MOSCOW ($1=68.42 Russian Rubles) — In 2023, the Russian Air and Space Forces [VKS] expects to replenish its inventory with modernized bombers. These will be the modernized Tu-95MSM and Tu-22M3M missile-carrying bombers. Lieutenant General Sergey Kobylash announced this in an interview with Russian media. He is the commander of the long-range aviation of the Russian Federation.
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Kobilash said the modernization is currently underway and is proceeding according to plan. Russia pays attention to its bombers. Just days ago we reported on the first test flight of the T-160M – the first built from scratch and purely Russian bomber. It will need to be accepted for service in the Russian Air Force next year as well.
The modernization of the Tu-22 to the “M3M” level has been going on for several years. The Tu-22M3M was supposed to enter service in 2021. The bomber made its first flight after modernization at the end of December 2019.
According to Russian sources, the Tu-22M3M will be a successor to some technological solutions from the Tu-22M4 – a modernization that the Russian Ministry of Defense discontinued years ago. It is said that the avionics and mission equipment will be the same as those of the Tu-160M. It is expected, but not yet confirmed, that the Tu-22M3M will use an upgraded Kuznetsov NK-32-02 turbofan engine with reheat for greater gross weight and longer flight.
The new upgraded Tu-95MSM and Tu-22M3M bombers may be re-equipped with an in-flight refueling system. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Russia abolished this system years ago. It was part of the requirements under the nuclear disarmament treaties between the US and Russia.
The reason why the Tu-22M3M arouses more interest is a statement by Mr. Yuriy Slyusar, head of the UAC, that this modification is actually a new bomber. The only thing that this aircraft inherits from the older versions is the hull, Slusar said in an interview in 2019.
Mr. Slyusar also adds that the Tu-22M3M will have much greater combat potential. In addition to new avionics, the bomber gets electronic warfare and countermeasures systems, a new radar, new protection, and a new data link system.
According to Russian media reports, the Tu-22M3M will get a new, more ergonomic cockpit, as well as an improved airframe that should last for up to three decades.
Weaponry is also taken into account. Its arsenal will include the Kh-32 anti-ship missile, which has an operational range of 600 km. The Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile is also expected to become part of the bomber’s arsenal. According to some sources, the Tu-22M3M will receive long-range air-to-surface cruise missiles, but their model is not mentioned.
If we go by the data, it makes an impression that the Tu-22M3M receives the systems and avionics of the heavy strategic bomber Tu-160M. While the armament of the Tu-22M3M is very similar to that of another Russian missile carrier that is already taking part in the war with Ukraine – the MiG-31BM.
Russia is believed to have 100 Tu-22M3 bombers. However, the data is controversial, as some sources say the number is slightly more than 60. According to Russian media, Russia will upgrade 30 Tu-22M3 units to the Tu-22M3M level.
Currently, Tu-22M bomber-missile carriers are stationed at the Russian air bases Olenya, Belaya, Dyagilevo and Shaykovka.
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