Russian Tu-22 bombers deploy to Iran and launch first air strikes on ISIS in Syria

Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 strategic bombers forward deployed to Iran have launched their first air strike on Daesh in Syria: old-fashioned carpet bombing.

Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have been involved in the air strikes in Syria since Moscow has started pounding Islamic State militants last year.

The aircraft have carried out carpet bombings dropping OFAB-250-270 and FAB-500M-62 iron bombs on their targets.

Operating from Engels and Modzok airbases in southwestern Russia, the aircraft had to cover a distance close to 3,000 km. According to some sources, the aircraft were thus supported by several Il-78M aerial refuelers on their way to the targets and back: actually, it’s not clear whether the Backfire could be refueled since the retractable probe in the upper part of the nose was reportedly removed as a result of the SALT negotiations, but it can be reinstated if needed.

On Aug. 15, the first images of a contingent of 6 Tu-22M3 bombers forward deployed to Hamedan Air Base in western Iran, along with supporting Il-76 airlifters, emerged.

On Aug. 16, the Russian MoD confirmed that the Backfire aircraft deployed to Iran performed an air strike around the besieged city of Deir-ez-Zor in eastern Syria.

Based on the footage that was released after the first mission, the Tu-22s were escorted by some Su-30SM Flankers derivatives (launched from Latakia airbase), as happened during the previous airstrikes of the RuAF Tu-22s, Tu-160s and Tu-95s.

Under the newly signed agreement with Iran, Russian bombers will be able to cut their flight time by 60%, saving money and increasing the ops tempo: the current distance to Syria is roughly 900 km, meaning that more bombs can be loaded in the round-trip mission from Iran.

Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, that has been the headquarters of the Russian aircraft since October last year was unable to accommodate the large (34m wingspan) Russian supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic bombers.

Image credit: Dmitriy Pichugin/Wiki




About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. “Operating from Engels and Modzok airbases in southwestern Russia, the
    aircraft had to cover a distance close to 3,000 km exceeding their
    combat radius thus requiring the support of several Il-78M aerial
    refuelers on their way to the targets and back.” –

    Tu-22M3s don’t have any in-flight refueling capability (prohibited by the START treaty). So they can only fly on its own internal fuel. And to compensate for the exceeding combat radius, they had to significantly reduce the armament load, down to 3-6 tonnes (the combat radius with normal armament load (12 000 kg) is about 2200 km in normal conditions)

      • Certainly not Putin. Hope he goes totally off the rails so we can use the external mounts on the B-1B.

      • The Russians do along with the US. That is why they both need and want NEW START to continue. The Russians and US still inspect and abide by the treaty. It isn’t going to change.

      • I worked at Ellsworth AFB (B-1B base) the trade off with the Russians is that they wanted to keep nukes on the Backfires, and in turn removed their A2A refueling capability making it only a theater level bomber. With the B-1 the USAF didn’t care too much about losing it’s nuclear strike capability b/c of all our other weapons systems, so they kept A2A refueling making it a strategic bomber. As far as who cares about the treaties, the Russians definitely do because I have stood (on several occasions) face to face with Russian inspectors when they came to our base to look at the jets. As an aside they were checking the bulkheads in the weapons bays to make sure they weren’t big enough for nukes, and as sferrin stated, making sure the external hard points are deactivated. Which are used ONLY for ALCMs, a system for which the circuit breakers have been pulled for 15-20 years now.

  2. In an unprecedented move the iranian government allowed RASF to forward
    deploy their planes from Mozdok AFB. That permits higher payload, longer
    loitering time on, and shorter flight time to targets. The last one is
    important due to warnings by “friendly” third parties to the targeted
    more, or less “moderate” terrorists of incoming raids, as those targeted
    will have much less time to disperse, and hide.
    In a parallel development, the syrian government granted the permanent use of Hmeymim AFB to RASF, which will be expanded in the near future to a full AFB, to permit a larger contingent, and operations of more heavy airplanes. Accommodations, air defenses, and ground forces will also be extended.
    Mozdok AFB will also get a second runway to enhance the deployment capacity.
    The russian navy requested permission from Iran, and Irak to use their airspace for a new round of cruise missile attacks on targets in Syria.
    Soon the aircraft carrying missile cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov will join the other deployed navy assets in eastern Mediterranean, providing for extended air cover.
    If the turks will keep their promises to shut their borders for terrorist reinforcement, remains to be seen.
    All those events show that the russian leadership takes the war on terrorists, and eventually on their backers, very seriously, and is preparing for any contingency, as needed.

  3. From a military standpoint, it is still not clear what are the Russians trying to do, dropping a quick sequence of 12 unguided pieces of iron from high altitude against scattered lightly armed enemies… On the other side, the Western led armata is wasting its golden plated guided ammo on the same kind of lightly armed scattered infantry with a claimed horrible kill ratio of 0.5 kill for each single guided weapon… and that’s the US claim… imagine the truth which stays between 2 and 10 times worse…

    So overall it is really not clear what both forces are doing there. This is not to praise the IS, but an army composed of something in between 20- and 50 thousands of fanatic amateurs is standing against the whole world for the past 2 years at least… that makes you think…

    • You have to consider that these bombs are not dropped by “rule of thumb”. The TU-22 is utilizing the SVP-24 and that makes it a lot more accurate than just dropping iron bombs the old way.

      You also should rethink why IS could last this long when coalition forces were bombing them and suddenly, when the Russians started serious bombing, they were pushed back.

      • BS#1. high altitude. Wind, people and vehicles move, pressure differences. Did you ever fly on a commercial jet? it experiences quite a lot of shaking during normal cruise operation… and it is big and flying straight, no acceleration… Can you imagine what happens to those pieces of iron falling down and accelerating through different densities of the air? Whatever your SVP-24 can do is trashed by these variables unless you are hitting a big target like an industrial complex or city without any regard to collateral damage. In mathematics, studying your initial conditions is just one, single small step for your study of the mathematical function… and 10 km is a hell of a piece of curve.
        BS#2. IS is still there, holding positions, holding land. facing the whole world. The fact that it lost some territory does not go to the credit of any nation, but rather it shows once again what an incredible fighting force it is given what it has… or rather how inept are the ones (all of them) facing it.
        Given the differences in training, money, equipment it should have been trashed in 24-48 hours maximum.

        • “Whatever your SVP-24 can do is trashed by these variables”

          Clearly no understanding of said technology.

      • Because Russia is serious about fighting IS and the other, “moderate” Islamic extremists in Syria. Other states involved support such extremist groups.

  4. Iran has stopped the use of the airbase.

    “A week after allowing Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from a base inside its borders, Iran reversed course on Monday and withdrew permission for the flights, complaining that the Kremlin had been too public about the arrangement.

    The about-face and the explanation for it from Iran’s Foreign Ministry seemed to surprise Russia, where state news media had been trumpeting the deal as a sign of a growing friendship with Iran.”

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