Backfires in action over Syria

Tu-22M3s strike as part of large strategic bomber force

Some fourteen Tu-22M3 ‘Backfires’ from Mozdok attacked IS targets in the east of Syria. While Kh-555 ALCMs appear to have been used from the Tu-95MS and Kh-101s from the Tu-160s, videos suggest dumb iron bombs were used by the Tu-22M3s.

Russia is preparing its Tu-22M3 long-range bombers for several more decades of service. One by one the aircraft are undergoing major overhaul and being prepared for upgrade. Between 1969 and 1993, a total of more than 500 Tu-22Ms of all versions were built. Russia’s long-range bomber force currently includes seven squadrons of Tu-22Ms at three bases. A squadron of Tu-22M bombers has a nominal strength of 10 aircraft, but the actual number may vary slightly. Around 60-70 Tu-22Ms are estimated to remain in Russian service, with 100 more are storage, with the main operational version being the Tu-22M3 (codenamed ‘Backfire-C’).

The dedicated Cold War era Kh-22 (AS-4 ‘Kitchen’) missile is the Tu-22’s primary weapon. The Tu-22’s can carry up to three Kh-22/Kh-32 (AS-4 ‘Kitchen’) missiles, one semi-recessed on the under-fuselage BD3-45F pylon and two under the fixed wing glove on BD3-45K pylons. Free-fall bombs as used in the recent Syria raids can be carried suspended on KD3-22R or KD4-105A pylons inside the bomb bay as well as on four external MBD3-U9-68 multiple racks (two under the engine air intake trunks and two under the wings, each rack carrying six 500kg bombs). Bomb load options are, for instance, 69 x 250kg (551lb), or 42 x 500kg (1,102lb), or eight x 1,500kg (3,307lb), or 2 x 3,000kg (6,614b).

This feature appears in full in the July 2014 issue of Combat Aircraft.

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