Russia’s Ministry of Defense could send Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers to Crimea as part of the Kremlin’s response to the increasing U.S. military buildup in Eastern Europe, especially the deployment of the Aegis missile defense system in Romania, Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday.
The new details followed previous reports that the Russian military is expected to receive six modernized Tu-22M3 bombers and missile carriers by the end of this year. However, the exact date of the aircraft delivery to the Black Sea peninsula has not been disclosed by the authorities.
The Tu-22M3 has a maximum range of 4,200 miles, and can carry long-range cruise missiles for about 1,500 miles. The aircraft can be armed with a 23-mm GSh-23 cannon, Raduga Kh-22 long-range anti-ship missiles and Raduga Kh-15 air-to-surface missiles.
If confirmed, the deployment of the Tu-22M3 bombers in Crimea will be Moscow’s answer to Washington’s efforts to expand its “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which was launched to help Eastern European nations and the Baltic States counter potential Russian threats, RIA Novosti reported.
With Operation Atlantic Resolve, “the United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine,” the U.S. Department of Defense states on its website.
However, according to Russian media reports, the operation is aimed at deploying heavy military hardware in European countries close to Russia’s borders.
The Aegis missile defense system in Deveselu, Romania, is one of the NATO military facilities in Eastern Europe that have been repeatedly condemned by Russian President Vladimir Putin for allegedly upsetting the “strategic balance of powers” in Europe.
“I believe this is dangerous for the U.S. itself, as it creates a dangerous illusion of invulnerability and reinforces the tendency of unilateral, often ill-considered decisions and additional risks,” Navy Times quoted Putin as saying in December.