A Kh-555 air-launched cruise missile is launched by a Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces to strike the Islamic State infrastructure facilities in Syria.Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
Russian strategic long-distance bombers were used against ISIS for the first time, striking targets in the Syrian town of Raqqa, de facto capital of the militant jihadist organization, on November 17.
During the strikes, in a flight lasting five hours 20 minutes, the Tu-22M3 planes covered a distance of 2,800 miles (4,510 km), while the strategic Tu-160 and Tu-95MS missile carriers remained airborne for eight hours 20 minutes and 9 hours 30 minutes, respectively.
New missiles see first use in latest strikes
According to the Defence Ministry's press office, the strategic missile carriers launched 34 cruise missiles during the mission. This was the first time the new X-101 strategic air-launched cruise missiles were used in combat. The X-101 has a range of 3,400 miles (5,500 km).
#СИРИЯ Нанесение высокоточного удара новейшей крылатой ракетой с борта сверхзвукового ракетоносца Ту-160 по объектам ИГИЛ#SYRIA Pinpoint strike with the newest cruise missile launched from Tu-160 aircraftPosted by Минобороны России on Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Over the past two-three years the Tactical Missile Weaponry Corporation (which includes the Raduga scientific-productive association, the X-101 developers) has put "about 10 new products" into operation, including long-range missiles, according to a statement made by the corporation's director Boris Obnosov in 2014.
The corporation is keeping pace with the United States in terms of developing long-range precision tactical weapons and in some fields even has an advantage, Obnosov said.
So the bombing of terrorist positions could have been a "trial run" for new types of weapons, as was the use of the Caliber cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea on October 7.
A necessary measure?
Analysts to whom RIR spoke are of the opinion that use of long-range air strikes against ISIS can be considered an "act of revenge" for the terrorist act that downed the Russian passenger airplane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, causing the deaths of 224 people.
"The use of long-range aviation is natural and the only way to quickly intensify the airstrikes in Syria,” said Anton Lavrov, an independent expert and author of August Tanks. “The base and the group in Latakia are now acting with limited capacity. From a military view point, the objectives that would require two dozen strategic bombers do not exist in Syria," he said.
Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, could possibly act as a reserve for Russia's air force in Syria. The ship, which carries 12 multipurpose MiG-29K fighter jets with precision missiles and 14 heavy Su-33 carrier-based jets with unguided missiles, could be of vital support to the air force at sea. However, currently the aircraft carrier is located in the Barents Sea and is conducting combat preparation exercises.
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