Tupolev Tu-22M

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For the non-swing-wing bomber, see Tu-22.
Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M3 Beltyukov.jpg
A Russian Air Force Tu-22M3
Role Strategic bomber, maritime strike
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 30 August 1969
Introduction 1972
Status In service
Primary users Soviet Air Forces (historical)
Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Navy (historical)
Produced 1967–1997[1]
Number built 497
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. According to some sources, the bomber was believed to be designated Tu-26 at one time. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force, and as of 2014 more than 100 Tu-22Ms are in use.[2]


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 abortive Tu-98. 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.[3]

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.[4]

Production of all Tu-22M variants totalled 497 including pre-production aircraft.[5]

Operational history[edit]

During the Cold War, the Tu-22M was operated by the VVS (Soviet Air Force) in a strategic bombing role, and by the AVMF (Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskogo Flota, Soviet Naval Aviation) in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role.[5] During the 1970s, Tu-22M made a few simulated attack runs against U.S. Navy carrier battle groups. 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, from 1987 to 1989. It is capable of dropping large tonnages of conventional ordnance. The Russian Federation used the Tu-22M3 in combat in Chechnya during 1995, performing strikes near Grozny.[5]

At the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 370 remained in Commonwealth of Independent States service. Production ended in 1993. The fleet strength was about 84 aircraft in 2008.[6]

In August 2007, the Tu-22M and the Tu-95 resumed long-range patrol for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union.[7]

Tu-22M3 in 2004 at Monino near Moscow

The Russian military acknowledged the loss of a Tu-22MR recon aircraft to Georgian air defences early in the 2008 South Ossetia war.[8][9] 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[10] as late as November 2011.[11]

On Good Friday night, 29 March 2013, two Tu-22M3 bombers were flying in international airspace in a simulated attack on Sweden. The Swedish air defense failed to respond.[12][13] Two Tu-22Ms flew supersonic over the Baltic Sea on 24 March 2015.[14] 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.[15] On 4 July 2015, two Tu-22Ms approached the Swedish island of Gotland, followed by Swedish and other fighter aircraft. The Russian bombers did not enter Swedish territory.[16][importance?]

On 17 November 2015, Russia used 12 Tu-22M3 strategic long-range bombers against targets in Syria, along with cruise missiles fired from the Mediterranean and Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers.[17][18]


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 posed a threat to the US military presence in the region.[19] During 2001, India signed a lease-to-buy contract for four Tu-22M aircraft for maritime reconnaissance and strike purposes. At the time, the aircraft were expected to be delivered with Raduga Kh-22 cruise missiles.[20][21][22]

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.[23] 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.[24] Rosoboronexport has reportedly denied any sales or negotiations with China regarding the Tu-22M.[25]


Only nine of the earliest Tu-22M0 pre-production aircraft were produced, followed by nine more Tu-22M1 pilot-production craft in 1971 and 1972. Its NATO reporting name was Backfire-A.

The first major production version, entering production in 1972, was the Tu-22M2 (NATO: Backfire-B), with longer wings and an extensively redesigned, area ruled fuselage (raising the crew complement to four), twin NK-22 engines (215 kN thrust each) with F-4 Phantom II-style intake ramps, and new undercarriage with the main landing gear in the wing glove rather than in large pods. These were armed most commonly with long-range cruise missiles/anti-ship missiles, typically one or two Raduga Kh-22 anti-shipping missiles.[citation needed] Some Tu-22M2s were later reequipped with more powerful NK-23 engines and redesignated Tu-22M2Ye.

Closeup of refuelling probe on the Tu-22M's nose

The later Tu-22M3 (NATO: Backfire C), which first flew in 1976 and entered service in 1983, had new NK-25 engines with substantially more power, wedge-shaped intake ramps similar to the MiG-25, wings with greater maximum sweep, and a recontoured nose housing a new Leninets PN-AD radar and NK-45 nav/attack system, which provides much-improved low-altitude flight. It had a revised tail turret with a single cannon, and provision for an internal rotary launcher for the Raduga Kh-15 missile, similar to the American AGM-69 SRAM. It was nicknamed Troika ('Trio' or third) in Russian service.

As built the Tu-22M included the provision for a retractable probe in the upper part of the nose for aerial refueling. The probe was reportedly removed as a result of the SALT negotiations, because with aerial refueling it was considered an intercontinental range strategic bomber.[26] The probe can be reinstated if needed.[5][27]

Several Tu-22M3s, perhaps 12, were converted to Tu-22M3(R) or Tu-22MR standard with Shompol side looking airborne radar and other ELINT equipment.[5]

Tu-22M3M: Tu-22M3 for RuAF with upgraded avionics and the ability to use precision air-to-surface weapons. Prior to 2020 it is planned to upgrade 30 Tu-22M3 with new hardware components and adapted for the extended range weapons.[28] Some modernized aircraft entered in service in 2015.[29][30]


A Ukrainian Tu-22M is dismantled through assistance provided by the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program implemented by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Former operators[edit]

 Soviet Union

Undisclosed operators[edit]


Specifications (Tu-22M3)[edit]

Orthographic projection of the Tupolev Tu-22M
A painting depicting the loading of Raduga Kh-15 missiles onto rotary launcher of a Tu-22M
A Raduga Kh-22 anti-ship missile under a Tu-22M3

Data from Frawley,[33] Donald,[34] Wilson[35]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, weapon systems operator)
  • Length: 42.4 m (139 ft 4 in)
  • Wingspan:
    • Spread (20° sweep): 34.28 m (112 ft 6 in)
    • Swept (65° sweep): 23.30 m (76 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 11.05 m (36 ft 3 in)
  • Wing area:
    • Spread: 183.6 m² (1,976 ft²)
    • Swept: 175.8 m² (1,892 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 58,000 kg (128,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 112,000 kg (246,000 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 124,000 kg (273,000 lb) ; 126,400 kg (278,700 lb) for rocket assisted TO
  • Powerplant: 2 × Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofans, 247.9 kN (55,100 lbf) each
  • Fuel capacity: 54,000 kg (118,800 lb) internally



  • Guns: 1 × 23-mm GSh-23 cannon in remotely controlled tail turret
  • Hardpoints: wing and fuselage pylons and internal weapons bay with a capacity of 24,000 kg (53,000 lb) of
  • Up to 3 × Raduga Kh-22 missiles in weapons bay and on wing pylons or
  • Up to 6 × Raduga Kh-15 missiles on a MKU-6-1 rotary launcher in its bomb bay, plus 4 × Raduga Kh-15 missiles on two underwing pylons for a total of 10 missiles per aircraft.
  • Various freefall bombs – 69 × FAB-250 or 8 × FAB-1500 might be typical.

The Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) long-range cruise missile was tested on the Tu-22M[36] but apparently not used in service.

Notable appearances in media[edit]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ "Ту-22М (Ту-22М2/Ту-22МЗ) -дальний бомбардировщик" [Tu-22 m (Tu-22 m 2/TU-22mz)-long-range bomber]. oaokapo.ru (in Russian). Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Hoyle, Craig (26 September 2014). "Kings of the swingers: Top 13 swing-wing aircraft". Flightglobal. Archived from the original on 27 September 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Eden, Paul, ed. Tupolev Tu-22/22M". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  4. ^ "Tu-22M BACKFIRE (TUPOLEV)". FAS.org. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Goebel, Greg. "The Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" & Tu-22M 'Backfire'". vectorsite.net. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. [self-published source?]
  6. ^ "TU-22M Backfire". warfare.be. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Sekretarev, Ivan (18 August 2007). "Russia starts Soviet-style bomber patrols". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 24 June 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ "Генштаб признал потерю двух самолетов в Южной Осетии" [The General staff acknowledged the loss of two aircraft in South Ossetia] (in Russian). Lenta.ru. 9 August 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2008. 
  9. ^ Chang, Felix K. (13 August 2008). "Russia Resurgent: An Initial Look at Russian Military Performance in Georgia". Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "Маленькая бедоносная война" [Little bedonosnaâ war] (in Russian). Moskovskij Komsomolets. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "RUSSIA/GEORGIA - Remains handed over by Georgia not of downed Russian pilot - source". Wikileaks. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  12. ^ "Danish F-16s confronted Russian fighter jets approaching Sweden". The Copenhagen Post. April 23, 2013. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. 
  13. ^ Holmström, Mikael (22 April 2013). "Ryskt flyg övade anfall mot Sverige" [Russian aircraft practiced attacks on Sweden]. Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  14. ^ Cenciotti, David (24 March 2015). "Russian Tu-22 bomber scares NATO air defenses flying at supersonic speed over the Baltic Sea for the first time". The Aviationist. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  15. ^ Cenciotti, David (21 May 2015). "Ryskt agerande tvingar MP till vägval" [Russian action forces the MP to choices]. Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  16. ^ de la Reguera, Eric (4 July 2015). "Ryska bombplan nära Gotland" [Russian bombers near Gotland]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  17. ^ "Russian Warplanes Destroy 140 Terrorist Targets in Syria". Sputnik. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Cenciotti, David (17 November 2015). "25 Russian long-range strategic bombers in action over Syria for the very first time". The Aviationist. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "Tu-22M simulated attack on U.S. aircraft carriers during cold war". 21 September 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Sherman, K. (1 April 2001). "India Leases Backfire Bombers, Buys Aircraft Carrier". Journal of Electronic Defense. Retrieved 12 June 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  21. ^ Wirtz, James (2004). Balance of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-5017-2. 
  22. ^ a b Chopra, VD (2008). Significance of Indo-Russian Relations in 21st Century. Gyan Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 978-0-8047-5017-2. 
  23. ^ "China buys Russian bombers". SpaceDaily.com. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  24. ^ Cenciotti, David; Clements, Richard (20 January 2013). "China's Buying A Fleet Of Russian Bombers Perfect For Taking On The US Navy". Business Insider. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  25. ^ "Никаких переговоров с Китаем о поставке бомбардировщиков Ту-22М3 не велось и не ведётся – "Рособоронэкспорт." [No talks with China on supplying Tu-22M3 bombers was not and is not-"Rosoboronexport"]. ITAR-TASS News Agency (in Russian). 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  26. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 212.
  27. ^ "Tupolev Tu-22M1". Riga Aviation Museum. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  28. ^ "Ту-22М3 сделают убийцу ЕвроПРО Ради высокоточной ракеты бомбардировщику поменяют всю электронику" [Tu-22M3 aircraft will make a Europro killer for the sake of precision bomber missile defense shield will change all electronics]. VPK (in Russian). 7 February 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  29. ^ "Russia brings into service modernized long-range bomber Tu-22M3". Tass. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  30. ^ "В Национальном центре управления обороной проведен Единый день приемки военной продукции" [At the National Centre for defence management held a single day of acceptance of military products]. armstrade.org (in Russian). 17 April 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  31. ^ a b "Directory: World Air Forces". Flight International, 14–20 December 2010.
  32. ^ "Музей дальней авиации" [Museum of long-range aviation]. doroga.ua (in Russian). Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  33. ^ Frawley, Gerald. "Tupolev Tu-22M". The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003, p. 163. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  34. ^ Donald, David, ed. "Tupolev Tu-22M". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, p. 883. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  35. ^ Wilson, Stewart. Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications, 2000. p. 138. ISBN 1-875671-50-1.
  36. ^ "Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent/Kh-555/RKV-500/Kh-65)". Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems. 9 September 2008. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  • Taylor, J.W.R. (ed.) Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1980–81. London: Jane's Publishing, 1980. ISBN 0-7106-0705-9.

External links[edit]