The spokesman for the Russian air-force, colonel Vladimir Drik, stated that Russia’s long range strategic bomber force will get some of its Tu-22M3 bombers modernized. Approximately 30 of these aircraft are to be upgraded and receive the new title “Tu-22M3M”. Over 140 Tu-22M3 strategic bombers are in Russian service. While the Russian strategic bomber fleet waits for the Tupolev bureau to produce the new Pak-Da 5th generation stealth strategic bomber, the bombers currently in service must be upgraded to increase their service life and capabilities.
The Tu-22M3 “Backfire-C” is the latest variant of the Tu-22M strategic bomber, which entered Russian service in the 1970’s. The Tu-22M3 entered service in 1983 and had an improved radar, new engines that improved speed and range, the capability to carry Russia’s latest air-to-ground weaponry (at the time), and the (controversial) ability to carry an in-flight refueling probe (which was prohibited by the START treaty). This aircraft can reach speeds of up to 2000 km/hr.
The Tu-22M3 has a combat radius exceeding 4000 km and is equipped with a phased array radar jammer and a radar signal reader. The MAWS (Missile Approach Warning System) is also installed. The Tu-22M3 can carry KH-15 and KH-22 air-to-surface missiles (the latter available in version such as anti-ship and nuclear capable), as well as FAB-250 and FAB-1500 free-fall bombs. A GSH-23 23mm cannon is installed in the tail turret. The aircraft can carry a total of 24,000 kg of munitions inside its weapons bay and pylons.
Photos taken from russianplanes.