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Tu-22M Tupolev
ASCC codename: Backfire
Intercontinental Strategic Bomber

Due to the disappointing performance of the Tu-22, the Tupolev design bureau was tasked with extensively modifying the design to produce the Tu-22M. The Backfire, as it is known in the West, features swing wings and more powerful engines located within the fuselage rather than on external pods. Thanks to these changes, the Tu-22M can reach speeds of Mach 2 at altitude and close to Mach 1 in low level flight. The majority of the Tu-22M fleet went to Naval Aviation units for use as anti-shipping bombers.

A total of 497 Backfires were built before production ceased in 1993. Some 93 remained in service with the Russian Air Force and 58 with the Russian Navy as of 2010 plus more in reserve. Another 52 ended up in Belarus after its independence, although they are not believed to have ever been operational. A further 29 were taken over by Ukraine but these were destroyed by 2004 in conformance with the nation's status as a non-nuclear power. India briefly leased four Tu-22M bombers in 2001 but no export sales have been made.

Data below for Tu-22M-3
Last modified 24 March 2011

First Flight (Tu-22M-0) 1969
(Tu-22M-3) 1977
Service Entry

(Tu-22M-1) 1973
(Tu-22M-3) 1984

CREW: four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, weapons systems officer



Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip


Length 139.31 ft (42.46 m)
Wingspan unswept: 112.48 ft (34.28 m)
swept: 76.46 ft (23.30 m)
Height 36.25 ft (11.05 m)
Wing Area 1,770 ft (165.0 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 119,048 lb (54,000 kg)
Normal Takeoff unknown
Max Takeoff 278,660 lb (126,400 kg) with jet-assisted take-off (JATO) units attached
Fuel Capacity internal: unknown
external: unknown
Max Payload

52,910 lb (24,000 kg)

Powerplant two Kuznetsov/KKBM NK-25 afterburning turbofans
Thrust 110,230 lb (490.4 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 1,240 mph (2,000 km/h) at 36,090 ft (11,000 m), Mach 1.88
at sea level: 650 mph (1,050 km/h)
Initial Climb Rate unknown
Service Ceiling 43,635 ft (13,300 m)
Range typical: 2,755 nm (5,100 km)
ferry: 4,320 nm (8,000 km)
g-Limits unknown

Gun one or two GSh-23 23-mm twin-barrel cannon in tail (250 rds ea)
Stations one internal weapons bay and two external hardpoints
Air-to-Surface Missile (Tu-22M-2) up to 3 Kh-22/AS-4 ASM
(Tu-22M-3) up to 10 Kh-15P SRAM
Bomb FAB-250, FAB-500, FAB-1500, FAB-3000
Other sea mines

Tu-22M-0 Prototype
Tu-22M-1 'Backfire-A' Initial operational model that entered production in 1971 but range and low-level performance were found to be inadequate; 9 built
Tu-22M-2 'Backfire-B' Improved bomber with a larger wingspan, new engine intakes, a new landing gear arrangement, and armed with two twin-cannons in the tail, entered production in 1973; 211 built
Tu-22M-3 'Backfire-C'

Improved model with more powerful engines fed by redesigned inlets, a new radar, a rotary launcher in the weapons bay, and a reduction to one 23-mm tail cannon


Afghanistan War (Soviet Union, 1987-1989) Chechnya (Russia, 1995)
South Ossetia War (Russia, 2008)


Belarus, Voyenno Vozdushnyye Sily (Belarus Air Force)
India (Indian Naval Air Squadron)
Russia, Voyenno Vozdushniye Sili (Russian Air Force)
Russia, Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskoyo Flota Sily Rossii (Russian Naval Aviation)
Ukraine, Viys'kovo-Povitriani Syly Ukrayiny (Ukraine Military Air Forces)
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Voyenno Vozdushniye Sili (Soviet Air Force)
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Aviatsiya Voyenno-Morskoyo Flota (Soviet Naval Aviation)



  • Bishop, Chris, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Weapons: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Weapon Systems from 1945 to the Present Day. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1999, p. 269.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 883.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 128.
  • Munro, Bob and Chant, Christopher. Jane's Combat Aircraft. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p. 236-237.
  • Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery
  • Rendall, David. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, p. 108.
  • Winchester, Jim. Military Aircraft of the Cold War. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2006, p. 236-237, Tupolev Tu-22M 'Backfire'.

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