The collapse of the Soviet Union's left Ukraine with one of Europe's largest and [theoretically] strongest air forces, including 55-60 Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers as of 1999. The Tu-22M-equipped bomber force reports to Air Force headquarters in Kiev. The Tu-22M Backfire bomber force is divided between two regiments at Priluki and Poltava The Ukrainian Air Force won honors at the 25-26 July 1998 Fairford International Air Tatoo in Gloucester County, England. The Ukrainian AN-72 aircraft won the contest for Best Foreign Flying Display and the TU-22M3 Backfire Bomber was runner-up in the Best Static Display category.
A regiment of 22 older Tu-22 Blinders was used in the reconnaisance role based at Nehzhin. As of the new century, Ukraine was the sole operator of the Blinder, with the Libyan, and Iraqi aircraft thought to be unserviceable.
A number of Cooperative Threat Reduction [CTR] funded efforts are still being conducted in Ukraine, including the dismantlement the elimination of the entire Soviet-era Backfire bomber fleet remaining in Ukraine. In October 2000 Ukraine's Defense Ministry asked the United States for funding to dismantle some of the country's Tu-22M bombers, and Kh-22 missiles.
In November 2001 it was announced that the US government will help Ukraine eliminate 47 Tu-22 bombers. Since Ukraine had only 22 Tu-22 Blinder bombers, another 25 the aircraft are the more advanced Tu-22M Backfire bombers. Of Ukraine's 60 Tu-22M bombers, about 40 have reached the end of their service lives and need to be scrapped.
BG Thomas Kuenning, director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, arrived in Ukraine on 30 September 2003 to oversee the destruction of a Tu-22M Backfire bomber. The bomber was the last of the dozen Backfires based at Poltava to be destroyed.
An additional 19 Tu-22Ms based in the southern city of Mykolaiv, along with 225 air-to-surface missiles at Ozernoye Air Base were scheduled to be destroyed by July 2004. By late May 2004 the CTR program had destroyed six Backfire strategic bombers in Ukraine. The Defense Department was also awaiting Ukrainian permission to begin assisting in the destruction of an additional 20 Tu-22Ms and 25 missiles.
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