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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 Force (historical)
Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Air Force
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, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Soviet Union. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force.


As with the contemporary MiG-23 and Su-17 projects, the advantages of variable-geometry wings seemed attractive, allowing a combination of short take-off performance, efficient cruising, and good high-speed, low-level ride. The result was a new swing-wing aircraft called Samolyot 145 (English: 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.[2]

The Tu-22M designation was used by the Soviet Union during SALT-2 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.[3]

Production of all Tu-22M variants totalled 497 including pre-production aircraft.[4]

Operational history

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.[4] 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. On Good Friday night, 29 March 2013, two Tu-22M3 bombers made simulated attacks on Sweden. The Swedish air defense failed to respond.[5]

The Tu-22M was first used in combat in Afghanistan from 1987 to 1989. Its usage was similar to the United States Air Force deployment of B-52 Stratofortress bombers in the Vietnam War, dropping large tonnages of conventional ordnance. The Russian Federation used the Tu-22M3 in combat in Chechnya during 1995, performing strikes near Grozny.[4]

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

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.[7][8] One of its crew members was captured (Major Vyacheslav Malkov), two others were killed and the crew commander is missing in action as of August 2009.[9]


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. However, unlike the Tu-22 bomber, Tu-22M bombers were not exported to middle-east countries that posed a threat to US military presence in the region.[10] Through 2001, four Tu-22M aircraft were leased to India for maritime reconnaissance and strike purposes.[11]

In January 2013, reports emerged that China had signed a purchase agreement for the production and delivery of 36 Tu-22M3, under the Chinese designiation of H-10; many components are to be manufactured domestically in China under a technology transfer agreement with Russia and Tupolev.[12] 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.[13] However, Rosoboronexport has reportedly denied any sales or negotiations with China regarding the Tu-22M.[14]


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 intakes, 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. In service, the Tu-22M2 was known to its crews as Dvoika ('Deuce' or second).[citation needed]

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 intakes 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 (although not true nap-of-the-earth flying).[citation needed] 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. Tu-22M3 has an improved thrust, maximum speed increases from Mach 1.65 to 2.05, and combat range from 5,100–6,800 km.[citation needed]

One topic of controversy surrounding the Tu-22M is its capacity for aerial refueling. As built, the Tu-22M has provision for a retractable in-flight refueling probe in the upper part of the nose. This was allegedly removed as a result of the SALT negotiations,[15] although it can be easily reinstated if needed,[4] and a pilot-production Tu-22M1 (NATO: Backfire-A) with refueling probe can be seen at Riga Airport today.[16]

A small number, perhaps 12, of Tu-22M3s were converted to Tu-22M3(R) or Tu-22MR standard, with Shompol side-looking radar and other ELINT equipment.[4]

Tu-22M3M: Tu-22M3 for RuAF with upgraded avionics and the ability to use precision weapons air-to-surface. Prior to 2020 is planned to upgrade 30 Tu-22M3, setting them on a new hardware component base and adapted to the extended range weapons.[17]


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

Current operators


Former operators

 Soviet Union

Specifications (Tu-22M3)

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,[20] Donald,[21] Wilson[22]

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: 54,000 kg (119,000 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, 245.2 kN (55,100 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.88 (2,000 km/h, 1,240 mph) ; at altitude
  • Range: 6,800 km (4,200 mi, 3,700 nmi)
  • Combat radius: 2,410 km (1,500 mi, 1,300 nmi)with typical weapons load
  • Service ceiling: 13,300 m (43,600 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 15 m/s (91 ft/s)
  • Wing loading: 688 kg/m² (147 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.40


  • 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[23] but apparently not used in service.

See also


  2. Eden, Paul, ed. Tupolev Tu-22/22M". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  3. [1]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Goebel, Greg. "The Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" & Tu-22M 'Backfire'". 
  5. "Ryskt flyg övade anfall mot Sverige" (in Swedish). 22 April 2013. 
  6. TU-22M Backfire | Russian Arms, Military Technology, Analysis of Russia's Military Forces
  7. "Генштаб признал потерю двух самолетов в Южной Осетии". 9 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  8. "Russia Resurgent: An Initial Look at Russian Military Performance in Georgia". 13 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  9. "Маленькая бедоносная война" (in Russian). Moskovskij Komsomolets. August 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  10. "Tu-22M simulated attack on U.S. aircraft carriers during cold war". Sep 21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  11. Wirtz, James (2004). Balance of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 332. ISBN 978-0-8047-5017-2. 
  12. "China buys Russian bombers.", 23 January 2013.
  13. Cenciotti, David and Richard Clements. "China's Buying A Fleet Of Russian Bombers Perfect For Taking On The US Navy." Business Insider, 20 January 2013.
  14. "Никаких переговоров с Китаем о поставке бомбардировщиков Ту-22М3 не велось и не ведётся – "Рособоронэкспорт." ITAR-TASS News Agency, 24 January 2013.
  15. Taylor 1980, p. 212.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Directory: World Air Forces". Flight International, 14–20 December 2010.
  20. Frawley, Gerald. "Tupolev Tu-22M". The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003, p. 163. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  21. Donald, David, ed. "Tupolev Tu-22M". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, p. 883. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  22. Wilson, Stewart. Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications, 2000. p. 138. ISBN 1-875671-50-1.
  23. "Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent/Kh-555/RKV-500/Kh-65)". 2008-09-09. Retrieved 2009-02-06. [dead link]
  • Taylor, J.W.R. (ed.) Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1980–81. London: Jane's Publishing, 1980. ISBN 0-7106-0705-9.

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