TechRussian Federation to revolutionize mid-range bombers. Tu-22M3 upgrade to M3M variant promises 5000-mile range

Russian Federation to revolutionize mid‑range bombers. Tu‑22M3 upgrade to M3M variant promises 5000-mile range

Tu-22M3.
Tu-22M3.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

6:28 AM EST, December 20, 2023

Russia has announced two main changes in the mid-range bomber upgrade plan. The first involves the upgrade of onboard radio-electronic equipment, Defense Express noted. The advanced Tu-22M3M will be equipped to utilize the Ch-32 supersonic cruise missile.

The most significant shift involves installing in-flight refueling rods on the planes. This means that Russia will effectively transform the Tu-22M3 into a long-range bomber. The combat radius will expand from 1,500 miles to 5,000 miles. The bomber will be capable of continuous flight for several hours, reaching a cruising speed of 590 mph and potentially accelerating to 1,430 mph.

As per Defense Express, Russia had 31 copies of Tu-22M3 bombers as of last August. The Russian Federation has committed to upgrading all aircraft to the Tu-22M3M standard. However, the schedule has not yet been revealed, making it unclear when the military will complete the upgrades.

About the Russian Tu-22M3 Bombers

The maiden flight of the improved Tu-22M3M bomber occurred at the close of December 2018. This Russian aircraft undertook a flight that lasted slightly under 40 minutes, albeit without carrying any weapons. It reached an altitude of about a mile.

The manufacturer later reported that the upgrade to the M3M version resulted in around 80 percent of the avionics being replaced, relative to the prior model. Thus, the plane gained greater autonomy. The modifications for the current standard include the introduction of the SWP-24-22 targeting and navigation system (combining GPS and GLONASS). The electronics of the aircraft were standardized to the system used in the larger Tu-160M.

The primary armament of the Tu-22M3 includes three Kh-22 missiles, each with a range of roughly 310 miles and capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The M3M variant will enable the bomber to transport the Kh-32 weapon, which is essentially an upgraded version of the Kh-22, but boasts a reach of about 620 miles and can achieve speeds up to Mach 4.

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