1st Time In Ukraine War – Russia Uses Its Heavyweight Tu-22M3 Bombers To Strike Kiev From Belarusian Airspace

For the first time in the Ukraine war, Russia attacked Kiev (Kyiv) from Belarus on June 25, firing more than 60 missiles. This was the first time Russia used its Tu-22M3 bombers to conduct air strikes from Belarusian air space. 

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“For the first time from the territory of Belarus, the enemy used long-range Tu-22M3 bombers against Ukraine,” said the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in a statement on Facebook.

According to the Ukrainian Intelligence, six Tu-22M3 bombers were used, which launched 12 X-22 cruise missiles, targeting Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions.

The Ukrainian Intelligence further reported that the bombers took off from Shaykovka Airport in the Kaluga region of the Russian Federation and then, through the territory of Kaluga and Smolensk regions, entered the airspace of Belarus.

After firing the missiles, the bombers returned to Shaykovka Airport in Russia.

Изображение раздела (о самолете)
Tu-22М3 long-range supersonic missile carrier bomber (Tupolev)

In addition to X-22 missiles from Tu-22M3 aircraft, the Air Force Command also reported the use of ground-to-ground missiles from Iskander and Tochka-U missile systems, plus the sea-based Caliber cruise missiles against targets in western Ukraine, and Oniks missiles from a Bastion missile system at the Southern Front

According to Air Force Command, the X-22, Onyx, and Iskander missiles are extremely difficult to intercept for the Ukrainian Air Forces, as the speed of Onyx and X-22 missiles is over 3,000 kmph while the Iskander missiles fly on a ballistic trajectory.

Iskander-M mobile short-range ballistic missile system (Wikimedia Commons)

“Their (the X-22, Onyx, and Iskander missiles) defeat is an atypical and challenging task for the air defense facilities available in Ukraine,” said the Ukrainian Air Force Command.

As per the estimates provided by Journalist Olga Tokaruk, more than 60 missiles were fired by Russia against Ukraine, with most of them launched from Belarus, targeting Kyiv, Lviv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, Khmelnytskyi, Dnipro, Mykolayiv, Kharkiv regions.

Kremlin Trying To Draw Belarus Into War

The Ukrainian Intelligence stated that the latest attack is related to “the Kremlin’s efforts to draw Belarus into the war in Ukraine as a direct participant.”

A day before these strikes, the Ukrainian Intelligence had also alleged that Russia had sent sabotage groups to the city of Mozyr in Belarus near the border with Ukraine to conduct a series of attacks targeted at civilian infrastructure.

“Kremlin plans to blow up apartment buildings in Mozyr to involve Belarus in the war against Ukraine,” said Ukrainian Intelligence in a tweet on June 24.

In February, the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, said that his troops could take part in the military action inside Ukraine.

Belarus Russia unite Alexander Lukashenko Vladimir Putin
Belarusian President Lukashenko (Left) With Russian President Putin (Right) (MIKHAIL METZEL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“I say again: our troops are not there. But if it is necessary, if it is necessary for Belarus and Russia, they will,” Lukashenko said in remarks reported by the state news agency Belta.

President Putin is also said to have promised Lukashenko that any attack on Belarusian territory from Ukraine would be considered an attack on Russia.

“I promise you that any attack against or just one step across the border into the Belarusian territory would mean that they attack Russia’,” Lukashenko cited Putin as saying in February.

US Pledges To Send NASAMS Air Defense Systems

The missile attacks on Kiev came ahead of President Zelensky’s address to the G7 Summit, where the war in Ukraine was at the top of the agenda of G7 leaders.

Zelensky asked the G7 leaders for more modern air defense systems that guarantee basic security to the civilian population as Russia intensifies its missile attacks, according to a statement from his office.

“His first request in the presentation he made was for further air defense systems,” the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed.

“In particular, at the top of his mind was the set of missile strikes in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine and his desire to get additional air defense capabilities that could shoot down Russian missiles out in the sky. So, the President (President Joe Biden) was able to be positively responsive to him on that,” Sullivan further said.

As per the latest reports, the US has agreed to provide Ukraine with NASAMS medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile-defense system developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and Raytheon.

It is significant because the US also uses NASAMs to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and US Capitol in Washington. The missile system is said to be capable of hitting targets more than 100 miles (roughly 161 kilometers) away.

Test launch of NASAMS, here seen firing an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. (Kongsberg)

NASAMs were the first application of the surface-launched AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile).

While the latest system variant, NASAMS 3, is capable of firing AMRAAM-ER (for extended range) missile, the shorter-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missile with infrared guidance is primarily meant to defeat cruise missiles, plus the pan-European IRIS-T SLS short-range missiles missile.

It is unspecified which variant and how many systems will be sent to Ukraine. Also, the delivery timeline of the NASAMS to Ukraine remains unknown, though a source told CNN that the Ukrainian forces would likely need to be trained on the systems.