Tupolev Tu-22M Bomber Aircraft
The Tupolev Tu-22M NATO reporting name: Backfire) is a supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Soviet Union. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force.
The Tupolev Tu-22 had not proved particularly successful, in some respects being inferior to the earlier Tu-16. Its range and take-off performance, in particular, were definite weak points. Even as the Tu-22 was entering service, OKB Tupolev began work on an improved successor.
As with the contemporary MiG-23 and Su-17 projects, the advantages of variable-geometry wings seemed attractive, allowing a combination of short take-off performance, efficient cruising, and good high-speed, low-level ride. The result was a new swing-wing aircraft called Samolyot 145 (Rus. Aeroplane 145), derived from the Tu-22, with some features borrowed from the abortive Tu-98. The Tu-22M was based on the Tu-22's weapon system and used its Kh-22 missile. The Tu-22M designation was used to help get approval for the bomber within the Soviet system.
The first prototype, Tu-22M0, first flew on 30 August 1969. The resultant aircraft was first seen by NATO observers shortly thereafter. For several years it was believed in the West that its service designation was Tu-26. During the SALT negotiations of the 1980s the Soviets insisted it was the Tu-22M. At the time, Western authorities suspected that the misleading designation was intended to suggest that it was simply a derivative of the Tu-22 rather than the more advanced and capable weapon it actually was.
During the Cold War, the Tu-22M was operated by the VVS (Soviet Air Force) in a strategic bombing role, and by the AVMF (Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskogo Flota, Soviet Naval Aviation) in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role. During the 1970s, Tu-22M made a few simulated attack runs against US navy carrier battle group. The bomber also made attempts to test Japan's air defense boundary on several occasions. However unlike the Tu-22 bomber, Tu-22M bombers were not exported to middle-east countries that posed threat to US military presence in the region.