The crash of another Tupolev Tu-141 Strizh drone in Russia’s Kaluga Oblast on February 6 has revealed a new high-explosive warhead, suggesting some additional modification work being carried out by the Ukrainians.
Ukraine used Soviet-era drones to hit Russia’s Engels and Dyagilevo airbases on December 5 and 26 last year.
This also underscores a specific Russian claim in January about American support in the strike – this time via Defense Major Raytheon, who helped install a modern navigation system and possibly the warhead on the drone.
After the December attacks, Russian experts concluded that Ukraine had conducted strikes under the guidance of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) surveillance and airborne radar aircraft.
During the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and unmanned surface vehicle (USV) strike against Russian warships in Sevastopol, Crimea in late October, Moscow officially claimed it had a US RQ-4B Global Hawk Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) drone Destination information provided.
Russian bloggers often reveal the presence of the RQ-4B in the airspace over the Black Sea south of Crimea through live flight tracking websites.
Strizh has new warhead?
Former US Marine Corps officer and expert on Russian defense policy Rob Lee tweeted images of the downed Tu-141 Strizh in Kaluga with an OFAB-100-120 high-explosive warhead.
Kaluga is approximately 321 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of the border and 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Moscow.
Vladislav Shapsha, governor of the Kaluga region, said on his Telegram channel: “It was established that at five in the morning in a forest near the city, a drone exploded 50 meters in the air. There is no damage to civil and social institutions. There were no injuries. Law enforcement officials are on site.”
“Only US engineers can modify it”
An article on Zvezda, a publication of the Russian Defense Ministry (RuMoD), states that Ukrainian engineers from Ukroboronprom could not have modified the drones without access to the original drawings and design plans.
It “wouldn’t have happened” without “American engineers from Raytheon Technologies, who modified the old Soviet Tu-141 with new onboard navigation,” the article added.
The Tu-141 was manufactured at the Kharkiv Aircraft Plant in 1979 and operated until 1989, two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. A total of 152 units were produced, some of which went to Ukraine, which were incorporated into the 321st separate UAV squadron based in Odessa.
With a top speed of 1,110 kilometers per hour, a service ceiling of 19,685 feet (6,000 meters) and a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, the drone was quite revolutionary for its time.
The high-speed reconnaissance aircraft carried surveillance equipment such as electro-optical devices, infrared imagers and imaging radars. Nearly 40 years ago, their defining feature was the ability to fly and return on a pre-programmed route in their navigation system – something that today’s drone manufacturers are actively promoting.
A parachute retrieves the Strizh. As such, some observers believe it is classified as a cruise missile rather than a drone.
The official allegation of Raytheon’s involvement came from Konstantin Gavrilov, head of Russia’s arms control delegation in Vienna.
“Reliable information has emerged that Ukraine uses Soviet drones with a range of up to 1000 kilometers, which were modernized in 2022 at the Kharkiv Aviation Plant with the direct participation of specialists from the American company Raytheon Technologies.
This indicates the direct involvement of American military industry specialists in attacks on targets deep within Russia, no matter how denied in Washington.
The reusable operational-tactical UAV Tu-141 ‘Swift’ with a length of 14.3 meters and a wingspan of 3.9 meters, developed at the Tupolev Design Bureau half a century ago, was converted by the Americans into a five-ton transformed into a kamikaze drone.”
Gavrilov also warned Germany and the US not to use depleted uranium (DU) shells on Leopard-2 and M1A2 Abrams (MBT) main battle tanks on their way to Ukraine, as doing so would amount to nuclear proliferation.
“Strizh” first crashed in Croatia in March 2022
The Ukrainian Tu-141 fleet was gathering dust in a warehouse by 2022 march this year, it crashed in Croatia’s capital Zagreb in a bizarre incident. This should have served as the first indication that the drone may be being tested by Ukraine for future attacks.
While the drone caused no human casualties, Croatian officials then implied that the drone originated in Ukraine. The Russian embassy in Zagreb immediately clarified that its military had stopped using the Tu-141 in the early 1990s.
A statement by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic then called it a “serious incident” and wondered how “a drone the size of an airplane was not shot down on its way from apparent Ukraine to Zagreb”.
By sending a message to Ukraine that he was not optimistic that its citizens would inadvertently fall victim to Kiev’s retaliatory attacks on Russia, he also sought to embarrass NATO’s radar systems in Hungary and Romania. The “simple drone,” he said, “flew unnoticed in the airspace of NATO member states for almost an hour and no one noticed.”
Claiming he wasn’t “pointing fingers,” he nonetheless called for “clear facts” and raised an issue with “NATO’s joint command in Spain (which) should have all real-time information.” Almost a year later, at the end of January 2023, Milanovic criticized western tank deliveries to Ukraine. It would be important to point out that Croatia is also a NATO member country.
© 2023, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.