Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) says that a joint operation between the military intelligence service and the Ukrainian Air Force was responsible for shooting down a Russian Aerospace Force Tu-22M3 that crashed outside the Russian city of Stavropol Friday morning local time.

The GUR uploaded a video of what it said was inside the control center of the air defense system used to shoot down the Tu-22M3, claiming that the joint operation hit the bomber at around 300 kilometers away from the launch site, using the same type of system used to shoot down an A-50M.

Russian authorities in Stavropol Krai claim that the four-man crew of the Tu-22M3 ejected, two crew members have rescued and one was found dead as of writing, with search and rescue efforts for the fourth crew member continuing.

The loss of the Tu-22M3 is the first known shootdown of a Russian strategic bomber following the start of Russian’s full scale invasion on 24 February 2024, with another Tu-22M3 destroyed on the ground during an August 2023 drone attack on the Soltsy-2 air base in Novgorod Oblast.

The shootdown comes amidst a new wave of concentrated Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine, with Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reporting that seven civilians, including two children, were killed by overnight Russian attacks on the Dnipropetrovsk region that injured another 26 people. While these attacks started too late to disrupt utility services during the winter, the city of Kharkiv among others has reported disruptions to its electricity and water supplies following attacks on the city’s electrical infrastructure in early April.

The Tu-22M3 lost is an “irreplaceable” loss for the Russian Aerospace Forces, as the end of Tu-22M production in 1993 means that only surviving airframes in good enough condition are upgraded to M3 standard. 

While the Kh-22Ms launched by the Tu-22M3s are said to be very hard to engage by Ukrainian air defense system operators, taking one aircraft “off the table” provides scant comfort due to the growing strain on surface-to-air missile stocks placed by the combination of increased attacks and stalled American aid to Ukraine that would replenish the missiles used by American-built SAM systems like the Patriot family.