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Tu-95, Tu-22, Tu-22M, Tu-160 Long-Range Aviation aircraft

Long-Range Aviation (Russian: Дальняя Авиация, abbr. to AДД, or ADD) was the branch of the Soviet Air Forces and Russian Air Force tasked with long-range bombardment of strategic targets with nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, it was the counterpart to the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force.


The first three Air Armies, designated Air Armies of Specific Purpose (or Particular Purpose) were created between 1936 and 1938. According to the predominant Deep operations doctrine the Workers-Peasant Red Army (RKKA) was thoroughly reorganized in six echelones. The long-range aviation was the 1st echelon, 2nd echelon consisted of heavy tanks, 3rd echelon - medium and light tanks, 4th echelon - motorised infantry, 5th echelon - heavy artillery and the 6th echelon consisted of the bulk of forces - the rifle troops with integral tank support. The Airborne Troops were a separate echelon in the role of General Staff reserve force.[1] the 1st Specific Purpose Air Army was formed on January 8, 1936 as 1st Air Army of the General Reserve Command (Specific Purpose Army - 1) (1-я авиационная армия резерва главного командования (РГК) (АОН — 1)) headquartered at Monino Airfield. The initial TO&E established by the General Staff included two heavy bomber air brigades (of Tupolev TB-3), one fast bomber air brigade (of Tupolev SB) and one fighter air brigade. As Ilyushin DB-3 started entering service they formed long-range bomber squadrons. 2nd Army was created on 15 March 1937 in the Far East, headquartered in Khabarovsk. The 3rd Air Army was created on May 21, 1938 in the North Caucasus Military District, headquartered in Rostov-on-Don. On October 20, 1939 the three air armies' order of battle included:

  • 1st Specific Purpose Army (Monino)
    • 27th Aviation Brigade at Monino (9th Air Base)
      • 21st and the 53rd Long Range Bomber Air Regiments
    • 13th Aviation Brigade at Migalovo (24th Air Base)
      • 41st Fast Bomber Air Regiment and
      • 6th Long Range Bomber Air Regiment at Ivanovo (12th Air Base)
  • 2nd Specific Purpose Army (Voronezh)
    • 64th Aviation Brigade at Voronezh (112th Air Base)
      • 7th and the 42nd Long Range Bomber Air Regiments
    • 30th Aviation Brigade at Kursk (115th Air Base)
      • 51st Fast Bomber Air Regiment and
      • 45th Long Range Bomber Air Regiment at Oryol (141st Air Base)
  • 3rd Specific Purpose Army (Rostov-on-Don)
    • 3rd Aviation Brigade at Rostov-on-Don (12th Air Base)
      • 1st Heavy Bomber Air Regiment and
      • 12th Long Range Bomber Air Regiment at Novocherkassk (7th Air Base)
    • 7th Aviation Brigade at Zaporizhia (16th Air Base)
      • 8th and 11th Long Range Bomber Air Regiments

On 5 November 1940 the three Specific Purpose Air Armies were disbanded due to poor combat performance during the Winter War with Finland.[2] Their units were reshuffled from three air armies into five air corps, three separate air divisions and one separate air regiment into a Long-Range Bomber Aviation of the Red Army's Supreme Command (Дальнебомбардировочная авиация Главного командования Красной Армии (ДБА ГК)). Постановлением ГКО от 5 марта 1942 г. дальнебомбардировочная авиация была преобразована в авиацию дальнего действия (АДД) с непосредственным подчинением Ставке ВГК.

Оn 5 March 1942 the service was once again renamed from Long-Range Bomber Aviation of the Red Army's Supreme Command to Long-Range Impact Aviation (Авиация дальнего действия (АДД)). The subordination to the Stavka was retained, but the designation was dropped from the designation. The following strategic objectives were set: bomb strikes on administrative, political and military targets deep in the enemy's rear, disruption of enemy's transport networks, destruction of warehouses behind the line of front and for strategic operations. ADD was placed under the command of Alexander Golovanov. In addition, ADD (including its volunteer counterpart, the Civil Air Fleet of the USSR) was widely used to support guerrillas in the occupied territory of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

Throughout its existence, the ADD was part of the Reserve of the Supreme High Command (RVGK). It only received orders from the Supreme Commander, Iosef Stalin. The basis of the combat fleet were long-range Ilyushin Il-4 bombers, though Petlyakov Pe-8s and other aircraft were later used.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, the ADD, having taken crippling losses over the past 18 months, was restricted to flying at night. The Soviets flew 11,317 night sorties over Stalingrad and the Don bend sector between 17 July and 19 November 1942. These raids caused little damage and were of nuisance value only.[3]:82[4]

Five long-range bomber corps were established which had in service at various times nearly 3000 aircraft, of which 1800 were combat aircraft.[5] Heavy bombers struck the cities of Danzig, Königsberg, Kraków, Berlin, Helsinki, Tallinn and others. The ADD took an active part in the operations in the Baltic States. On March 9, 1944 between 1500 and 2000 explosive incendiary bombs were dropped on residential areas of Tallinn. Results of two Soviet air raids: 40% of the buildings in the city destroyed, 463 dead, 649 injured and about 20,000 left without shelter. Harju Street was especially hard hit, along with the theater "Estonia", where a concert had just started. From 6 to 8 March 1944 the historical part of Narva was virtually wiped out; in the same month Tartu, Tapa and Jõhvi were also bombed.[6] In the period July–December 1944, the ADD made more than 7,200 sorties, dropping about 62,000 bombs with a total weight of 7,600 tons.[7]

18th Air Army

In December 1944 the ADD was transferred to the Red Army Air Force and converted into the 18th Air Army (Vozdushnaya Armiya VA).[8]

The composition of 18th Air Army included:

  • Headquarters
  • 1st Guards Smolensk Long-Range Bomber Air Corps[9]
  • 2nd Guards Bryansk Long-Range Bomber Aviation Corps[10]
  • 3rd Guards Stalingrad Long-Range Bomber Aviation Corps
  • 4th Guards Gomel Long-Range Bomber Aviation Corps
  • 6th Long-Range Aviation Corps
  • 19th Long-Range Bomber Aviation Corps (until February 1945)
  • Four separate bomber aviation divisions
  • 62nd Air Division Long Range

Post 1945 and Cold War

Comparison of Soviet Strategic Aviation aircraft towards the end of the Cold War

After the Second World War, strategic bombers were regrouped within the Long-Range Aviation of the Armed Forces (DA VS) in April 1946.[11] The DA VS (Dal'naya Aviatsiya Vozdushnikh Syl - Long Range Aviation of Air Forces) consisted of the 1st Air Army DA in Smolensk, which was reorganised as the 50th Air Army in January 1949, the 2nd Air Army DA in Vinnitsa, reorganised as the 43rd Air Army DA in January 1949, and the 3rd Air Army DA in Khabarovsk, reorganised as the 65th Air Army in January 1949.[12] The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Air Armies had previously been active in providing direct support to the Red Army ground forces during the Second World War, and thus the new DA air armies with shorter lineages were renumbered as the 50th, 43rd, and 65th.

As the 1940s closed and the Cold War dawned, the Soviet Union scrambled to develop an instrument of deterrence against the United States. The only substantial aircraft that it was equipped with was the Tupolev Tu-4 (Bull), an exact copy of the B-29 Superfortress. This was fielded in 1949, and brought the first threat of attack to the United States, as missile technology at this time was still a decade away. However, the Tu-4 was incapable of returning to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet aviation engineering establishment worked to develop an aircraft capable of round-trip operation.

The outcome of this competition was the highly successful Tupolev Tu-95, which entered service in the 1955-1956 period, and remained the backbone of Soviet air power against NATO for many decades. It continues in service with the Russian Federation.[13] Myasischev's contribution was the Myasishchev M-4, but this aircraft fell below expectations. It surprisingly went on to serve an unexpected but vital role as the 3M aerial refueling tanker, which extended the reach of the strategic air fleet. Other aircraft in service with the DA during this period included the Tupolev Tu-16 (Badger) and the Tupolev Tu-22 (Blinder).

In 1957, the 65th Air Army was renamed the 5th Air Army and was relocated to Blagoveshchensk. In 1960, Long Range Aviation was reorganised into the 2nd, 6th, and 8th Separate Heavy Bomber Air Corps (OTBAK - Otdel'niy tyazhely bombandirovochniy aviatsionniy korpus) instead of Air Armies due to increase in aircraft ordnance capacity, and the option of nuclear weapons ordnance.[12][14] These three corps were formed from portions of the 43rd, 50th, and 5th Air Armies DA. At the same time, the 43rd and 50th Air Armies were transferred to the Strategic Rocket Forces, and became the 43rd Rocket Army and the 50th Rocket Army.

A classified CIA report indicated that, at least during the early 1970s, there was no evidence of a quick-reaction posture; in other words, no airborne alert force and no quick-reaction crews on the ground. This stood in stark contrast to the United States Air Force, which was always at a high state of readiness. Furthermore, the 195 bombers belonging to Long Range Aviation were concentrated at only five primary airfields and spent most of their time there.[citation needed]

Until 1980, the DA VS existed as a separate service. In January 1980, the DA was disbanded and the heavy bomber units divided between three air armies, the 37th Air Army of the Supreme High Command (Strategic Purpose) (37 VA VGK (SN)) with its headquarters in Moscow, the 46 VA VGK (SN) at Smolensk, and the 30th Air Army (30 VA VGK (SN)) at Irkutsk (nb- this Cold War information is seemingly incorrect, and 30th Air Army headquarters was actually located at Blagoveshchensk). During the 1980s, DA introduced the Tupolev Tu-160 (Blackjack) high-performance bomber, similar to and slightly larger than the American B-1 Lancer. The three long-range air armies also flew the Tu-22M.

In 1988, the three air armies were again reunified to form the Long Range Aviation Command.

Cold War strategy

In the event of a nuclear war with the United States, the Soviet Union would likely have committed its entire heavy bomber force to attacks against US targets. Medium-sized bombers would have been used in a peripheral role.

However elements of all of the Soviet Union's strategic forces would have been available to participate in Warsaw Pact operations. The CIA in 1975 estimated that 530 intermediate-range bombers west of the Urals, possibly augmented by Soviet Navy aircraft, were intended for European strikes in the NATO rear area that required large conventional or nuclear payloads.

Long Range Aviation's aircraft was based at about a dozen key bases around the Soviet Union: Ryazan Dyagilevo near Moscow; Pryluky and Uzyn in Ukraine; Engels-2 near Saratov; Mozdok, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania near Chechnya; Dolon near Semipalitinsk; and Belaya, Ukrainka, and Vozdvizhenka in the Far East.

Though basing forces in the Arctic would have posed more of a threat to North America, the hostile climate, poor logistical network, and weak defense network precluded such a plan. Therefore, the Soviet Union created a network of standby Arctic staging bases ('Bounce airdromes'; Russian: Аэродром подскока) under the control of OGA (Arctic Control Group), which would have been activated in wartime.[15] These bases were airfields used for a short stop ("bounce") by airplanes for refueling and servicing for the purpose of extending the range of the flight, including long-range military (their Staging base).

They primarily included Olenegorsk, Novaya Zemlya Rogachevo Airport, and Vorkuta Sovetskiy in the northwest; and Tiksi Airport, Anadyr Ugolny Airport, and Mys Shmidta in the northeast. High-Arctic bases such as Nagurskoye and Greem-Bell may have been available to smaller aircraft, and the staging airfields Sredniy Ostrov, Dresba, Chekurovka, and Tiksi North were probably never completed. Though the Tu-95 could operate without the use of staging bases, nearly all other aircraft would have required the facilities in order to reach the United States .

Bomber crews were trained to be proficient in all basic aspects of strategic operations, including navigation, inflight refueling, air-to-surface missile strike procedures, Arctic staging, penetration tactics, and electronic countermeasures.

Order of battle 1990–91

30th Air Army 1990

HQ: Blagoveshchensk, Amur Oblast (Source Michael Holm)

  • independent Communications Regiment (Blagoveshchensk, Amur Oblast)
  • 219th Long-Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Spassk-Dalny (Khvalynka), Primorskiy Kray) with Tu-16
  • 31st Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Belaya, Irkutsk Oblast)
    • 1225th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment (Belaya, Irkutsk Oblast) with Tu-22M2
    • 1229th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment (Belaya, Irkutsk Oblast) with Tu-22M2
  • 55th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Vozdvizhenka, Primorskiy Kray)
    • 303rd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment (Zavitinsk, Amur Oblast) with Tu-16K
    • 444th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment (Vozdvizhenka, Primorskiy Kray) with Tu-16K

37th Air Army

See 37th Air Army

46th Air Army

Order of battle 1990

HQ: Smolensk[16]

  • 64th independent Communications Regiment (Smolensk, Smolensk Oblast)
  • 103rd Guards Military-Transport Aviation Regiment (Smolensk, Smolensk Oblast) with An-12/24/26
  • 199th Guards Long-Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Nezhin, Chernigov Oblast) with Tu-22R
  • 290th Long-Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Zyabrovka, Gomel Oblast) with Tu-22R and Tu-16
  • 13th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Poltava, Poltava Oblast)
  • 15th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Ozernoye, Zhitomir Oblast)
  • 22nd Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Bobruisk, Mogilev Oblast)
  • 326th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division (Tartu, Estonian SSSR)

On 1 January 1991, the 46th Air Army included the following units:[17]

  • 64th Independent Communications Regiment (Smolensk)
  • 103rd Guards Transport Aviation Regiment (Smolensk)
  • 199th Guards 'Brest' Independent Long-Range Reconnaissance Regiment (Nezhin), 26 Tu-22R
  • 290th Independent Long-Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Zyabrovka, Gomel region)
  • 13th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Division
    • 185th Guards Bomber Regiment (Poltava, Ukraine) - 22 Tu-22M;
  • 15th Guards "Gomel" TBAD (Ozernoye, Zhitomir region)
    • 121st Guards "Sevastopol" TBAP (Machulishchi, Minsk region) with 34 Tu-22K
    • 203rd Guards "Orel" TBAP (Baranovichi, North Brest region) with 32 Tu-22K
    • 341st TBAP (Ozernoye, Zhitomir Oblast) with 32 Tu-22K
  • 22nd Guards "Donbas" TBAD (Babruysk (air base), South Mogilev region)
    • 200th Guards "Brest" TBAP (Bobruisk, South Mogilev region) with 20 Tu-22M3 and 18 Tu-16K
    • 260th TBAP (Stryy, Lvov region) with 18 Tu-22M3 and 23 Tu-16K
  • 326th "Ternopol" TBAD (Tartu, Estonian SSR)
    • 132nd "Berlin" TBAP (Tartu) with 18 Tu-22M3 and 17 Tu-16K
    • 402nd TBAP (Balbasovo, Vitebsk region) with 17 Tu-22M3 and 7 Tu-16K
    • 840th TBAP (Soltsy-2, South Novgorod region) with 19 Tu-22M3

46th Air Army was disbanded 10.94.

After the fall of the Soviet Union

A Tu-160 in Ukrainian colours, 1997.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Air Force was left with three air armies (1,100 combat aircraft), which included 30 Tu-16 missile carriers, 33 Tu-22KD missile carriers, 30 Tu-22R reconnaissance aircraft, 36 Tu-22M3s, 23 Tu-95MSs, 19 Tu-160s, 20 Ilyushin IL-78 aerial refueling aircraft, as well as large stockpiles of missiles: 1,068 Kh-55s and 423 Kh-22s.[18][19][20]

In 1992 Ukraine also received much of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, including the 2nd Guards Maritime Missile Aviation Division (Hvardiiske, Crimea), with three regiments of maritime attack Tu-22M2s and an independent Maritime Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Saki-Novofedorovka, Crimean Oblast) of Tu-22Ps. The 1995/96 edition of the Military Balance continued to list the remnant of these forces under now-Ukrainian Naval Aviation. In 1994 Tu-22M2s, Tu-16Ks and a large part of the Tupolev Tu-22Ps were put in storage and then dismantled.[21][22]

The reasons for the elimination of Ukrainian long-range bombers included:[21]

  • The deep economic crisis in the Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR
  • Pressure from the U.S. State Department on Ukraine
  • Lack of support from production plants and design bureaus which remained in Russia
  • Reduction in the size of the armed forces resulting in the loss of experienced pilots and supporting personnel
  • Life expectancy of some aircraft components and assemblies had expired

Funding for the elimination of strategic aviation of Ukraine was allocated by the U.S. government as part of an agreement "to provide assistance to Ukraine in the elimination of strategic nuclear weapons and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction", signed on November 25, 1993 between Ukraine and the United States.[18] In 2000 in the agreement was extended to 31 December 2006.[23]

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Long Range Aviation in Russia entered a period of decline, along with the other former components of the Soviet Armed Forces. This culminated when the command was formally disbanded in 1998 as part of the amalgamation of the Russian Air Defence Force and the Air Forces. It was replaced by the 37th Air Army of the Supreme High Command.

In 2009 the 37th Air Army of the Supreme Command was disbanded as part of a large scale reorganisation of the Air Force and has been reformed into the Long Range Aviation Command.


  1. "Зарождение и развитие теории глубокого боя". 
  2. "The Organizational Structure of the Red Army Air Force" (in Russian). 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  3. Bergström, Christer (2007). Stalingrad – The Air Battle: 1942 through January 1943. Chevron Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4. 
  4. Golovanov (2004), p. 265.
  5. Golovanov, Aleksandr Evgenʹevich (2007). Дальняя бомбардировочная: воспоминания Главного маршала авиации 1941–1945. Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf. pp. 546, 591. ISBN 978-5-9524-3033-4. 
  6. "Tallinn remembers victims of the bombing in March 1944". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 
  7. Zolotarev, Vladimir A. (1999). Velikaja Otečestvennaja: Stavka-VGK dokumenty i materialy 1944–1945. Moscow: Terra. p. 368. ISBN 5-300-01162-2. 
  8. "Воздушные армии" (in Russian). 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  9. Holm, Michael (2014). "51st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Corps". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  10. Holm, Michael (2014). "70th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Corps". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  11. "Air Power Analysis: Russian Federation". AIRtime Publishing. p. 80. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Soviet Strategic Weapons developments, manuscript accessible at Yahoo Groups TO&E site
  13. "37-я воздушная армия ВВС России разбомбила Пем-Бой" (in Russian). 29 March 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  14. Holm, Michael (2011). "Aviation Corps". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  15. Felgengauer, Pavel (28 July 2008). "Canards of Strategic Purpose". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  16. Holm, Michael (2011). "46th Red Banner Air Army VGK SN". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  17. SSM manuscript from Yahoo TO&E group
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Ukraine will dispose of it the Tu-22M3". 
  19. "27 января в Полтаве состоится завершающий этап Программы ликвидации тяжелых бомбардировщиков типа Ту-22М3 и авиационных ракет типа Х-22". Ukrainian Government Portal. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  20. The Military Balance. London: International Institute for Strategic Studies. 2002. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Aviation and Time. 1996, No.5, pp.28-36.
  22. Holm, Michael (2016). "Red Banner Black Sea Fleet". Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  23. "Украина разрезала 30 бомбардировщиков Ту-22 на американские деньги" (in Russian). 29 March 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 

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