Ukraine Launched Drone Attacks on Russian Military Airfields, UAVs Brought Down by Air Defenses: MoD
16:58 GMT 05.12.2022 (Updated: 18:55 GMT 05.12.2022)
Washington and its allies have sent an array of weaponry to Kiev in recent months, and have provided Ukraine's military with intelligence support. Ukrainian forces have used these weapons to attack Russian troops, military bases, and civilian infrastructure.
Ukrainian forces attempted to carry out attacks against Russian military airfields in the Saratov and Ryazan regions using Soviet-era jet-powered drones on Monday, Russia's Ministry of Defense has announced.
"On the morning of December 5, using Soviet-made jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicles, the Kiev regime attempted to attack the Dyagilevo and Engels military airfields in the Ryazan and Saratov regions in a bid to disable Russian long-range aviation," the MoD said in a statement Monday evening.
The drones, flying at low altitudes, were intercepted and destroyed by Russian air defense forces, the military said.
However, three military personnel were killed in the attack, with four others injured. Falling drone debris was said to have caused slight damage to the hulls of two aircraft.
The Russian military responded by launching large-scale precision strikes using air and sea-based weapons against Ukrainian military command and control systems and related facilities, as well as communications centers, energy infrastructure, and military units at about 3 pm Moscow time, with 17 designated targets hit in total.
The Dyagilevo Air Base is situated over 450 km northeast of Russia's border with Ukraine, and serves as a training center for Russian strategic aviation. The Engels Air Base is located about 550 km east of Ukraine, and contains elements of the aerial component of Russia's nuclear triad.
The Russian MoD did not name the drones used in the attacks. However, the fact that they were "jet-powered" suggests they were modified Tu-141s - a UAV design developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the mid-1970s, and used extensively by the Soviet military for reconnaissance purposes until 1989.
In 2014, Ukraine returned the UAVs into service for its war against Donbass. After Russia began its military operation in Ukraine in February, several incidents involving Tu-141s have been reported. In one such incident, a Tu-141 crashed in Zagreb, Croatia, some 550 km from Ukraine, after flying over neighboring Romania and Hungary. An investigation by the Croatian military determined that the errant drone was fitted with a bomb, and meant to attack Russia, but flew off course and fell in Croatia instead. In July, officials in Russia's Kursk region reported that two Tu-141s had been shot down by local air defenses.
Shortly after Monday's incidents, Maxar Technologies, a US private space company which has been providing Ukraine's military with satellite intelligence support, courtesy of US taxpayers
, published satellite snaps, allegedly of the Engels Air Base, said to have been taken on December 3 and 4, "showing recent military activity at and near the airfield which houses a heavy bomber aviation unit."
The photos show over two dozen strategic Tu-95 "Bear" and Tu-160 "White Swans" on the base's runways, some of them taking off and in flight.
Sputnik cannot immediately confirm the images' authenticity. The photos show little if any snow cover on the terrain surrounding the facilities featured in the images. However, the Saratov region has reported temperatures below freezing and sporadic light snow since November 25.