Two Tu-22M3 long-range bombers performed a scheduled flight in the airspace over international waters near the contested Crimea peninsula and Ukrainian coast in the Black Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Thursday. Russia’s Tu-22M3 long-range aviation regularly performed flights over international waters in the Arctic, North Atlantic, the Black and Caspian Seas and the Pacific Ocean. During the flight, crews of long-range bombers covered about 4,500 kilometers and were in the air for more than 5 hours.
The Tupolev Tu-22M (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. 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 (AVMF) in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force, and as of 2014 more than 100 Tu-22Ms are in use.
A contract for a full mid-life upgrade, the Tu-22M3M was signed in September 2014. The aircraft is 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 suit is fitted, replacing the tail gun of the existing Tu-22M3. Much of the new avionics are shared with the upgraded Tu-160M2 Armament is 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.Deliveries of the Tu-22M3M are expected to begin in 2021.