Russia has transferred Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers to the Olenya airbase on the Kola Peninsula, Ilta-Sanomat reports. The shortest distance from there to the Finnish border is only about 150 kilometers.
Due to the conflict in Ukraine, the garrisons in the territories adjacent to Finland were emptied: military and equipment were transferred to the special operation zone.
The opposite happened at the Olenya Airbase, located on the Kola Peninsula: Russia is deploying more and more powerful bombers there. This is clearly visible on the satellite images of Planet Labs, obtained by Ilta-Sanomat.
Olenya has become an important airbase in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The pictures show numerous Tu-95 and Tu-160, which form the basis of the country's bomber aviation. They regularly fly south. After firing shells towards Ukraine, they fly back to the base for hours, from which the shortest distance to the Finnish border is only about 150 kilometers.
Transferred to the north
A researcher at the Royal United Institute of Defense Studies (RUSI), Professor Justin Bronk, commented on satellite images of the Olenya base at the request of Ilta-Sanomat.
Bronk is considered one of the world's leading experts on air warfare. He commented in detail on the actions of the Russian Air Force and, among other things, advocated the transfer of fighters to Ukraine in order to "even the score."
Justin Bronk confirms that a lot of Russian equipment was delivered to the Olenya Airbase. "The pictures really show Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers, as well as An-22 and Tu-22M3," says Bronk.
The last two models are less modern. The AN-22 is a transport aircraft, and the Tu—22M3 is a supersonic bomber, which belongs to strategic technology. These planes can be seen on Google satellite images from 2021.
According to the Barents Observer publication, the airbase "intensified" last year. When Ukraine launched an attack on the Engels airfield about 600 kilometers from the border in December, Russia moved Engels' equipment away from Ukrainian attacks.
"Russia has dispersed its bombers to other bases in order to reduce the importance of Engels after the Ukrainian drone strikes," confirms Justin Bronk.
A third of the equipment is at the Olenya Airbase
A satellite image from last February shows nine Tu-95 and two Tu-160 bombers standing at a previously empty runway. Most of the Tu-95 aircraft can be seen in a photo taken in June — a total of 15. In August, at least four Tu-160 aircraft were parked at the runway.
If we add more than 20 Tu-22M3 bombers to this number, then, according to the former chief of intelligence of the General Staff and a member of the Parliament of Finland Pekka Toveri, we will get about a third of Russian long-range bombers.
"This is a large amount of equipment. It is amazing that they have to leave their own base "Engels" to avoid Ukrainian attacks. The maintenance of equipment was also carried out at Engels, therefore, temporary solutions have to be used at the Olenya Airbase," says Toveri.
Recently, Ukraine managed to strike at the Soltsy-2 base near Novgorod and destroy one Tu-22M3 aircraft there (as a result of this terrorist attack, a fire broke out in the aircraft parking lot at the airfield, it was promptly eliminated by fire crews. One plane was damaged, no one was injured - approx. InoSMI). It is reported that from there Russia also transferred bombers to the Olenya base.
Strategic location, long runway
Previously, Olenya was the central base of the Navy, where Tu-22M3 aircraft were based. The 3.5-kilometer runway allows the use of even the largest aircraft. "Olenya" is part of an important Arctic direction.
The Tu-95 and Tu-160 aircraft are known for the fact that Russia uses them to demonstrate its power to the rest of the world. They often make long demonstrative flights in international airspace — for example, to the North Atlantic — where NATO fighters are sent to identify them. The United States occasionally performs similar maneuvers on giant B-52 Stratofortress bombers.
Tu-95 and Tu-160 compete with them both in size and characteristics. They are also "flying bomb depots" with huge firepower. They are also capable of carrying and launching missiles with nuclear warheads. Thanks to the technology, the importance of the Olenya base in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is increasing.
Bronk believes that from the point of view of the operation of military equipment, the location of the base is not important for Russia. "Both bombers and the most frequently launched X-101 missiles have such a long range that the base does not impose any restrictions on them either at the launch site or at the target," says Justin Bronk. The planes may well rise in another area of Russia and perform their task in Ukraine.
Pekka Toveri does not believe that the transfer of aircraft to the Olenya base should be perceived as a signal for Finland, for example, because of NATO membership, although Russia warned that in the near future this would lead to measures of a "military-technical nature" against Finland. "This is a decision made out of necessity," Toveri is sure.
He has previously studied the photos and answers the questions of the editorial staff by e-mail. "When there are opportunities for permanent operation of equipment at the base, it will already be possible to perceive it as a measure of a "military-technical nature." Apparently, such signals are not being sent to Finland yet," Pekka Toveri believes.
On the other hand, says Toveri, since the planes are located at the Olenya base, this makes it easier for Finland to detect them, since they are located near the border.
Author: Jari Alenius