Getting Interesting now!
Russia is to return Tupolev Tu-22M3 'Backfire' long-range supersonic bombers to Crimea by 2016 as part of a build-up of maritime aviation assets on the strategic peninsula, which was seized by Moscow's military forces earlier this month.
The nuclear-capable bombers were the backbone of Soviet naval strike units during the Cold War but were subsequently withdrawn from bases in Crimea as part of the consolidation of Russian naval aviation and force level restrictions on the peninsula imposed by the Kiev government.
From the Crimea, the Tu-22M3s in strike or reconnaissance roles will be able to support Russian naval tasks forces patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, including off the coast of Syria.
A Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman told the Interfax news agency on 26 March that it planned to establish a "missile-carrying regiment" on the Crimea near its capital, Simferopol. "We hope that in two years the airbase in Gvardeyskoye will again be the base for a missile-carrying regiment of Tu-22M3," the spokesman said.
During the 1980s, the 2nd Guard of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet's Maritime Missile Division boasted three regiments of Tu-22M3s located at three large air bases, but the Russian MoD said it now intends to concentrate all future maritime aviation activity at Gvardeyskoye Air Base, which is to undergo a two-year-long refurbishment programme before the return of the large bombers.
It is currently home to the last remaining Russian naval fixed-wing shore-based strike unit with 22 Sukhoi Su-24M/MR aircraft. Russian naval commanders have long expressed frustration with the status of the force agreement with the Ukrainians that limited their fixed-wing maritime naval aviation presence on Crimea to just 22 aircraft. During Soviet times, air bases in Crimea were at the centre of naval aviation developments, including the trials of carrier-borne aircraft.
[link to www.janes.com