3 months ago
Viktor Bondarev, head of the Defense Committee of the Russian Parliament's Upper House, said Russia will deploy Tu-22M3 strategic bombers and nuclear-capable short-range missiles to Crimea to offset the threat it says is posed by the ballistic missile defense system at the Deveselu Air Base in southern Romania.
Russian state news agency TASS quoted Bondarev stating that the Tu-22 bombers will be modernized "to deliver warheads to any point in Europe, hitting any type of enemy anti-missile or air defense facilities". Russian media also reported that the bombers will be fitted with the new Kh-32 long-range cruise missiles with an effective range of 600 to 1,000 km.
The Deveselu Air Base hosts a U.S. ballistic missile defense system with Mark-41 vertical launch systems that became operational in mid-2016. It is part of a larger missile defense network intended to protect Europe from the missiles of rogue states such as Iran. Russia claims that the Aegis Ashore system with its vertical launch tubes is also capable of launching missiles against ground targets.
The accusation has been categorically rejected by Washington and NATO, which say the system does not have the software or the hardware needed for that, and its role is to only intercept missiles. The U.S. also has an Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Poland and a ship-mounted variant in Portugal, complemented by a dedicated radar installation in Turkey.
Title image: Russian Tu-22M (NATO designation: "Backfire-C" bomber fitted with Kh-32 cruise missiles)