A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Backfires in Hamadan: Russia's Deployment of Strategic Bombers in Iran is Unprecedented

The photo at left dominated he Internet today: a five-year-old child pulled from the rubble of a building collapsed by Russian or Syrian regime bombs in Aleppo. It is indeed a powerful symbol.

But the bombing of Aleppo just became even more intense this week with word that Russia was flying bombing missions using Tu-22MR Backfire strategic bombers from Iran's Hamadan Air Base, some miles north of the city of Hamadan.

Some hasty accounts described the bombers as Tu-22s, but the Tu-22 (NATO reporting name Blinder) is a very different aircraft than the Tu-22MR (NATO reporting name Backfire). The former was a subsonic bomber that proved ineffective in service in Soviet days; the latter is a supersonic, intercontinental strategic bomber, rarely deployed outside Russia. The precedent deserves attention.

Even at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, after the end of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, almost ever deployed strategic bombers outside the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies in Eastern Europe, and Afghanistan. The deployment of Russian fighters and ground attack aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase near Latakia in Syria was itself a break with precedent. But operating from Iran, a country whose 1979 Revolution denounced foreign influences, is a dramatic departure for both countries.

Russia says the Backfires are too heavy to use bases like Hmeymim in Syria, and that flying from Hamadan is much shorter an thus more efficient than flying from southern Russia, with greater tie over target, but the real news is that Iran permitted it. There may be implications in Iran's domestic politics; it also indicates that despite international criticism, Russia is prepared to increase the bombloads it is dropping on Syria.

Below: map, and two Russian propaganda clips.


Anonymous said...

Any pictures of the hospital bombing in Yemen?

Or was that a good bomb dropped by good people for a good purpose?

Anonymous said...

Has there been any question raised or explanation offered for the condition of the ambulance?

It appears to be in remarkably good condition for an ambulance in a city that we are told is under siege for years, completely blocked up, who's people don't have any food,water or power, and is receiving horrendous bombings each day.

One might think that in such condition the ambulance would look more used up.

GW Bush said...


“There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.”


Anonymous said...

The discussion about "fake" and "reaL" misses the point, mates.

It's about "right" and "wrong".

Unfortunately, an act is a war "crime" only when one's opponent does it.

Until the same standard is applied to everyone - the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia--any selective talk about morality and war crime is nothing more than propaganda.