MOSCOW, November 17. /TASS/. The upgrade of operational Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range missile-carrying bombers will begin in 2018, Tupolev Aircraft Company CEO Alexander Konyukhov told TASS on Friday.
"The first heavily upgraded Tu-22M3 will take to the skies in 2018. Also in that year, the modernization of operational aircraft will begin in compliance with the new state armament program. The upgrade will be carried out within the timeframe defined by this program," the Tupolev chief executive said.
A source in the Russian defense industry told TASS earlier on Friday that designers had completed developing the documentation for the modified version of the Tu-22M3 bomber, the Tu-22M3M, and the first heavy upgrade of operational aircraft would begin in 2018.
The Tu-22M3M bombers will get advanced precision weapons while their radio-electronic devices and engines will be similar to the equipment aboard the latest Tu-160M2 aircraft, the source added.
"The development of the documentation for the Tu-22M3M has been completed and work is currently under way at the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise to prepare the production facilities for the repair and modernization of the bombers that are in service in the operational units of Russia’s Aerospace Force. The first heavy upgrade of these planes since the time of their development will begin from next year," the source said.
"The Tu-22M3M will feature an absolutely new avionics system standardized with the Tu-160M2," the source noted.
"This refers to the entire avionics, including the navigation and sighting complex," the source said, adding that after its upgrade the Tu-22M3M would get a possibility to use "modern long-range precision weapons."
According to the source, the Tu-22M3M will have a power unit identical to the motor system aboard the Tu-160M2 (new NK-32-02 engines produced by the Samara-based Kuznetsov aerospace engine company).
The timeframe of modernization and the number of upgraded aircraft depend "on the enterprise’s capacities and on how work will proceed on the first planes," the source noted.
As was reported earlier, 30 planes will be upgraded to the level of the Tu-22M3M. They will feature a new SVP-24-22 radio-electronic system, a NV-45 radar, the cockpit’s improved ergonomics, new onboard systems and an extended service life of 35 years. The upgraded bomber will be able to carry precision conventional weapons, including Kh-32 cruise missiles with a range of up to 600 km.
The Tu-22M3 long-range supersonic missile-carrying bomber is a heavily upgraded version of the Tu-22 aircraft. The plane was developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the mid-1970s. It performed its debut flight on June 20, 1977 and went into service in 1989. It develops a maximum speed of 2,000 km/h, has a service ceiling of 13,300 meters and a combat load of up to 24 tonnes (Kh-22 and Kh-15 missiles, bombs, sea mines).
Overall, Russia has produced 268 such planes. According to the data of The Military Balance magazine, the Russian Aerospace Force operates 62 Tu-22M3 bombers. They are actively used in the Syria campaign, delivering strikes against terrorists’ facilities.