Tu-22M in Air Force service

In February 1973 two Tu-22M0 were received by Long-range Aviation Crews' Training Centre near Riazan (about 170 km to south-east from Moscow). The main task at that time was quickly transfer the new aircraft to Air Force units for mastering by pilots. Only 20 days needed to solve all problems, conected with their maintanence due to work of qualified specialists from Tupolev's design bureau, Kazan production plant and Flight Tests' Base in Zhukovsky (near Moscow). Tu-22M0 started flights in March 1973, and on July 5 Tu-22M0 was shown to high leadership of CPSU, government and Soviet Army and Air Force. On the firing ground Tu-22M0 dropped about 40 500-kg bombs destroyed the line of tanks and got a high estimation from the "high -positioned" spectators. After mastering of Tu-22M by pilots and repair specialists the aircraft delivery (at first in limited amount) to Air Force units +started. In spring of 1974 Tu-22M2s arrived to Long-range Aviation Crews' Training Centre, a month later X-22M missile training launchs began. It became clear that the new aircraft had less amount of so- called "child illnesses", than Tu-22, the detailed "driving" of the aircraft's systems and equipment, made by specialists of Tupolev's design bureau and production plant during production and official tests, gave good results. The special aircraft Tu-134UBL was created in early 80s for mass training of Tu-22M pilots. This plane had the same power/mass ratio and take-off and landing characteristics than Tu-22M. As regards for navigators and operators of offensive and defensive equipment, they were trained on Tu-134Sh as Tu-22 crew members. The former passenger cabin of Tu-134Sh included the panels of Tu-22M's electronic complex systems. In Air Force units the newly-came crew members flew with experienced instructors. One Tu-134UBK, the flying trainer for whole Tu-22M crew, was built. It was used by Naval Aviation, but in spite of great nesessity of such plane, didn't become a serial one. In order to keep resource of Tu-22M2s, Air Force units had old Òu-16Ê-26 and Òu-16Ê-10-26 for pilotage training. The new aircrafts got, besides of typical flight tasks, new ones: long-range flights with duration till 10 hours with using of navigation-bombing complex and flight refuelling. Also low altitude flights with subsonic speed various flight profiles and X-22M missile launchs were trained. In July-August 1974 185th Guards Bomb Regiment got 5 Tu-22M2s. This unit was based near Poltava (Ukraine), and P.Deinekin, present Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief, was the commander of regiment. This unit earlier had Tu-4s (Soviet copy of Boeing B-29) and Tu-16s (NATO code Badger), and 185th Guards Bomb Regiment was the first in Soviet Air Force to master low altitude flights with subsonic speed in group for breaking through enemy's AAD (Anti-Aircraft Defence). In Naval Aviation Tu-22M2 replaced obsolete Òu-16Ê-10-26 in units of Baltic and Black Sea Fleets. In accordance to that time theory, Tu-22M2s could on low altitude break through US Navy Carrier Group's AAD (Anti-Aircraft Defence) and destroy the aircraft carrier. For increasing of combat efficiency Tu-22M2s ought to act together with Tu-95RTs Bear reconnaissance/target marker aircraft under protection of Tu-16P electronic counter measure aircrafts. X-22M tests showed, that if this missile hit the target, a 20 square meters hole formed in tagget's board and all inside its body was fired on deepness of 12 meters. Besides aircraft carrier destroying, Tu-22M2s had to mine enemy convoys routes. Naval Tu-22ms were shown for the first time in 1980 during Warsaw Treaty maneures. Tu-22Ms took off from bases in Belorussia and mined Baltic straits. Note that MiG-23 fighters were more slow than full loaded than bombers they protected. Tu-22M2 complicated electronic equipment and experienced repair specialists shortage caused numerous defects in pre-flight aircraft preparation and during equipment service, so in the beginning of Air Force service Tu-22M leaded by defects and malfunction amount among all Air Force aircraft types. Later its reliability increased with exploitation experience grouth. The first serial Tu-22M2's engines had resource only 50 flight hours, so temperature of gases coming out of turbine was limited and the engine thrust and maximum speed also reduced. The difficulties in engines mastering in some Air Force units caused serious engines damages. Also hydrulic and lubrication systems were too capricious, leakage often occured and repair personnel often had to wipe out all fuselage aft and tail unit. In low altitude flights with subsonic speed rivets falled in air intakes and cracks appeared in fuselage airframe. Almost all these problems were solved on next stages of aircraft modifying. Tu-22M2 complicated electronic equipment caused numerous defects, the electromagnetic incompatibility often appeared, the main radar and navigation-bombing complex had unsufficient reliability. If the automatic control system failed, the crew had to return to base in manual regime. As the X-22M missile was carried under fuselage, the landing gear removal was made difficult. In order pilot could do this operation the navigator in rear cabin ought to confirm that missile's wing was folded. Often it happened that main landing gear damaged the missile wing and it had to be passed into repair units. One more Tu-22M feature can be noted. The main landing gear had small fans for wheels' cooling, powered from three-phase alternators with constant frequency. Such power source often absenced aboard the aircraft, so the crew had to start auxiliary power unit before each landing. If they failed to do this operation, the tyres were quickly weared out. Gradually Tu-22M got the pilots' and repair personnel respect in bases, located all around ex-USSR, in spite of its unsufficient reliability. Besides, reliability increased as experience of Tu-22M exploitation appeared and grew. In March 1981 several early Tu-22M3 were received by Long-range Aviation Crews' Training Centre near Riazan (about 170 km to south- east from Moscow). It became clear that the new aircraft had less amount of malfunctions and service difficulties than Tu-22M2, and its increased performance could expand it combat usage area. In low altitudes Tu-22M3 didn't show precedor's problems, besides, it could be layed to the target by "Soviet AWACS" - A-50 aircraft, based on Il-76 transport. A-50s had communication with conmmander's Tu-22M3s and the bombers could be protected by Su-27 or MIG-31 new fighters. Tu-22M3 had a bit more heavy airframe than needed, but in one of flights it became an advantage. During runway approach the part of wing mechanization suddenly retracted and the bomber fell down from 30 metres altitude. The pilot was in time to increase the engines' thrust to maximum and the aircraft, though "touched" the ground (the 100 metres ditch remained in this place), could take-off again and later safety landed. After replacement of one wing console, half of horizontal tail unit and main landing gear the aircraft returned to flights. Tu-22M3 took part in Afganistan war abd acted from bases, located ex-USSR asian part. In December 1987-January 1988 two squadrons of 185th Guards Bomb Regiment were transferred from Poltava (Ukraine) to Maryi. The strikes were conducted according to navigation-bombing complex' data, the aircraft approached to the targets in wide order and up to 200 tons of bombs per sortie were dropped, with deflexion about 100 metres from targets. Also Tu-22M3 appeared in Afganistan in October 1988, when there was prepared the withdrawing of Soviet troops. 16 bombers were good addition to Su-25 ground attack aircrafts and helicopters and were used intensively, in groups of 12-16 bombers even at night. Targets for Tu-22M3 strikes were mojacheds' positions and regions close to the roads used for withdrawing of Soviet troops. At first only 500- kg bombs were used, later 1500- and 3000-kg bombs were also dropped. For isolating of combat region, the regions close to frontiers with Iran and Pakistan (where ammunition and weapons depots were located) were also bombed. The last strikes in this war Backfires fulfilled to the north of Salang. All Tu-22M3s returned to their bases. In end 80s - early 90s in Air Force units (Long-range Aviation) in the territory of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia more than 380 Tu-22M2 and Tu-22M3 based. The following units were part of 46th Air Army (Air Army is something about 8th or 15th Air Force in USAF): 124th Bomb Regiment (Machulishche,Belorussia) - 34 aircrafts; 185th Guards Bomb Regiment (Poltava, Ukraine) - 22 aircrafts; 200th Bomb Regiment (Bobruisk, Belorussia) - 20 aircrafts; 203th Bomb Regiment (Baranovichi, Belorussia) - 32 aircrafts; 260th Bomb Regiment (Stryi, Ukraine) - 20 aircrafts; 341th Bomb Regiment (Ozernoe) - 32 aircrafts. The Black Sea Fleet Air Division included: 5th Bomb Regiment (Veseloe) - 20 aircrafts. 943th Bomb Regiment (Oktyabrskoe) - 23 aircrafts. In 1984 184th Bomb Regiment (Priluki, Ukraine) received its first Tu-22M3s for replacement of Tu-16s and preparing for arrival of new Tu-160 heavy intercontinental range strategic bomber. After the USSR collapsed, many Tu-22M2 and Tu-22M3 found itself far from Russia's frontiers where they fly rarely because of shortages in fuel and spare parts. Ukraine plans to sell part of its Tu-22Ms to Iran or China. The short range missiles limitation treaty increases the role of Tu-22M2 and Tu-22M3s and, if being radically modified, they can keep combat efficiency for 10-15 years.

Created April 20, 1998

modified August 21 1998
by Alex V.Mryakin
and Sergey V.Andreev