In recent weeks, the Russian Air Force has dispatched its Tu-22M bombers to probe NATO air defences over both the Baltic and Black Seas. Known in the West as the Backfire, the Soviet-built Tu-22M (pictured here), along with the Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack, is one of three types of strategic bomber in Moscow’s inventory.
The Tupolev Design Bureau is presently developing Russia’s first stealth bomber, but no such combat-ready aircraft is expected to fly until as late as 2025, although Russia’s first stealth fighter prototype took to the skies two years ago. In the meanwhile, the Russian Air Force is upgrading the electronics and weapons systems aboard selected Blackjack and Backfire aircraft. With the exception of the US Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the long-range bombers flown by both countries are based on aviation technology that is anywhere from 30 to 50 years old.
Earlier this month, NATO fighter jets based Lithuania intercepted a Tu-22M cruising through “neutral” airspace over the Baltic Sea. According to officials in the neighboring republic of Latvia, the Russian military was conducting exercises in the Kaliningrad exclave. Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said his country had not been officially notified of the exercises, which, in any case, is “not technically required.” The former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia joined NATO in 2004.
Full article: Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russian Air Force probes Bulgarian airspace via Black Sea incursion, Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO member Bulgaria fails to repel intrusion, Turkish Air Force responds instead… (Once Upon A Time in the West)