Russia rolled out its latest upgrade to the Tu-22M3 nuclear bomber, the Tu-22M3M, on Monday.
The upgraded Tu-22M3M focuses on modernising the avionics, communications, and controls on the Cold War era bomber. But the Tu-22M3M’s integration with some of Russia’s deadlier missiles, and role as a nuclear-capable maritime strike jet pose a serious challenge.
The new superonic strike bomber can not only carry nuclear weapons, but it also can fire formidable anti-ship weapons and even an air-launched ballistic missile.
It also can carry the KH-32, Russia’s latest anti-ship missile that was specifically designed to take out US carrier strike groups.
Check it out below:
The Tu-22M3M is a derivative of the original Tu-22, which first flew in the 1950s and has been since upgraded several times.
The latest upgrade before the Tu-22M3M, the Tu-22M3, entered Russian service in 1989.
The Tu-22M3M has the same airframe as the Tu-22M3, which is about 36 feet tall and 139 feet long.
It will also retain the Tu-22M3’s two Kuznetsov NK-25 turbofan engines, which give the aircraft a max speed of about 1,243 mph and a ceiling of 45,932 feet.
Source: The Diplomat, Tupolev
But what the new Tu-22M3M has been upgraded with are “modern avionics, digital radio-navigation equipment, a new communications suite, and a new updated weapon control system to give the aircraft the capability to launch precision-guided air-to-surface weapons including air-launched ballistic missiles and long-range anti-ship missiles,” according to The Diplomat.
Russia’s long-range aviation commander, Sergey Kobylash, even claimed on Thursday that the Tu-22M3M will also have artificial intelligence.
And it will be fitted with Russia’s new Kh-32 long-range cruise missile, which was specifically designed to target US aircraft carrier strike groups.
With a claimed range of 620 miles and a flight pattern that soars it up into the stratosphere before diving down low to approach a target at speeds up to four times the speed of sound, the KH-32 missile takes advantage of both high and low altitudes.
This varied flight path and incredible speed will be hard for US Navy missile defences to intercept, and the missile’s claimed range means Russian Tu-22M3M pilots can fire from a safe distance outside the maximum range of US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets, which max out at around 550 miles.
Source: Business Insider
The Tu-22M3M might also be able to carry several of Russia’s new Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. Altogether, it will have a total payload of about 24 tons.
And it can carry Rhaduga Kh-15 aero-ballistic missiles, and is even armed with a double-barreled 23mm gun in its tail turret.
The Tu-22M3M is expected to make its maiden flight sometime before September 2018, and enter Russian service in 2021.
Russia currently has about 60 to more than 100 Tu-22M3s, and plans to upgrade about 30 of them to the Tu-22M3M variant.
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