Russian Airforce Long-Range Aviation Unit is the branch of Russian Air Force tasked with long-range bombardment of strategic targets with nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, it was the counterpart to the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force.
Strategic aviation units form the Long-range Aviation Command of the Russian Air and Space Force. As of early 2017, the Long-range Aviation Command was estimated to include 66 operational strategic bombers.
The Long-range Aviation Command includes two heavy-bomber divisions of Tu-160 and Tu-95MS aircraft. In addition to these, the army includes four divisions of Tu-22M3 (Backfire C) bombers.
The 6950th Guards Air Base (formerly 22nd Guards Heavy-Bomber Division) in Engels (Saratov oblast), includes two bomber regiments: the 121st Guards regiment of Tu-160 bombers and the 184th regiment of Tu-95MS bombers.
In addition to this, the air base may include the 203rd Regiment of Il-78 tankers, which is based in Ryazan. Ryazan is also a place of a training center, which can be used a base for bombers of the division.
The 6952nd Air Base (formerly 326th Heavy-Bomber Division) in Ukrainka (Amurskaya oblast). The base includes the 79th regiment and 182nd Guards regiments of Tu-95MS bombers.
The Tu-95MS (Bear H) strategic bomber was developed at the A. N. Tupolev Design Bureau. Serial production of the bomber continued from 1984 to 1991 at the aviation plant in Kuybyshev (currently Aviakor Aviation Plant, Samara). The bomber is equipped with turboprop engines. It can carry six Kh-55 cruise missiles in the bomb bay. The Tu-95MS16 version of the bomber can carry additional ten missiles under wings, but this significantly reduces bomber’s range.
The Tu-160 (Blackjack) strategic bomber was developed at the A. N. Tupolev Design Bureau and produced at the aviation plant in Kazan (currently S. P. Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association). The bomber can carry 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles in the bomb bay. During the modernization program that is currently underway Tu-160 bombers will be equipped to carry gravity bombs and non-nuclear cruise missiles.
The Kh-55 (AS-15, RKV-500A) long-range air-launched cruise missiles were developed at the Raduga Design Bureau (Dubna, Moscow oblast). Production of the missiles began in 1983 at the Dubna Machine-Building Plant. The Kh-55SM (AS-15B, RKV-500B) version of the missile, which can be deployed on Tu-160 bombers, has extra fuel tanks and extended range. An improved version of the Kh-55 missiles is known as Kh-555. Reportedly, this missile is a non-nuclear version of Kh-55, carried by Tu-160 bombers.
Russia has also developed a new long-range cruise missile, Kh-101, which would probably replace Kh-55. It appears to be a further modification of Kh-55. The missile was reportedly accepted for service in 2012. It’s possible that the conventional version of the missile is referred to as Kh-101, while the nuclear version may be known as Kh-102.
Courtesy Russian Ministry of Defence.