|A Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-22M3|
|Role||Strategic bomber/Maritime strike|
|National origin||Soviet Union|
|First flight||30 August 1969|
|Primary users||Russian Aerospace Forces|
Soviet Air Forces (historical)
Ukrainian Air Force (historical)
|Developed from||Tupolev Tu-22|
The Tupolev Tu-22M (Russian: Туполев Ту-22М; NATO reporting name: Backfire) is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the 1960s. According to some sources, the bomber was believed to be designated Tu-26 at one time. During the Cold War, the Tu-22M was operated by the Soviet Air Forces (VVS) in a missile carrier strategic bombing role, and by the Soviet Naval Aviation (Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskogo Flota, AVMF) in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role. As of 2021, there were 66 of the aircraft in service.
In 1962, after the introduction of the Tupolev Tu-22, it became increasingly clear that the aircraft was inadequate in its role as a bomber. In addition to widespread unserviceability and maintenance problems, the Tu-22's handling characteristics proved to be dangerous. Its landing speed was 100 km/h (60 mph) greater than previous bombers and it had a tendency to pitch up and strike its tail upon landing. It was difficult to fly, and had poor all-round visibility. In 1962, Tupolev commenced work on major update of the Tu-22. Initially, the bureau planned to add a variable-sweep wing and uprated engines into the updated design. The design was tested at TsAGI's wind tunnels at Zhukovsky.
During this time Sukhoi developed the T-4, a four-engine titanium aircraft with canards. A response to the XB-70, it was to have a cruise speed of 3,200 km/h (2,000 mph), requiring a major research effort in order to develop the requisite technologies. Tupolev, whose expertise was with bombers, offered the Soviet Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily, VVS) a massively updated version of the Tu-22.
Compared to the T-4, it was an evolutionary design, and thus its appeal lay in its simplicity and low cost. The Soviet government was skeptical about the need to approve the development of a replacement aircraft so soon after the Tu-22 had entered service. The Air Force and Tupolev, in order to save face regarding the Tu-22's operational deficiencies and to stave off criticisms from the ICBM lobby, agreed to pass off the design as an update of the Tu-22 in their discussions with the government. The aircraft was designated Tu-22M, given the OKB code "Aircraft 45", and an internal designation of "AM". Their effort was successful as the government approved the design on 28 November 1967, and decreed the development of the aircraft's main weapon, the Kh-22 missile. The T-4 itself made its first flight in 1972, but was later cancelled.
US intelligence had been aware of the existence of the aircraft since 1969, and the first satellite photograph of the bomber was taken in 1970. The existence of the aircraft was a shock to US intelligence as Nikita Khrushchev, who had been the Soviet premier up to 1964, was adamant that ICBMs would render the bomber obsolete.
As in the case of its contemporaries, the MiG-23 and Su-17 projects, the advantages of variable-sweep wing (or "swing wing") seemed attractive, allowing a combination of short take-off performance, efficient cruising, and good high-speed, low-level flight. The result was a new swing-wing aircraft named Samolyot 145 (Aeroplane 145), derived from the Tupolev Tu-22, with some features borrowed from the abandoned Tu-98 project. The Tu-22M was based on the Tu-22's weapon system and used its Kh-22 missile. The Tu-22M designation was used to help get approval for the bomber within the Soviet military and government system.
The Tu-22M designation was used by the Soviet Union during the SALT II arms control negotiations, creating the impression that it was a modification of the Tu-22. Some suggested that the designation was deliberately deceptive, and intended to hide the Tu-22M's performance. Other sources suggest the "deception" was internal to make it easier to get budgets approved. According to some sources, the Backfire-B/C production variants were believed to be designated Tu-26 by Russia, although this is disputed by many others. The US State and Defense Departments have used the Tu-22M designation for the Backfire.
Production of all Tu-22M variants totalled 497, including pre-production aircraft.
An initial attempt at modernizing the Tu-22M, Adaptation-45.03M, based around modernizing the aircraft's radar, began in 1990, but was abandoned before reaching production. In 2007, work began on a new radar for the Tu-22M, the NV-45, which was first flown on a Tu-22M in 2008, with four more repaired Tu-22Ms refitted with NV-45 radars in 2014–2015.
A contract for a full mid-life upgrade, the Tu-22M3M, was signed in September 2014. The aircraft was then planned to receive a further modified NV-45M radar, together with new navigation equipment and a modified flight control system. A new self-defense electronic radar suite was to be fitted, replacing the tail gun of the existing Tu-22M3. Much of the new avionics were planned to be shared with the upgraded Tu-160M2. As of 2018[update], armament was planned to be enhanced by adding the new Kh-32 missile, a heavily modified version of the current Kh-22, the subsonic Kh-SD, the hypersonic Kh-MT, or the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missiles. In 2018, deliveries of the Tu-22M3M were expected to begin in 2021.[needs update]
On 11 May 2020, it was reported by TASS, citing anonymous sources in the military-industrial complex, that a test launch of a new hypersonic missile, not belonging to the Kh-32 family, was conducted from a Tu-22M3M. Reportedly, work on the missile had been initiated several years earlier, and its tests were expected to be completed "simultaneously with the work on the upgraded Tu-22M3M bomber".
A separate, simpler, upgrade program (SVP-24-22) was being carried out in 2018 by the company Gefest & T, based on avionics developed for the Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft, including a new computer, a new navigation system and digital processing for the aircraft's radar. The upgrade is claimed to greatly increase navigation accuracy and bomb delivery. A SVP-24-22-equipped Tu-22M underwent trials in 2009, and the program was moved into production, with deliveries after 2012.
The two prototypes Tu-22M(0) were delivered to Long Range Aviation's 42nd Combat Training Centre at Dyagilevo air base, near Ryazan, in February 1973. The aircraft began practice sorties in March. Within 20 days of the aircraft's delivery, the air and ground crew at the air base had received their type ratings; this was helped by their earlier training at Tupolev, the Gromov Flight Research Institute and the Kazan plant. In June that year, the aircraft were demonstrated to Soviet government officials, destroying tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
The Tu-22M was first unveiled in 1980 during the aircraft's participation in a major Warsaw Pact exercise. During the exercise, naval Tu-22M2s conducted anti-ship operations by mining parts of the Baltic Sea to simulate an amphibious landing. The exercise was extensively covered by the press and TV media. In June 1981, four Tu-22Ms were intercepted and photographed by Norwegian aircraft flying over the Norwegian Sea.
The first simulated attack by the Tu-22M against a NATO carrier group occurred between 30 September and 1 October 1982. Eight aircraft locked onto the U.S. task forces of USS Enterprise and USS Midway which were operating in the North Pacific. They came within 120 mi (200 km) of the task forces. The reaction of the U.S. Navy was thought to have been restrained during this event so as to allow the observation of the Tu-22M's tactics. The bomber also made attempts to test Japan's air defense boundary on several occasions.
The Tu-22M was first used in combat in Afghanistan. It was deployed December 1987 to January 1988, during which the aircraft flew strike missions in support of the Soviet Army's attempt to relieve the Mujahideens' Siege of Khost. Two squadrons of aircraft from the 185th GvBAP based at Poltava were deployed to Maryy-2 air base in Turkmenistan. Capable of dropping large tonnages of conventional ordnance, the aircraft bombed enemy forts, bases and material supplies. In October 1988, the aircraft was again deployed against the Mujahideen. Sixteen Tu-22M3s were used to provide cover to Soviet forces that were pulling out of the country. The Tu-22Ms were tasked with destroying paths of access to Soviet forces, attacking enemy forces at night to prevent regrouping, and to attack incoming supplies from Iran and Pakistan. Working alongside 30 newly arrived MiG-27s, the aircraft also flew missions aimed at relieving the besieged city of Kandahar. The aircraft had its last Afghan operation in January 1989 at Salang pass.
The Tu-22M suffered from widespread maintenance problems due to poor manufacturing quality during its service with the Soviet forces. The engines and airframes in particular had short service lives. The Air Force at one point sought to prosecute Tupolev for allegedly rushing the inadequate designs of the Tu-22M and the Tu-160 into service. This was compounded by the government bureaucracy, which hampered the provision of spare parts to allow the servicing of the Tu-22M. With some aircraft grounded for up to six months, the mission-capable rate of the aircraft in August 1991 was around 30–40%.
At the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 370 remained in Commonwealth of Independent States service. Production ended in 1993.
The Russian Federation used the Tu-22M3 in combat in Chechnya during 1995, performing strikes near Grozny.
In August 2007, the Tu-22M and the Tu-95 began conducting long-range patrolling, for the first time since 1992.
On 9 August 2008, a Russian Tu-22MR reconnaissance aircraft was shot down in South Ossetia by a Georgian air defence Buk-M1 surface-to-air-missile system during the 5–day Russo-Georgian War. One of its crew members was captured (Major Vyacheslav Malkov), two others were killed and the crew commander, Lt. Col. Aleksandr Koventsov, was missing in action.
On 29 March 2013, two Tu-22M3 bombers flying in international airspace made a simulated attack on Sweden. The Swedish air defense failed to respond. Two Tu-22Ms flew supersonic over the Baltic Sea on 24 March 2015. Two Tu-22Ms approached Öland in international airspace on 21 May 2015. The Swedish Air Force sent two Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters to mark their presence. On 4 July 2015, two Tu-22Ms approached the Swedish island of Gotland without violating its airspace, followed by Swedish and other fighter aircraft.
In 2014, Russian aerospace expert Piotr Butowski estimated there were seven squadrons of Tu-22Ms in service, each with approximately 10 aircraft, stationed at three airbases; 40 at Belaya airbase in southeastern Siberia, 28 at Shaykovka airbase southwest of Moscow, and 10 at Dyagilevo airbase in Ryazan southeast of Moscow which serves as the training unit for the bomber. With the removal of the aircraft's in-flight refueling capability due to the START I treaty, the Tu-22M's internal fuel capacity limits its operational range (combat radius unrefueled: 4,000–5,000 km (DIA), 3,360–3,960 km (CIA) estimate) from its home bases to only around Russia's immediate sphere of influence.
Since late January 2017, six Tu-22M3s resumed airstrikes in the area of Deir ez-Zor to prevent capture of the city by jihadists and again in late 2017 to support a government offensive. 22–31 January 2016, Tu-22M3s reportedly conducted 42 sorties performing airstrikes in the vicinity of Deir ez-Zor. On the morning of 12 July 2016, six Tu-22M3 bombers carried out a concentrated attack using high-explosive ammunition on Daesh targets east of Palmyra, Al-Sukhnah and Arak. On 14 July, six Tu-22M3 bombers operating from airfields in Russia delivered another massive strike on the newly detected IS facilities in the areas east of Palmyra, as well as in Al-Sukhnah, Arak, and the T-3 oil pumping station in the province of Homs. New raids were conducted on 21 July, 8 August, 11 August, and 14 August 2016.
On 16 August 2016, the bombers began to fly missions in Syria using Iran's Hamedan Airbase.
In November 2017, six Tu-22M3s resumed airstrikes in the area of Deir ez-Zor to support a government offensive. In May 2021, three Tu-22Ms were temporarily deployed to the Khmeymim airbase in Syria. Tu-22Ms were again deployed in eastern Mediterranean in June of the same year for large RF Navy and Air Force drills.
On 15 April 2022, Ukrainian Defence Ministry stated Russia had used Tu-22M3 bombers for the first time since the start of its invasion of Ukraine, to strike targets in Mariupol. It had earlier been reported that FAB-3000M-46 dumb bombs had been reactivated in Russia for use with Tu-22M3 bombers to strike targets at the Azovstal iron and steel works plant that became the last bastion for Ukrainian troops in the besieged city of Mariupol.
On 11 May 2022, a video emerged on the Worldwide Web showing a Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-22M3 bomber launching two Kh-22 missiles at targets somewhere in Ukraine.
On 5 December 2022, a Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-22M3 bomber, identified as RF-34110, was shown damaged as a result of a long-range drone attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine against the Dyagilevo air base. Images on social media showed at least the engine outputs and the trailing edge of the stabilizers damaged.
On 20 August 2023, the Russian government confirmed a drone attack on an airbase in Novgorod and BBC News subsequently published verified images of a Tu-22M3 engulfed in flames at Soltsy air base, Russia, which had been attacked by drones on the day before.
The Tupolev company has sought export customers for the Tu-22M since 1992, with possible customers including Iran, India and the People's Republic of China, but no sales have apparently been made. Unlike the Tu-22 bomber, Tu-22Ms were not exported to Middle East countries that were threatened by the US military presence in the region. During 1999, India signed a lease-to-buy contract for four Tu-22M aircraft for maritime reconnaissance and strike purposes, which came in IAF service during 2001. At the time, the aircraft were to be delivered with Kh-22 cruise missiles.
In January 2013, reports emerged that China had signed a purchase agreement for the production and delivery of 36 Tu-22M3s, under the Chinese designation of H-10, with many components to be manufactured domestically in China under a technology transfer agreement with Russia and Tupolev. Sales of the Russian-built Raduga Kh-22 long-range anti-ship missile and the fleet's intended use as a maritime strike platform have also been speculated upon. Rosoboronexport has reportedly denied any sales or negotiations with China regarding the Tu-22M.
Data from Frawley, Donald, Wilson, Kardashev,[verification needed] Yakubovich,[verification needed]
The Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) long-range cruise missile was tested on the Tu-22M but apparently not used in service.
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