- Unconfirmed reports of “drone attack” on Engels Airbase, Saratov on 5 December 2022
- Satellite imagery not yet available for 5 December 2022
- 4 December imagery available from Planet for potential comparison when 5 December becomes available
Various reports appeared on Social media regarding a potential Ukrainian forces strike on Engels Airbase, outside Saratov in Russia.
Engels is home to the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment flying Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers. The base has been used extensively during the Ukrainian War campaign.
Whether this was an attack or not – the range to Engels from Ukraine is over 500km, probably closer to 600km for any of the Ukrainian positions – any damages to aircraft could be a hindrance to the Russian operations.
However, in 4 December 2022 imagery, there is a significant number of Tu-95s present – 18 in total. The reported damages (or loss?) to two Tu-95’s wouldn’t affect that much. With only 5 Tu-160’s present – out of a fleet of 17 – any loss to these airframes would be a little worse for Russia. But, there’s plenty of replacements available.
By comparing the image below, with that available on Jane’s from 17 October 2022, very little has changed. It is hard to assess Tu-95 and Tu-160 activity between the two dates. At least one Tu-160 (in the maintenance area) appears to have not moved.
Note: The imagery doesn’t take in the southern part of the taxiway system where aircraft have also been placed previously. I suspect there are some there but the numbers above do not take these into account as I won’t guess. The image is annotated with IL-76’s though these could also be IL-78’s.
I make no apologies for the watermarks after recent imagery theft.
Update – 5/12/22 1550 UTC
Looking at Sentinel imagery for 5 December, there does not appear to be any evidence of an explosion at the airfield. Certainly not of an aircraft. Sentinel is low resolution of course, so high resolution imagery is needed to confirm still.
The potential railhead source of the explosion still can’t be ruled out as there is a high glowing area there. This does appear to be here in earlier passes however, and could just be a consistent heat source or sun reflection.
The imagery also shows 5 aircraft parked on the southern taxiway/runway – possibly two IL-78’s and three Tu-95’s.