The Kremlin has started using a bizarre method to stop its nuclear bombers from being attacked by Ukraine’s drones.
Satellite images show a number of Tu-95 strike aircraft at Engels-2 Air Base in the Saratov region of Russia covered in car tyres.
The base was hit by Ukrainian drones twice in December – forcing Putin to move some of the bombers to other bases.
The planes are a key part of his nuclear strike force, but so far have been used to attack Ukraine with conventional weapons.
A report by the Aviationist said: ‘While the reason for covering the wings and part of the upper fuselage in this way is not completely clear, the most likely theory is that the car tyres are used to protect the valuable bombers from attacks carried out with kamikaze drones.’
The Kremlin may be using the tyres to absorb the impact of drones, or to protect the planes’ fuel tanks.
But the Aviationist questions the effectiveness of the tyre strategy, as they don’t fully cover the wings and body so drones could still inflict damage.
The report adds: ‘The drone could be guided to detonate below the surface of the wing and still cause the total loss of the aircraft.
‘Last but not least, tyres are flammable although they need a high temperature to burn.
‘However, when you store plenty of tyres in the same place and conditions for combustion are present, they can become a hazard.
‘When tyres catch fire, they burn with intense heat and produce noxious smoke.’
Earlier this year Ukraine reported two strikes on Russian war planes.
In one, in Pskov, four Il-76 transporters were put out of action, with two aircraft beyond repair after being engulfed in flames.
Separately, Kyiv claimed to have damaged four Su-30 fighter jets, one MiG-29 fighter jet, two Pantsir-S1 close-range air defence systems and a radar linked to a long-range S-300 surface-to-air missile system in a strike in Kursk with aerial drones made of cardboard.
Engels-2 is home of the 121st and 184th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiments, respectively operating the Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-160M Blackjack and Tu-95M Bear strategic bombers.
It’s located 435 miles from the Ukrainian border.
The Tu-95s are the world’s only propeller-powered nuclear bombers, and first took to the skies 70 years ago.
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