Ministry of Defense will start the upgrading of long-range Tu-22M bombers in 2012 (NATO reporting name: Backfire), Izvestiya reports.
This decision has been made after the loss of Tu-22M aircraft during a war in Transcaucasia in 2008. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has signed the corresponding contract with “Gefest-IT”. The long-range bombers will be equipped with new onboard computational facilities, navigation and weapon-aiming systems. «We have come to understanding of necessity of Tu-22M upgrade in early 1990s. First of all, Backfire was designed as a rocket aircraft. However, missile strikes are kind of outdated at the moment: during conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya the aircraft used common GP bombs. And the war against Georgia demonstrated its exposure to the advanced antiaircraft threats», — a source close to Supreme Command of the air forces said.
Director and Chief designer of Gefest-IT, Alexander Panin, said that the project of Tu-22M upgrade was developed in 2008. «The air forces contacted us in September 2008, right after the war. We have been cooperating with them earlier in the network of Su-24 upgrade. By the way, this contract is still in force. The army wanted us to develop new avionics for Tu-22M. At that they did not present any mission requirements or performance specification», — Panin said.
According to him, the new systems are similar to those successfully installed on Su-24 aircraft; they were tuned up in early 2009. Gefest-IT has equipped one bomber of long-range aviation with the avionics in late 2009. «The basis of new avionics is so-called adaptive control system, which includes aircraft computer, GLONASS navigation system and weapon-aiming system with integrated new software. The system controls all the flight variables taking into account all the external factors», — the Director of the company explained.
The only upgraded vehicle was being operated by the air forces and it showed good results. The absence of mission requirements and performance specification prevented the parties from signing the contract. The formalities have been observed in late 2011 and now the upgraded Tu-22M is undergoing state testing. It the testing is successful, Gefest-IT would upgrade about 10 more bombers. An officer of the air forces, which is taking part in the testing, said that the pilots have no concerns regarding the aircraft and these activities are formal since all the gaps have been eliminated in 2009-2012 period.
Tu-22M was put into service in 1976. Its maximum flight speed is 2,300 km/h, weight-lift ability – 24 tons, range – 2400 km. In accordance with SALT-II Treaty the air refueling system was dismounted from the aircraft and so its combat radius was significantly decreased. At present Russian air forces’ fleet includes 115 Tu-22Мs, 40 of which are operational.