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Were Russian Air Bases Hit in Drone Strikes by Ukraine?

Two Russian airbases – located far from the frontlines of Ukraine – reportedly came under attack in the early hours of Monday morning.

At least three people were killed and half a dozen more wounded, while two Tu-95M (NATO reporting name “Bear”) long-range strategic bombers were damaged.

One of the attacks occurred at the Engels-2 airbase in Russia’s Saratov region, located about 700 km (435 miles) from Ukraine. Images recorded by CCTV cameras were soon shared on social media, showing the huge explosion that occurred at 6:04 am LT

Major Base of Operations

Engels-2 is one of the largest Russian airbases and is home to the 21st & 184th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiments.

In addition to basing the Tu-95M, the facility also operates a number of Tu-160M (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) bombers.

At the same time, the airfield has been used to launch many of the Kremlin’s air strikes against Ukraine, including the Kh-101 cruise missile. According to reports, a drone had crashed on one of the base’s runways.

The attack was confirmed on the Russian Telegram channel, Baza, which regularly posts insider information about the country’s government and military.

“An unknown drone attacked an airfield in the Saratov region. Two people were hurt, Baza reported.

“According to preliminary data, on the morning of December 5, an unknown aircraft crashed on the runway of the local airfield. As a result, two aircraft were damaged. Two people were also injured and were taken to the hospital.”

The local news outlet Saratov 24 also reported on Telegram that residents who lived near the base heard loud explosions.

Even though a drone was found, there are conflicting reports that an aircraft or missile may have also been used in the early morning raid.

Did Ukraine Launch the Attack?

If confirmed as a Ukrainian operation, the strikes at Engels would be the most daring attack far behind the frontlines to date.

The airbase is considered critical for Russian Air Force operations against Ukraine, as well as the Kremlin’s strategic nuclear forces.

Engels has a nuclear weapons storage bunker, where warheads can be deployed on the bombers. Some on social media compared the raid to an attack on the Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.

Satellite images taken from Sunday appeared to show a large fleet of Russian heavy bombers – including Tu-95 and Tu-160 aircraft capable of firing cruise missiles – at the Engels airbase, the BBC reported.

Second Raid?

Another explosion occurred at the Dyagilevo military airbase near Ryazan, a city less than 150 miles from Moscow. That base also hosts Tu-95M, as well as Tu-22M (NATO reporting name “Blinder”) long-range bombers.

According to reports, the explosion was caused by a fuel truck, and it is believed both attacks were synchronized acts of sabotage.

Video of the explosion has already been posted on YouTube.

Though the Russian Ministry of Defense has not released a statement, the Kremlin has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the incidents.

This is a developing story. 

A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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