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Russia’s Backfire Bomber Is Back!
War is Boring ^ | June 13, 2014 | Thomas Newdick

Posted on 06/16/2014 6:17:42 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki

Tupolev is upgrading Tu-22Ms for ops in Russia’s expanding sphere of influence

There’s no bomber quite like a Backfire. In many ways, Russia’s Tu-22M3 is a Cold War throwback. An intermediate-range, variable-geometry machine, the Tupolev design really gave NATO planners headaches in the 1970s and ’80s.

If the Cold War had turned hot, Tu-22Ms would have attacked high-profile targets including American aircraft carrier battle groups in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The bombers also would have struck European ports and key airfields, with the aim of severing supply routes to the U.S.

Today, the Backfire is the only supersonic bomber in its class. And until quite recently, the outwardly archaic warplane seemed likely to fade away. However, with tensions ratcheting up in the Black Sea and Baltic regions, the Tu-22M3 has suddenly become a whole lot more relevant.

Difficult development While its appearance in the early 1970s led to considerable alarm in the West, the aircraft dubbed “Backfire” by NATO was always something of a compromise. The Tu-22M designation was a political measure designed to secure funding, by suggesting it was a simple upgrade of the previous-generation Tu-22.

The same shortcut meant that it had to retain the radar and rather troublesome missile armament of its predecessor. Early versions struggled to achieve the required range and speed requirements.

After Tupolev finally perfected the Tu-22M, the bomber fell afoul of the START I nuclear treaty. START I forced Moscow to delete the bomber’s in-flight refueling capability—and, with it, much of the plane’s operational relevance.

START I also limited the total number of Tu-22Ms that Moscow could deploy, meaning that veteran Tu-16 and Tu-22 bombers had to soldier on in naval service.

The Russians have been understandably cagey about the precise capabilities of the Tu-22M3. However, we know it has a dash speed of 2,300 kilometers per hour and a combat radius of 2,200 kilometers when carrying armament and flying a high-altitude, partially-supersonic profile.

Increasing relevance When the Russians probe North America’s defenses off the coast of Alaska or even California, they usually send turboprop Tu-95MS and jet-propelled Tu-160 heavy bombers, which with their aerial refueling abilities are truly able to circle the globe.

With no provision of its own for in-flight refueling, the Tu-22M can operate only around Russia’s immediate sphere of influence. Tu-22M3s fought in the campaigns in Chechnya and Georgia. The Georgians shot one down in 2008—the type’s first combat loss.

Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and increased saber-rattling in the Baltic have compelled NATO to reinforce its frontier. It’s in this dangerous scenario that the Tu-22M3 now finds itself.

When Russian news agency RIA Novosti announced plans for a major military exercise in the Baltic—timed to coincide with NATO’s Saber Strike and BALTOPS maneuvers in the same area—the missile-carrying Backfire was the centerpiece. “We have completed the redeployment of troops in the designated areas,” a Russian defense ministry spokesperson said on June 12. “Tu-22M3 long-range bombers are ready to perform air patrol training in the region.”

Focusing on an exercise area in and around Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, the joint exercises involve the local Baltic Fleet as well as army airborne and air force units under the commander of Russia’s Western Military District.

Su-27 fighters, Su-34 attack planes, Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft, A-50 early warning platforms, Mi-24 assault helicopters and Il-76 transports are also participating alongside the Tu-22Ms.

Not coincidentally, the same Novosti report also states that the defense ministry expects to receive “at least 10” modernized and refurbished Tu-22M3s before the end of 2014. Moscow is boosting its increasingly busy medium bomber force.

Current status In a report in the current issue of Combat Aircraft magazine, Russian aerospace expert Piotr Butowski reveals interesting details of Moscow’s plans for the Tu-22M3.

Russia built more than 500 Tu-22Ms of all versions over the decades, but only seven squadrons—each with a nominal strength of 10 aircraft—remain in service at three bases. Belaya in southeastern Siberia, Shaykovka southwest of Moscow and Ryazan southeast of Moscow.

The latter serves as the training unit for the bomber.

Analyzing satellite imagery, Butowski concludes that there are 28 aircraft at Shaykovka, 40 at Belaya and 10 at Ryazan. However, not all of these aircraft are operational. The actual number of operational Tu-22M3s is probably closer to 65 or 70.

To be clear—like many of the Russian air force’s mid-life upgrade initiatives, the effort to revamp the Tu-22M3 has run into repeated delays and revisions. The program has languished since the early 1990s and has yet to produce a single upgraded aircraft.

In early 2012, the Kremlin outlined plans to upgrade around 30 bombers to the new Tu-22M3M standard by 2020. In February 2013, after little movement, Russia’s new defense minister Sergei Shoygu tried to jumpstart the program.

The plan to deliver 10 or more Tu-22M3M aircraft before the end of 2014 seems ambitious, to say the least. Currently, Russia is refurbishing—not upgrading—a maximum of four to six aircraft annually.

Moscow clearly aims to retain the bomber for many more years, however. Russia just needs the resources and technical capacity to match its will.

Upgrade options Just how capable will the new Tu-22M3M be? That depends on a number of factors. Chiefly, whether Russia pursues the top-of-the-range upgrade or opts for a cut-price option. The latter wouldn’t be a surprise—Russia has already reduced upgrades for the Su-24 attack aircraft and Su-27 fighter.

Whatever shape it takes, the Tu-22M3M should get a new primary weapon. The Raduga Kh-32 missile is a successor to the Kh-22—NATO codename AS-4 Kitchen—that has been in service since the 1960s. The Kh-32 reportedly boasts twice the range of the Kh-22, which can hit a ship target at 350 kilometers.

While it remains a relatively primitive, liquid-fuel missile, the Kh-22 possesses an impressive terminal speed in excess of Mach 4, making it a serious threat to even the most advanced air-defense systems. The Kh-22 is compatible with nuclear and conventional warheads.

Kh-32s have already been seen on a Backfire at the Zhukovsky flight test center.

Beside the Kh-32, the Tu-22M3M might also carry the subsonic Kh-SD missile and the supersonic Kh-MT, both still under development. The new munitions offer ranges of up to 2,000 and 1,000 kilometers, respectively, and combine stealthy airframes with modern guidance systems and warheads.

Intriguingly, Butowski also notes that Russia is testing a hypersonic research vehicle, using the Tu-22M3 as a launch aircraft. Such technology could provide the basis for a new, hypersonic cruise missile.

Other provisions of the Tu-22M3M upgrade include a new Novella-45 radar. Upgraded Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers could get similar sensors.

Complicating matters is the presence of a more modest, cheaper upgrade package that the Gefest company recently pitched. This is based on the firm’s upgrade for the Su-24, and essentially adds digital avionics for a precision-bombing capability.

Beginning in 2009, a number of Tu-22M3s received the modifications, yielding impressive results. Should the full-scale Tu-22M3M program falter, Gefest will be well placed to continue its work.

Clearly, the Russian air force sees the continued relevance of the Tu-22M3. Regardless of its combat potential, it carries considerable political weight. Once Russia claimed Crimea, one of its first military projects on the peninsula was to overhaul the runways at Gvardeyskoye air base, with a view to deploying Backfires there from 2016.

Even in Tu-22M3M form, however, the Backfire upgrade is relatively modest. Combined with the fact that only around half the fleet is getting the upgrades, this is a strong indicator of Tupolev’s main priority—the all-new PAK DA heavy bomber.

This secretive project could finally yield a successor to the Tu-95MS, Tu-160 and Tu-22M3. Until that happens, however, the Backfire seems set to play a important role alongside its bigger brothers in Russia’s assertive new strategy.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: aerospace; backfire; russia; tu22

1 posted on 06/16/2014 6:17:43 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: zot

Soviet Backfire’s are back, rested, revamped, and ready.


2 posted on 06/16/2014 6:23:01 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: GreyFriar

There was an article just last week that Putin had personally reviewed the first of the upgraded TU-22M’s.

They have been spending big money to upgrade capabilities in the last ten years, and those efforts are just now beginning to role off the lines.


3 posted on 06/16/2014 6:30:24 AM PDT by tcrlaf (Q)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Long ago in the 1980s I was at a major joint CPX at Fort Bragg. My roommate was an AF officer who was “playing” Soviet Naval Aviation. The battle space was the Indian Ocean and Middle East. According to this USAF officer, he kept sinking our aircraft carriers by launching giant supersonic anti-ship missiles from “his” Backfires, beyond the defensive range of our carriers.

So naturally, the moderators in charge of the CPX had to constantly change the ROE and redefine the stated capabilities of the Backfires, their anti-ship missiles, and the defensive capabilities of the carriers.

But according to this USAF officer, the CPX began with the known capabilities of all sides, and “his” Backfires kept sinking “our” CVNs.

I understand that the Russian anti-ship missiles are a lot better today.


4 posted on 06/16/2014 6:33:12 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: GreyFriar

See #4.


5 posted on 06/16/2014 6:34:00 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Big mutha, ain’t it....


6 posted on 06/16/2014 6:34:18 AM PDT by NFHale (The Second Amendment - By Any Means Necessary.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

They’ve been back for awhile, but always a pleasure to read about. Thanks for the post.

It’s a wonder the Russians didn’t reinstall the refueling probes by now...


7 posted on 06/16/2014 6:39:51 AM PDT by logi_cal869
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To: Travis McGee

“So naturally, the moderators in charge of the CPX had to constantly change the ROE and redefine the stated capabilities of the Backfires, their anti-ship missiles, and the defensive capabilities of the carriers.”

I’ve known several submarine navy officers and enlisted who claimed they regularly sank carriers in exercises and those sinking’s were later rescored as damaged or no hits. What is the point of exercises if we don’t learn from them? Or, is it that carriers are so vulnerable that they can’t be defended? Frankly, I’d like these exercises scored by people who don’t have skin in the carrier game. The thought of potentially losing five thousand men at a clip should keep somebody awake nights!


8 posted on 06/16/2014 6:42:59 AM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Looks sorta like an A-5.

Is this one of Russia's tribute planes, or their own design?

9 posted on 06/16/2014 6:44:03 AM PDT by mountn man (The Pleasure You Get From Life Is Equal To The Attitude You Put Into It)
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To: GreyFriar

It’s Okay... Obama has magic unicorns and pixie dust.....
Russia may have the backfire, but we now have the backdoor.
It sneaks up on a plane and attacks it’s behind...


10 posted on 06/16/2014 6:48:24 AM PDT by baddog 219
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Last night, I was looking at a Russian-English web site and it worried me. Russia is upgrading all its’ weapons systems and training with them. Russians are proud of their military now and aren’t making jokes about them, like I saw a few years ago on the site.

http://englishrussia.com/2011/05/25/7-abandoned-wonders-of-the-ussr/

Compare the latest photos and posts with older ones.


11 posted on 06/16/2014 7:17:59 AM PDT by razorback-bert (Due to the high price of ammo, no warning shot will be fired.)
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To: mountn man
This one's pretty much all Russia. It's HUGE. That cockpit is a 4-seater (pilot, copilot, navigator and weapons); the pilot and co-pilot sit side by side. This image below is a painting, but it gives a good sense of the scale of this thing:


12 posted on 06/16/2014 7:20:36 AM PDT by Little Pig
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To: Travis McGee

So, do you think the Russians (Putin) would “quickly” add back in those refueling probes?

I doubt they ever pulled the internal piping out ...

And, if they did add in the probes, would Obama notice? Care?


13 posted on 06/16/2014 7:25:34 AM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: mountn man

B1-ski


14 posted on 06/16/2014 7:25:51 AM PDT by AppyPappy
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To: Gen.Blather; Travis McGee

I have been in many exercises where A-10s destroyed entire US Army Battalions. And as a result, the US Army adjusted assessment protocols.

Thing is, simulations are just that—simulations. They are not real-world. They are only as accurate as the modeling and programming allows, and for the longest time we had no real-world experience upon which to program (80’s for example), therefore results were heavily skewed.

After initial simulation runs, programming is adjusted using human factors analyses (a dose of ‘get real, common-sense’ thought) to to get a realistic assessment that reflected the best balance between real-world knowledge and experience with simulation programming. But what if you have no relevant and/or recent real-world data? We assume worst case.

Programming is based on a superhuman capable enemy. See modeling and simulation results before Gulf War I. In that simulation the Iraqi Air Force with “top” russian aircraft and SAMs kicked butt—simulation said 80 US aircraft would be downed (we lost 14), and simulation said we would have up to 30,000 US KIAs (we have 113).

These simulation numbers and stats showing spectacular Iraqi results were just that, simulations.


15 posted on 06/16/2014 7:26:39 AM PDT by Hulka
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To: Travis McGee
Was at Bragg too, as an Airborne Infantryman.... We always knew we would die fighting Soviet Armored or Mech Regiments, have no relief, and be subjected to Nuclear attack if the Soviets did break through; no win for us on the ground every case but we always accepted the challenges.

That was then, when the world was gripped by the threat of an all-out-war with winner take all in Europe or the Middle East.

Today, the electronic counter measures can move a ship 30-miles on radar from where it actually is sitting. If war with Russia were to break out, it would not be pretty - but trading a few American Cities and keeping the Corn Fields will sure change the political alignment of the Nation!

16 posted on 06/16/2014 7:37:59 AM PDT by Jumper
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To: Hulka

“These simulation numbers and stats showing spectacular Iraqi results were just that, simulations.”

I appreciate your response. I remember reading the (public) simulation reports on Iraq 1. I suspect that Saddam had frightened his generals into hunkering down and just trying to personally survive. I understand that Saddam, a man with no military experience, took personal control. I suspect that if the Iraqi’s had a single Rommel in command of significant forces the results might have been the same but the body and machine count would most likely have been higher. If I recall, the team who played the Iraqi’s used far better tactics than Saddam.

I’ve run military equipment tests in private industry and had a manager put his thumb so heavily on the scales for a particular result that I suspect all simulations and tests. One boss said, “Failure is just not an option. Make it pass.” I listen to the navy guys complain about their admiral and I suspect the same sort of thing.


17 posted on 06/16/2014 7:48:35 AM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: sukhoi-30mki

If memory serves there is an overhead instrument cluster in the Backfire cockpit known to its crews as the Carlucci Panel because when he toured the airplane Reagan Secretary of Defence Frank Carlucci kept banging his head on it.


18 posted on 06/16/2014 7:50:10 AM PDT by Lower Deck
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To: razorback-bert

That’s how an average Russian SAC AFB and Backfires look nowadays:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkq0v5t2BTs

Circa 1993 Russian Democrat government has seized military spending to virtually zero and relocated most of the budget on welfare and social programs to counter Communist agitation.

AF personnel wasn’t paid or even fed in months.

In about a year most of these bases were left to rot unattended with all the planes and ground equipment intact.

You could just drive a truck in and remove an engine from a jet or strip control room of electronic equipment.

I guess it is Obama’s plan for USAF.

BTW, these abandoned places were a playground for Chicoms to learn technology.


19 posted on 06/16/2014 7:53:45 AM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: Gen.Blather

Five thousand men and WOMEN. The Romney and Sununu boys don’t want to participate so the gals are now aboard combatant vessels. Bull Halsey would be rolling in his grave.


20 posted on 06/16/2014 8:05:17 AM PDT by MSF BU (n)
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To: GreyFriar

Like a lot of stuff on “War is Boring,” this article is more hype than fact.

First, as the writer correctly observes, the Backfire is a regional weapon without in-flight refueling. And in comparison to the USAF, Russia’s tanker fleet is very modest. So, the TU-22M could cause problems in the Baltic, Norwegian Sea, the eastern Med, the western Pacific and northern Persia Gulf, it would be hard-pressed to launch/sustain attacks against naval and land targets at greater distances.

One more thing: the “new” ASM weapon for the Backfire has a range of roughly 175 nm. But the writer fails to note the combat radius for F/A-18s flying off the deck of the carrier the Backfire is trying to kill. BTW, that distance is 390 NM (and even longer if you include an in-flight refueling, and HI-HI-HI (high-altitude ingress, intercept and egress) profile that would be flown against a TU-22M. In other words, the Hornet and its AIM-120 can kill the Backfire long before it gets in range to launch the new ASM against the carrier.

Additionally, the new generation of SM-2 missiles are much better at intercepting ASMs than older variants. The TU-22M with the new ASM is a threat to be respected, but it’s not a world beater.


21 posted on 06/16/2014 8:07:42 AM PDT by ExNewsExSpook
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To: Gen.Blather

Indeed. Sometimes the results are already written. Not the usual practice but does happen.

The hardest part of any simulation is the question: How do you simulate being a camel jockey while flying a modern jet or driving a modern tank? Or, how do you replicate the rigid mind-set of following orders to a ‘T’ of the average Soviet (russian).

Reference Gulf simulations, they are the hardest to do accurately because muslime influences simply can’t be replicated — nothing they do is rational.


22 posted on 06/16/2014 8:12:59 AM PDT by Hulka
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To: Hulka

“Reference Gulf simulations, they are the hardest to do accurately because muslime influences simply can’t be replicated — nothing they do is rational.”

A former pilot instructor told me he trained Libyan Air Force (so this was a LONG time ago) in how to fly. He’d put the plane in a maneuver, a spin, I think. They’d scream “It’s Allah’s will!” He’d slap them hard, pull the plane out and tell them Allah’s will was for them to do what he did. He’d keep it up until they could pull the plane out of the spin.

The Arab’s I met in college and later in the work environment seemed to believe the world ran on magic with no logic concerning action, reaction. (I do this and that happens.) I would have thought there was logic and I just couldn’t see it if they’d all done the same “that” for any given “this.” But they didn’t.


23 posted on 06/16/2014 8:27:36 AM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: sukhoi-30mki

A few more defense budget bombardments by obama and Hagel and our defenses will be nicely softened for either Putin’s new toys or allah’s angry congregation.


24 posted on 06/16/2014 8:57:05 AM PDT by GBA (Here in the Matrix, life is but a dream.)
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To: Gen.Blather

Going way, way back, there were stories in the sub fleet concerning such exercises, where sub kills of carriers were discounted or ruled out, and the stories usually included something colorful like an adversary submarine surfacing right next to the carrier to make their point clear. Of course, these were tales told by submariners.


25 posted on 06/16/2014 9:10:34 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: Gen.Blather

Going way, way back, there were stories in the sub fleet concerning such exercises, where sub kills of carriers were discounted or ruled out, and the stories usually included something colorful like an adversary submarine surfacing right next to the carrier to make their point clear. Of course, these were tales told by submariners.


26 posted on 06/16/2014 9:10:41 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: GreyFriar

I wonder it they will re-install the inflight refueling capability.


27 posted on 06/16/2014 9:37:58 AM PDT by zot
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To: sukhoi-30mki

The Aardvark beast


28 posted on 06/16/2014 9:46:13 AM PDT by minnesota_bound
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To: AppyPappy; mountn man
The B-1Ski is actually the Tu-160 'Blackjack' heavy bomber - although the TU-160 is significantly larger. Apart from the Blackjack being white and the Lancer black, from a distance, and with a quick glance, the two planes look remarkably similar.

The Backfire is quite different from the B-1B Lancer and the TU-160 Blackjack.

29 posted on 06/18/2014 7:36:23 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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