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Tu-22 BLINDER (TUPOLEV)

The TU-105 was a long-range supersonic bomber pototype. The "105" a/c was characterized by unusual arrangement of engines over rear fuselage, large-sweep wing and significantly enlarged fuselage. First flight - 21 June, 1958. The aircraft was further developed in "105A" (TU-22) project.

Developed in the 1950's, the Tu-22 was the successor to the Tu-16 high-altitude medium bomber. Carrying a similar payload at a slightly greater range, the Tu-22 offered no real increase in capability, although it was reportedly designed for KGB controlled high altitude reconnaissance missions as well as bombing. With a high accident rate, even by Soviet standards, and poor reliability, the Tu-22 was not a success and only about 200 were built, not enough to replace the Tu-16s which were kept in service well into the 1970s. The main production version was known to NATO as the 'Blinder-B' and carried air to surface missiles; about 70 'Blinder-B' reconnaissance and electronic warfare aircraft were also used. A few were exported to Iraq and Libya.

With performance roughly similar to that of the American B-58 Hustler, the BLINDER was capable of supersonic dash and cruises at high subsonic speeds, At least three major variants of the BLINDER entered operational service in the Soviet Air Forces - a free-fall bomber, an ASM carrier, and a photo/electronic reconnaissance variant.

Development of the supersonic TU-22 bomber began after the start of production of the TU-16. During preliminary studies, OKB Tupolev considered three versions: a supersonic attack bomber "98", a long range supersonic bomber "105" and an intercontinental supersonic bomber "108". The first two required swept-wings while the "108" bomber had triangular wings. In the end, the "105" design served as the basis for the TU-22 while the design of the "98" was applied to the long range fighter plane TU-128. The "108" design was completely dropped. The original design drew heavily on the TU-16 and provided for four BD-5 or BD-7 turbojet engines. The angle of the swept-back wings was increased up to 45 degrees. The project was finally approved by the Soviet government in August 1954, despite numerous objections within the Communist Party leadership.

This supersonic medium-range bomber is a swept-wing aircraft with two engines positioned as the base of the tailfin. The low-mounted swept-back wings are tapered with square tips and a wide wing root. The landing gear pods extend beyond wings' trailing edges. Two turbojets engines are low-mounted on the tail fin, with round air intakes. This eliminated the need for a complicated boundary layer separation system in the intakes, but added a 15% weight penalty, and made engine maintenance much more difficult because of how high they were off the ground. The fuselage is tube-shaped with a solid pointed nose and a stepped cockpit. Tail flats are low-mounted on the fuselage, swept-back, and tapered with square tips. The fin is swept-back, and tapered with square tip.

The prototype of the "105" aircraft with BD-7M engines made its first flight on 21 June 1958, but was subsequently extensively modified and upgraded. The Russians apparently had engine development problems early in the BLINDER program, and BLINDER prototypes were fitted with interim engines. In April 1958, even before the first flight, the decision was made to equip the aircraft with more powerful HK-6 engines and to build a second prototype with BD-7M engines. As development of the HK-6 engines were delayed and only the second prototype was actually built, which carried out its' first flight in September 1959. During testing, numerous problems arose, and a number of crewmen were lost in crashes. Series production of this aircraft -- designated the TU-22 -- started at the plant Nr.22 in Kazan in 1959, where more than 300 TU-22 bombers were built through 1969. It entered operational service in 1962 and by 1970 there were 180 BLINDER aircraft in LRA service.

Several versions of the Blinder-bomber were built:

From 1965 on, all Blinder aircraft were equipped with an air refueling system, consisting of a refueling probe which folds into the fuselage when not in use. And beginning in 1965 the TU-22 fleet was re-equipped with more powerful RD-7M2 engines which allowed an increase in the maximum speed up to 1,600 km/h.

The TU-22 bombers was intended to replace the TU-16, but due to its' poor performance it was deemed unsatisfactory. Carrying a similar payload to only a slightly greater range, the Tu-22 offered no real increase in capability. Its limited range was its main disadvantage, though the TU-22K only carried one missile whereas the TU-16 carried up to three. Unreliable and prone to accidents, the Blinder was not built in sufficient numbers to replace the aging Tu-16 Badgers, which remained in service well into the 1970s. Subseqeuntly, KB Tupolev sought to upgrade the TU-22 in the form of a new design [designated "106"] that was supposed to have a range of 6700km, a speed of 2,000km/h and new HK-6 engines. This effort eventually led to the development of the Tu-22M BACKFIRE.

The Tu-22 was used by the Soviet Union in the Afghanistan War, and served the Soviet Air Force, and Navy into the late 1980's. Iraq received about 12 Blinders in 1973, while Libya received their 12 to 18 from 1977 to 1983. They were used by Iraq during in Iraq-Iran War, and by Libya during the conflicts in Sudan and Chad. A number of Blinders from each nation were lost to SAM's of opposing nations. As of 2000, Ukraine remains the sole operator of the type, with the Libyan, and Iraqi aircraft thought to be unserviceable.


Historical Review - Western Estimates
Estimated start of flight testing 1959
First discovery
Blinder A January 1960
Blinder B 1961
Blinder C June 1965
Blinder D 1966
Estimated start of series production 1959
Initial operational capability 1961
Significant operational capability1962



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