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Upgraded ‘Backfire-C' long-range bomber makes maiden flight

On 28 December an extensively upgraded Tupolev Tu-22M3 ‘Backfire-C’ supersonic long-range strategic bomber, now designated the Tu-22M3M, made its maiden flight at an airbase belonging to the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant (KAZ).

According to the press office of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the flight lasted for 37 minutes and was conducted in a routine mode at an altitude of 1,500 m.

“During the flight the crew checked the functioning of upgraded subsystems and items of hardware, which were working without any drawbacks. It marks the beginning of the air platform’s factory flight test,” UAC said in a statement.

The Tu-22M3M prototype has been fitted with a Russian-made onboard digital avionics suite and has received new targeting, navigation, communications, engine control, and electronic warfare subsystems. About 80% of the systems interacting with the aircraft’s ‘electronic brain’ are new. The modernisation has thus given the ‘Backfire-C’ increased combat, navigation, automation, and maintenance capabilities and an avionics suite sharing commonality with that of the updated Tu-160M ‘Blackjack’ strategic bomber.

The Tu-22M3M has been built under the long-range/strategic aviation modernisation programme being implemented by Tupolev. Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) combat experience from recent conflicts, including operations in Syria since 2015, has informed the upgrades made under the programme.

The next stage of the programme envisages joint state trials of the Tu-22M3M and the upgrade of the first batch of aircraft.

According to UAC’s JSC Tupolev, the Tu-22M3M has a high-altitude top speed of 2,300 km/h, a low-altitude top speed of 1,050 km/h, a subsonic flight range of 2,200 km, and a service ceiling of 13,000 m.

The Tu-22M3M, which made its maiden flight on 28 December, will be able to carry up to four Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missiles as well as new Russian anti-ship missiles. (TASS)

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