The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that three military personnel were killed on December 26, 2022, after an aerial attack with a drone launched by Ukraine. The drone was shot down but several pieces of debris fell on the Russian Engels air force base located in the southwestern Saratov region which hosts Tu-160s, the most powerful bomber aircraft of the Russian Air Force.
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The Engels Russian Air Force Base was already attacked on December 5, 2022, by a modified Tu-141 soviet-made drone launched from Ukraine.
Citing information from the Russian MoD (Ministry of Defense), a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down at low altitude on December 26, 2022, at about 01:35AM Moscow Time, while approaching the Engels military air base in the Saratov region.
As a result of the fall of the wreckage of the drone, three Russian servicemen of the technical staff who were at the air base were fatally wounded.
Engels Air Force Base is a strategic bomber military airbase in Russia located 14 kilometers east of Saratov, located at 730 kilometers southeast of Moscow. It is one of the most important Russian air force base which hosts Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers.
The Tupolev Tu-160 is considered as the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military bomber aircraft ever built. It can carry nuclear and conventional weapons including long-range nuclear missiles.
The Tu-160 is capable of carrying the strategic cruise missile Kh-55MS, which is known in the West by the Nato designation and codename AS-15 Kent. Up to 12 Kh-55MS missiles can be carried, six in each bay. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported on November 26, 2022, that Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from aging Kh-55 SM missiles and launching the missiles without warheads at targets in Ukraine.
According to information published on social networks, several numbers of bombers have been damaged, but currently, the Russian MoD has not confirmed this information.
The Engels Air Force Base hosts Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bomber aircraft of the Russian air force.
On December 5, 2022, the Russian MoD (Ministry of Defense) announced that two military air force bases were bombed by unidentified aerial systems. One of the explosions was at the Engels-1 air base in the Saratov region, and the other at Dyagilevo in the Ryazan area. Citing information published by Russia on December 5, 2022, the weapons launched by Ukraine were Soviet-era jet drones. Reportedly, they were Tupolev Tu-141s, an ex-Soviet reconnaissance drone that last saw front-line use in the 1980s, flying photo-reconnaissance missions for the Soviet air force.
The Tu-141 is a Soviet-made reconnaissance drone that was in service with the Russian air force as well as the Ukrainian air force from 1979 to 1989. On 8 March 2022, a Tu-141 reconnaissance drone was reported crashed in Ukraine. We can therefore think that the Ukrainian engineers could have modified the drone to be used as a loitering munition.
In terms of technical features, the Tu-141 has a length of 14.33 m and a wingspan of 3.88 m. It is powered by a Tumansky KR-17A engine and can fly at a maximum speed of 1,100 km with a maximum cruising range of 1,000 km.