For the sixth time in six weeks, the Russian air force has seen yet another one of its fleet crash, reports The Moscow Times. This time it was a Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bomber, which simply failed, crashing on impact, while on a routine training flight in Russia’s far-eastern region on Tuesday.
The incident marks the second loss of a Tu-95 bomber and the sixth loss of a Russian military aircraft in just over a month. The Defense Ministry said that the crew was able to eject out of the aircraft before it went down. Although the aircraft is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and cruise missiles, it was not loaded with those weapons at the time of the crash.
The cause of this recent rash of crashes seems to be directly related to the increase in Russian air force activity and the age of its fleet.
As relationships with the West have soured, primarily due to the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, the Kremlin has been forced to reactivate some of its aging aircraft fleet. Since 2013, NATO claims that it has intercepted 400 Russian aircraft near its borders. That marks a noticeable 50 percent increase over that span.
The jump in training flights seems to be taking a toll on Russia’s entire fleet of MiG-29, Su-24 and Su-34 fighter jets, as well as the Tu-95 long-range bombers, all of which have experienced accidents over the past month or so.
According to Newsweek Europe, other incidents this summer include a MiG29 ‘Fulcrum’ and Su-34 ‘Fullback’ fighter that crashed on the same day in early June. Five days later, a Tu-95 bomber apparently ignited during a practice flight.
In June, Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute told Newsweek that the incidents involving their aircraft may be a result of the Russian air force “overstretching” itself.
Sutyagin went on to say, “The Bear bombers, for example, are designed for a single strike on missions, not for extended training flights.” In addition, Sutyagin stated that, “The maintenance template for these vehicles does not take into account the much higher operational tempo they have been operating under lately.”
The bigger concern with these Russian accidents is the potential for a crash on or near European soil, or over its airspace.
According to Sutyagin, “No one can exclude mishaps on any flying machine, especially one that is overexerted. That is why you cannot rule out a mishap such as this happening in European skies.”