The Russian Defence Ministry has confirmed that Russian TU95MS strategic bombers have launched advanced Kh-101 cruise missiles on ISIS positions near ISIS’s Syrian “capital” of Raqqa.
These reports come shortly after reports that the Syrian army is now at the gates of Palmyra, having stormed earlier today the Al-Kalaabiyah Farms in the western groves of Al-Bayarat, within a short distance of the city, and that the Kurdish militia is pressing forward with its attack on Raqqa.
The Russian Defence Ministry report confirming news of the cruise missile strike reads as follows
On February 17, 2017, the Tu-95MS strategic bombers, flying from the Russian territory through the airspace of Iran and Iraq, attacked the ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group outlawed in Russia) facilities near the Syrian city of Raqqa with the Kh-101 cruise missiles. The targets included militant camps and training centers as well as a command center of one of the major ISIL units
The deployment by the Russians of strategic TU95MS bombers with their advanced cruise missiles represents a major escalation of their air campaign against ISIS. The Russians have not carried out bombing raids in Syria with strategic bombers like the TU95MS for almost a year.
The TU95MS is the latest variant of the giant TU95 turboprop bomber which is the direct Russian equivalent of the US B-52. Like the B-52 it dates from the 1950s and has been in continuous service since then. Unlike the B-52, which has seen combat on numerous occasions, the TU95 was never used in combat until Russia intervened in the Syrian war in the autumn of 2015.
This means that though the TU95 first entered service with the Soviet air force in 1956 (and first flew in 1952 – before Stalin’s death) the first occasion when it was used in combat was on 17th November 2015, when it carried out its first missile strike in Syria, which is almost 60 years after it first entered service.