Russia grounds 'Bear' bombers following accident and fire

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Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
08 June 2015


Russia has grounded its fleet of Tu-95 bombers pending the results of a safety investigation. Source: IHS/Paul Tompkins

Russia has grounded its fleet of Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear' strategic bomber aircraft following a runway excursion and engine fire on take-off that occurred on 8 June, state media has reported.

The suspension of flight activities covers all 71 Tu-95MS6/16 bombers currently in service with the Russian Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily - VVS), and will remain in place until the investigation into the incident at Ukrainka airfield in the Amur region of the Russian Far East is complete.

"The accident occurred during a practise flight at the Ukrainka airfield … at 17:00 Moscow time [23:00 local time]. The Tu-95 ran over the runway during acceleration. There was no ammunition on board. According to preliminary information, engine fire was the cause behind the accident," the Russian Defence Ministry was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying, adding, "The commander-in-chief of the Russian air forces has ordered to suspend Tu-95 flights for a period of investigation."

Having first entered service in 1956, the turboprop-powered Tu-95 is operated by the Long-Range Aviation Command (formerly 37th Air Army) alongside the Tupolev Tu-22 'Backfire' and Tupolev Tu-160 'Blackjack' bomber platforms, as well as Ilyushin Il-78 'Midas' tankers.

Of these, the Tu-95 is the VVS' primary strike platform. While all Tu-95 aircraft operated by the Long-Range Aviation Command are nuclear-capable, able to carry the Kh-55/AS-15 'Kent' 200 kT air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), the new Raduga Kh-101 conventional ALCM was also recently integrated.

While the VVS is currently engaged in an extensive modernisation programme, its biggest challenge relates to the replacement of the Tu-95 and Tu-160 platforms given that Russia currently does not possess an appropriate equivalent in its inventory and has little realistic prospect of introducing one into the service in the medium term. The next-generation PAK-DA bomber is slated to enter service in 2023, but such a timeline is highly ambitious.
Russia grounds 'Bear' bombers following accident and fire - IHS Jane's 360
 
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