in a fireball as the sections spin down the runway. Most of the commentary since the crash from Russian sources is that the aircraft was landing in completely unsafe conditions and should have diverted to another base.
Reports - Russia - Aircraft - Inert - Mock-up
Additional reports from Russia are that this aircraft was carrying an inert, training round mock-up of the Raduga Kh-22 (NATO Codename AS-4 "Kitchen") training missile. The Kh-22 is a long-range anti-ship cruise missile that was originally developed to be launched by this aircraft from bases in the same region. The design of the Kh-22 and other air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) carried by this aircraft were specialized to sink U.S. Navy aircraft carriers operating in the Northern Atlantic.
Delivering these carrier-killing cruise missiles was always one of the primary missions for this aircraft. The Backfire being able to launch these weapons at such long ranges was...
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