Tupolev TU-22M3M “Backfire” - M3M prototype – RF-94267
Even more than 50 years after the first flight of the prototype, the TU-22M long-range bomber remains a highly capable weapons system. To ensure that it remains that way for years to come, a modernization program is currently underway for some of the remaining aircraft. The modernizations turn the bomber, powered by two powerful jet turbines, into the TU-22M3M, the first prototype of which took off on its maiden flight in December 2018. A special feature of the bomber are its variable-geometry wings, which can be adjusted from 20 to 65 degrees, and its good take-off and landing characteristics, which allow economical cruise flight for long range or, fully retracted, high speeds up to twice the speed of sound. The TU-22M3 is also capable of launching cruise missiles against targets from great distance, thus avoiding enemy air defenses. By 1993, the Kazan-based manufacturer had built 514 TU-22Ms of various series, most of them of the M3 version. There are still at least 60 of these in service today, not all of which are operational, and not all of which will benefit from the M3M upgrade. This includes above all the use of improved navigation and communication systems.
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