Tu-22M BACKFIRE (TUPOLEV)
The BACKFIRE is a long-range aircraft capable of performing nuclear and conventional attack, anti-ship, and reconnaissance missions. Its low-level penetration features make it a much more survivable system than its predecessors. Carrying either bombs or AS-4/KITCHEN air-to-surface missiles, it is a versatile strike aircraft, believed to be intended for theater attack in Europe and Asia but also potentially capable of intercontinental missions against the United States. The BACKFIRE can be equipped with probes to permit in-flight refueling, which would further increase its range and flexibility.
During the 1980s Backfires were used for conventional bombing raids in Afghanistan, particularly during the last year of direct Soviet involvement. By 1991 it was reported that, due to a shortage of spare parts, some Backfire units had mission-capable rates of 30-40%. During the 1990s many Backfires were transferred from Long Range Aviation forces to Russian naval units in north Russia. However, by the late 1990s, at least 125 were in service with Long-Range Aviation and another 47 were in service with in Naval Aviation.
After designing the TU-22, the Tupolev design bureau started working on a new bomber that was based on the TU-22. Initially Tupolev considered modifying the TU-22 by changing the angle of the swept wings and equipping it with more powerful engines. However after developing the design "106" and various analyses, the design did not meet the flight characteristic requirements. Tupolev also developed the design "125". The aircraft was supposed have two VK-6 engines, a range of 4500-4800 km and an operating speed of up to 2500 km/h. The design provided for the use of titanium alloys and advanced electronic systems.
In 1962, the "125" design was examined by the Government but rejected in favor of the T-4 aircraft designed by KB Sukhoi. As an alternative to the T-4 aircraft, KB Tupolev developed the "145" airplane which was a modification of the TU-22. This airplane represented a multi-mode supersonic bomber which was capable of flying at subsonic speed at small altitudes and at supersonic speed to overcome air defenses. The range at subsonic speed was supposed to be 6000-7000 km. The wings are swept-back and had a variable geometry to meet the speed and range requirements. The aircraft should carry Kh-22 air-to-surface missiles which had already been deployed on other aircraft. After activities on the T-4 bombers were halted, KB Tupolev was officially charged with building the "145" aircraft in 1967. The new bomber was intended to have a maximum speed of 2300 km/h and a range of 7000 km without refueling.
It received the designation TU-22M. Some sources suggest the "deception" was internal, because this made 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 sources. At Tupolev the aircraft was designated the AM.
Many of the development steps in manufacturing the AM were unique in their time. Special attention was given to the construction of the variable sweep wing - the basis of the whole project. The mid-mounted wings are variable, swept-back, and tapered with curved tips and a wide wing root. Two turbofan engines are mounted in the body, with large rectangular air intakes and dual exhausts. The fuselage is long and slender with a solid, pointed nose and stepped cockpit. The body is rectangular from the air intakes to the exhausts.
The tail fin is swept-back and tapered with a square tip. The flats are mid-mounted on the body, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips. The wing consists of a center section and two outer panels that have five fixed positions with respect to the leading edge sweep. The two-spar centre section has a rear web and bearing skin panel. The outer wings are secured to the centre section with the aid of hinged joints. The high-lift devices include three-section slats and double-slotted flaps on the outer wings (extension angle: 23~ for takeoff and 40~ for landing) and a tilting flap on the center section.
The Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) and Tupolev Tu-160 (Blackjack) strategic bombers grabbed headlines following Russia's massive airstrikes against ISIL in Syria in NOvember 2015, but it is actually the supersonic Tu-22M3 (Backfire C) that was largely doing the work. On November 17, airstrike operations were conducted by 24 Tu-22M3s, as well as five Tu-160 and Tu-95MS.
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