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Satellite Image Shows Russian Tu-160, Tu-95 Bombers At Engels Base

Experts who specialize in analyzing satellite images have recently noticed that Russia has painted some of its strategic bombers, specifically the Tu-95MS and Tu-160M White Swans with a new camouflage pattern. This is believed to be an attempt to protect them from possible drone and missile attacks carried out by Ukraine. The aircraft have been observed at Engels Air Force Base, which is situated about 800 kilometres southeast of Moscow.

It was discovered last year that Russia had placed rubber “tyres” on its bombers to protect them from UAV strikes, and had painted “silhouettes” on them, possibly as decoys.

Engels base is also the same military air station, along with the Dyagilevo base that saw Ukraine conducting strikes using modified Soviet-era Strizh-141 high-speed reconnaissance drones for land strikes on December 2.

Three persons were killed in the first attack. This was followed by another Strizh-141 attack at Engels on December 26, when Russia claimed to have shot down the drone.

The Tu-95MS and Tu-160 are Russia's primary long-range stand-off aerial strike aircraft used to attack military and civilian targets in Ukrainian cities using missiles such as Kh-101. Ukraine has frequently attempted to target these bombers, and Russia anticipates that its far-western bases near Ukraine will be under constant threat.

While Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, is 458 km from Ukrainian territory, Engels, in the Saratov region, is 506 km from the border.

An X user named MT Anderson has posted a satellite image of the Engels-2 air base, which shows one Ilyushin Il-76, four Tu-160s, and nine Tu-95s. The image also features colour-coded boxes that claim one Tu-160 and four Tu-95s are newly painted. However, it is not clear if these are the only aircraft present at Engels or if other aircraft are inside the hangars. Engels-2 is one of Russia's crucial airbases and serves as the home base for the 121st and 184th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiments.

Three of the Tu-160s are observed to have tyres on their spine atop the aircraft’s fuselage. The newly painted Tu-160 and the Tu-95, appear to have a scheme that is darker and almost merges with the ground, with the contours barely visible.

Satellite images from September 3rd of last year revealed that Russia had placed surplus car tyres on the wings and fuselage of a plane. Experts explained that the tyres were strategically placed to deflect any attacking UAVs before they could hit the plane's airframe. A single hit with a low-explosive warhead could be enough to render the aircraft inoperable for a significant time.

The thinking behind the new paint scheme is to make the aircraft hard to spot on optical cameras. There is a possibility that they could also be decoy aircraft or silhouettes strategically placed to create false targets.

Such deceptions, though not always successful, are also expected to complicate an adversary’s planning, injecting a sense of doubt as to whether the targets identified are fake or real.

Russia is well aware of Ukraine's heavy reliance on Western military supplies, electronic intelligence (ELINT), optical reconnaissance, and assistance from NATO advisors on the ground. As a result, planning and conducting attacks requires a significant amount of resources and man-hours, and neither Ukraine nor NATO would want to risk expending scarce resources while conducting risky strikes deep into Russian territory. Russian planners may be hoping to draw out Ukrainian attacks to gain further insight into their planning and NATO's surveillance tactics. However, until Russian military experts shed more light on the situation, these conclusions remain in the realm of speculation.



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