Russia has rolled out a prototype of upgraded Tupolev Tu-22M3M long-range strategic bomber in the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) plant in the southwestern city of Kazan on August 16th, claimed by a statement issued by the Russian aerospace and defense company Tupolev.
Russian Air Force is expected to start conduct flight testing after carrying out some preliminary flight tests, while it is scheduled to have its first maiden flight in the third quarter of 2018 after delivery of the first aircraft in October of this year.
Soviet Air Force and Soviet Naval Aviation inducted the first Tu-22M3Ms into service in the 1970s. It is a supersonic variable-sweep wing bomber capable of carrying out strikes against ground and naval targets.
“In the process of extensive upgrades, the Tupolev-22M3M was equipped with the newest on-board digital radio-electronic equipment made of domestically manufactured components. In particular, the plane boasts new navigation, communication and targeting equipment, new engine and fuel consumption control systems and radio-electronic warfare means,” Tupolev said in the statement.
The statement also indicates the 80 percent of the Tu-22M3M’s avionics equipment has been replaced with parts similar to that of the Tupolev Tu-160M2 long-range supersonic strategic bomber. However, unlike the future variant of the latter, the Tu-22M3M will continue to fly with its two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofan engines sans any engine replacements. Tupolev Tu-22M3M, with a cruising speed of 900 kilometers per hour, has an operational range of around 7,000 kilometers without refueling.
About the newly inducted weapon systems of the aircraft a Russian military source confirmed that Tu-22M3M will carry the Kh-32, an upgraded version of the Raduga Kh-22 long-range anti-ship missile, has been specifically designed to attack U.S. Navy carrier strike groups, but can also be used for land strike missions. It is reportedly designed to climb to the stratosphere (40 kilometers) after launch and then either directly dives at the target or executes a lighter dive and approaches the target flying close to the ground at around 150-200 meters. The Kh-32 purportedly has an operational range of 1,000 kilometers and can reach top speeds of over Mach 4 in its terminal phase. The Tu-22M3M can also carry the Raduga Kh-15 aero-ballistic missile. The bomber will be capable of carrying up to three Kh-32 or 12 Kh-15 missiles. Both the Kh-15 and Kh-32 can alternatively be fitted with conventional or nuclear warheads.
According to unconfirmed reports, the bomber will be able to carry up to four Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) air-launched ballistic missiles.
Out of a fleet of 60 aircrafts ,the Russian Ministry of Defense (MVD) has decided to upgrade 30 of its Tu-22s to the more advanced variant of Tu-22M3M.
[Sputnik, TASS, The Diplomat]