Horrific footage of Tuesday’s crash of a Russian-flagged Tu-22M3 bomber has surfaced on the internet, confirming initial reports that the aircraft broke apart during an attempted landing in Murmansk, a Russian city located north of the Arctic Circle.
The footage clearly shows the blizzard-like conditions at the time of the incident before the bomber appears through the whiteout. It becomes evident almost immediately that the aircraft is coming in too fast before it hits the runway hard, bounces, and starts to come apart. The crash killed two of the bomber’s crew immediately, with a third later succumbing to his injuries while being treated at a nearby hospital.
“The rate of descent is much too high for a landing, this suggests the pilot did not know what his altitude was on finals—visibility was really poor so this was clearly a blind ILS letdown. Not surprise [sic] the jet snapped in half on impact,” one aviation expert told the Defense Blog. “It could be a broken ILS. When you fly blind letdown you follow the ILS indicators to maintain the proper angle of descent and rate of descent. He was descending much too fast—usually once you reach maybe 30 meters altitude, you back off the power and pull the nose back slightly to slow down.”
“On 22 January, the Tu-22M3, after completing a scheduled training flight in the Murmansk region, made a hard landing when it encountered heavy snow. According to a report, two pilots were taken to a medical facility, where they’re receiving the necessary assistance. Two crew members were killed,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The Russian Tu-22M first flew in the early 1970s, with the Tu-22M3 variant, also known as the Backfire, entering service around 10 years later. Like America’s B-1B Lancer, the Tu-22M boasts a variable-sweep wing design and is capable of sustaining supersonic speeds (as high as Mach 1.8), but unlike the B-1B, the Tu-22M3 is a nuclear-capable strategic bomber. America’s B-1B had its nuclear wings clipped as part of the START nuclear treaty with Russia and completed its conversion to conventional payloads only in 2011. According to Russian statements, this bomber carried no ordnance at the time of the crash.
Russia has been rapidly expanding its presence throughout the Arctic, including the establishment of new airstrips. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Russian Air Force flew more than one hundred reconnaissance and patrol flights from Arctic airstrips in 2018.
Image screen captured from YouTube