The Tu-22M is a long-range, strategic strike bomber developed during the Cold War by the Soviet State-run firm Tupolev. The NATO designating name for this Russian jet bomber is “Backfire”. The Tu-22M made its maiden flight in 1969 and entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1972 and is still in active service with the Russian Air Force. It was the main and the most advanced deterrence strategic bomber in the Soviet arsenal at the end of the Cold War period.
The Tu-22M was first used in combat in Afghanistan, where it was deployed from 1987 to 1989. Its usage was similar to the United States Air Force deployment of B-52 Stratofortress bombers in 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. 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, with an additional 93 in reserve.
The Tu-22M is a supersonic, jet aircraft fitted with variable-sweep wings, which are mounted low on the fuselage. It is powered by two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofan engines, whose air intakes are at the sides of the fuselage, right above the wings. It can reach the top speed of Mach 1.88. Armed with long-range cruise missiles, the Tu-22M was operated by the Soviet Air Force in a strategic bombing role, and by the Soviet Naval Aviation in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role during the Cold War.
Type: long-range, strategic strike bomber
Nation: Soviet Union/Russia
Engine: two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofans
Maximum speed: Mach 2.19 (2,300 km/h, 1,440 mph)
Range: 3,000 km (2,000mi)
Ceiling: 13,300 m (43,600 ft)
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)
Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, weapon systems operator)
Weapons: two 23mm GSh-23 cannons in tail turret; three Kh-22 (AS-4 “Kitchen”) cruise anti-ship missiles; six Raduga Kh-15 air-to-surface missiles; up to 24,000 kg of bombs