The Tu-22 was originally intended as a supersonic replacement for the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber. The design, designated Samolët 105 by Tupolev, was drawn in 1954, and the first flight of the prototype took place on 21 June 1958. The availability of more powerful engines, and the TsAGI discovery of the Area rule for minimizing transonic drag, led to the construction of a revised prototype, the 105A. This first flew on 7 September 1959.
The first serial-production Tu-22B bomber, built at Kazan Factory No. 22, flew on 22 September 1960, and the type was presented in the Tushino Aviation Day parade on 9 July 1961. It initially received the NATO reporting name 'Bullshot,' which was deemed inappropriate, then 'Beauty,' which was felt to be too complimentary, and finally 'Blinder.' Soviet crews called it "Shilo" (awl) because of its shape.
The Tu-22 entered service in 1962 and 1963, but it experienced considerable problems, leading to widespread unserviceability and a number of crashes. Amongst its many faults was a tendency for skin heating at supersonic speed, distorting the control rods and causing poor handling. The landing speed was 100 km/h (62 mph) higher than previous bombers and the Tu-22 had a tendency to pitch up and strike its tail on landing, though this problem was eventually resolved with the addition of electronic stabilization aids. Even after some of its teething problems had been resolved, the 'Blinder' was never easy to fly, and it was maintenance-intensive.
Pilots for the first Tu-22 squadrons were selected from the ranks of "First Class" Tu-16 pilots, which made transition into the new aircraft difficult, as the Tu-16 had a co-pilot, and many of the "elite" Tu-16 pilots selected had become accustomed to allowing their co-pilots to handle all the flight operations of the Tu-16 except for take-off and landings. As a consequence, Tu-16 pilots transitioning to the single-pilot Tu-22 suddenly found themselves having to perform all the piloting tasks, and in a much more complicated cockpit. Many, if not most of these pilots were unable to complete their training for this reason. Eventually pilots began to be selected from the ranks of the Su-17 "Fitter" crews, and these pilots made the transition with less difficulty.
By the time the Tu-22B (Blinder-A) entered service it was already clear that its operational usefulness was limited. Despite its speed, it was inferior to the Tu-16 in combat radius, weapon load, and serviceability. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev felt that ballistic missiles were the way of the future, and bombers like the Tu-22 were in danger of cancellation. As a result, only 15 (some sources say 20) Tu-22Bs were built.
A combat-capable reconnaissance version, the Tu-22R ('Blinder-C'), was developed alongside the bomber, entering service in 1962. The Tu-22R had an aerial refueling probe that was subsequently fitted to most Tu-22s, expanding their radius of operation. 127 Tu-22Rs were built, 62 of which went to the AVMF for maritime reconnaissance use. Some of these aircraft were stripped of their camera and sensor packs and sold for export as Tu-22Bs, although in other respects they apparently remained more comparable to the Tu-22R than to the early-production Tu-22Bs. A trainer version of the 'Blinder,' the Tu-22U ('Blinder-D') was fielded at the same time, with a raised cockpit for an instructor pilot. The Tu-22U had no tail guns, and was not combat-capable. 46 were produced.
To try to salvage some offensive combat role for the Tu-22 in the face of official hostility, the Tu-22 was developed as a missile carrier, the Tu-22K ('Blinder-B'), with the ability to carry a single Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') stand-off missile in a modified weapons bay. The Tu-22K was deployed both by DA (Strategic Aviation) and AVMF (Naval Aviation).
The last Tu-22 subtype was the Tu-22P ('Blinder-E') electronic warfare version, initially used for ELINT electronic intelligence gathering. Some were converted to serve as stand-off ECM jammers to support Tu-22K missile carriers. One squadron was usually allocated to each Tu-22 regiment.
The Tu-22 was upgraded in service with more powerful engines, in-flight refueling (for those aircraft that did not initially have it), and better electronics. The -D suffix (for Dalni, long-range) denotes aircraft fitted for aerial refueling.
The Tu-22 has a 55° swept wing. The two large turbojet engines, originally the Dobrinin VD-7M, later the Kolesov RD-7M2, are mounted atop the rear fuselage on either side of the large vertical fin. Continuing a Tupolev OKB design feature, the main landing gear are mounted in pods at the trailing edge of each wing. The highly swept wings gave low drag at transonic speeds, but led to very high landing speeds and a long take-off run.
The Tu-22's cockpit placed the pilot forward, offset slightly to the left, with the weapons officer behind and the navigator below, within the fuselage. The cockpit design had very poor visibility (doing nothing for the 'Blinder's' poor runway performance), uncomfortable seats and poor location of instruments and switches.
The Tu-22's defensive armament, operated by the weapons officer, consisted of a tail turret beneath the engine pods, containing one or two 23 mm AM-23 cannon, each with 250 rounds of ammunition. The turret was directed by a small PRS-3A 'Argon' gun-laying radar to compensate for the weapons officer's lack of rear visibility. The bomber's main weapon load was carried in a fuselage bomb bay between the wings, capable of carrying up to 24 FAB-500 general-purpose bombs, one FAB-9000 bomb, or various free-fall nuclear weapons. On the Tu-22K, the bay was reconfigured to carry one Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') missile semi-recessed beneath the fuselage. The enormous weapon was big enough to have a substantial effect on handling and performance, and was also a safety hazard.
The early Tu-22B had an optical bombing system (which was retained by the Tu-22R), with a Rubin-1A nav/attack radar. The Tu-22K had the Leinents PN (NATO reporting name 'Down Beat') to guide the Kh-22 missile. The Tu-22R could carry a camera array or an APP-22 jammer pack in the bomb bay as an alternative to bombs. Some Tu-22Rs were fitted with the Kub ELINT system, and later with an under-fuselage palette for M-202 Shompol side-looking airborne radar, as well as cameras and an infrared line-scanner. A small number of Tu-22K were modified to Tu-22KP or Tu-22KPD configuration with Kurs-N equipment to detect enemy radar systems and give compatibility with the Kh-22P anti-radiation missile.
The Libyan Arab Republic Air Force (LARAF) used the Tu-22 in combat against Tanzania in 1979, striking the town of Mwanza on 29 March 1979 to help its Ugandan allies. The Libyan aircraft were also used in Chad, with strikes into western Sudan and Chad. For instance, on 17 February 1986, in retaliation for the French Operation Èpervier (which had hit the runway of the Libyan Ouadi Doum Airbase one day earlier), a single LARAF Tu-22B attacked the French airfield at the Chadian capital N'Djamena. Staying under French radar coverage by flying low over the desert for more than 1,127 km (700 mi), it accelerated to over Mach 1, climbed to 5,030 m (16,503 ft) and dropped three heavy bombs. Despite the considerable speed and height, the attack was extremely precise: two bombs hit the runway, one demolished the taxiway, and the airfield remained closed for three days as a consequence. At least one bomber was reported shot down by surface-to-air missiles during a bombing attack on an abandoned Libyan base at Aouzou on 8 August 1987. One eyewitness report suggests that the pilot ejected but his parachute was seen on fire. Another "Blinder" was lost on the morning of 7 September 1987, when two Tu-22Bs conducted a strike against N'Djamena. This time, French air defenses were ready and a battery of MIM-23 I-Hawk SAMs shot down one of the bombers. This raid was the last involvement of the Tupolev Tu-22 in the Libyan-Chadian conflict.
Iraq used its Tu-22s in the Iran–Iraq War from 1980-1988, losing about seven of its twelve aircraft in combat, including one shot down by an Iranian SAM over Tehran, and a second shot down by an Iranian Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Two were destroyed at an Iraqi base due to undeclared reason in the mid '80s, and one was destroyed at H3 base in October 1980 during a faulty landing (all crew and some others were killed). Iraq moved some of its Tu-22s to Yemen for a few days and the aircraft returned to Iraq during October 1980. Iraq evacuated its Tu-22s to western base H3 in the early days of the war.
The only Soviet combat use of the Tu-22 took place in 1988, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Radar-jamming Tu-22PD aircraft covered Tu-22M bombers operating in Afghanistan near Pakistan border, protecting strike aircraft against Pakistani air defense activity.
The Tu-22 was gradually phased out of Soviet service in favor of the more-capable Tupolev Tu-22M. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union there were 154 remaining in service, but none are now believed to be flying. More than 70 were lost in various operational accidents.
Most of the Iraqi aircraft that survived the Iran–Iraq War were destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War. Libyan aircraft are probably now unserviceable because of a lack of spare parts.
A total of 311 Tu-22s of all variants were produced, the last in 1969. Production numbers were following: 15 of bomber version (B), about 127 of reconnaissance versions (R, RD, RK, RDK and RDM), 47 of ELINT versions (P and PD), 76 of missile carriers (K, KD, KP and KPD) and 46 of training versions (U and UD).
All Soviet Union Tu-22 aircraft were passed to successor states: Russia and Ukraine.
Published - July 2009
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