During the mission, the aircraft were identified and escorted off UK by RAF Eurofighter Typhoons; however, the British interceptors in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were not the only aircraft they met during their long mission: over the Mediterranean Sea they were intercepted and escorted by at least three Su-30SM Flankers launched from Latakia.
And here’s a really interesting footage showing the rendez-vous between the bombers and their escorts and the subsequent launch of cruise missiles (that seem to be KH-555s).
Russian Tu-16os launch Syrian air strike from Kola Peninsula, in far northwest Russia, in a global strike show.
During the night between Nov. 19 and 20, the Russian Air Force conducted a very long-range strike mission against IS targets in Syria: two Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers departed from Olenegorsk airbase, in the Kola Peninsula around 21.00z but, instead of taking the usual route through the Caspian Sea and Iran, went westbound, skirted the airspaces of Norway and the UK, flew over the Atlantic until Gibraltair, entered the Mediterranean sea and flew eastbound towards Syria and then eastbound along the usual corridor, back to Russia.
This video, released by Russia’s MoD shows the Tu-160s (and Tu-95) being armed and launched for the night mission.
Interestingly, the Blackjacks launched their cruise missiles (most probably the new, stealthy KH-101s that they have been using since they launched the first air strike on ground targets in Syria) from the Mediterranean Sea for the very first time. Here’s an image (there are more available on Twitter) of the Tu-160 flying over Syria, with an escorting Su-30SMs.
During the first part of their 13,000 km long journey, the Russian strategic bombers remained in international airspace and were intercepted and visually identified by some NATO QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters scrambled to escort the Tu-160s. Among them, the RAF Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth.
As you can see the Backfire dropped FAB-250 iron bombs from very high altitude: whatever they hit, they were probably not too worried about CEP (Circular Error Probability) nor did they have contraints because of potential collateral damage.
During the first wave, 5 x Tu-160 Blackjack, 6 x Tu-95MS Bear and 14 x Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers flew round trip missions from airbases in Russia: Backfires flew 4,510km in 5h 20mins, Blackjacks and Bears over 6,500km in 8h 20mins and 9h 30mins.
The following video was filmed at short distance from the targets of the carpet bombing: some 19 bombs can be seen falling from the sky before hitting somewhere not too far from the cameraman.
Actually, there is someone who believes these could be ALCMs (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) since they look quite slender: although this can’t be ruled out, the way they fall close one another seem to suggest these are not cruise missiles but dumb bombs whose shape appears a bit distorted because of the poor quality of the footage.
The aircraft, 5 x Tu-160 Blackjack, 6 x Tu-95MS Bear and 14 x Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers flew round trip missions from airbases in Russia to drop a variety of weapons: both air-launched cruise missiles, like the KH-555 whose remains were recovered in Syria, and free fall bombs, like those dropped by the Backfires, in the somehow old-fashioned carpet bombing (while being escorted by some Su-27s).
Actually, the show of force of the Russian Air Force was also an opportunity to test some new “hardware” as the new KH-101 low-observable cruise missile.