Tupolev Tu-22 (Blinder) Medium Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
The Tu-22 Blinder medium bomber began service in the 1960s and was retired in the 1990s.
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The Soviet/Russian Tupolev concern has had a long and established history in developing and producing large bomber-class aircraft for the Soviet/Russian Air Force. The Tu-22 was developed in the latter part of the 1950s and brought online in the early 1960s to provide a far-reaching offensive punch to Soviet Air Force operations. At the time of its inception, the Tu-22 became the Soviet Union's first supersonic bomber aircraft in service. Despite its impressive appearance and technological heavy infrastructure, the Tu-22 failed to live up to expectations seeing only moderate combat service and production numbers not exceeding 311 units. All have since been retired from operational service.
The Tupolev Tu-16 ("Badger")
Throughout most of the 1950s, the Soviet Air Force relied on the Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO: "Badger") for its strategic bombing role. The type was first introduced in 1954 and built to the tune of 1,500 examples with license-production occurring elsewhere. Global operators were numerous and included Egypt, Georgia, Iraq and the Ukraine as well as the Soviet Union/Russia. The aircraft was fitted with two turbojet engines supplying 21,000lbs of thrust each which allowed for a top speed of 650 miles per hour and a range out to 4,400miles. However, the aircraft managed a history dating back to the early 1950s and was only capable of subsonic speeds.
By this time in the Cold War, Soviet authorities looked for a supersonic solution and authorized development of a successor to the Tu-16. The new aircraft would have strong air defense penetration capabilities and field a comparable payload to the Tu-16 it was to replace. Of course this being the Cold War, provision for nuclear free-fall bombs was also a requirement. Technology finally allowed for better aerodynamics and improved engine output which allowed the initial "Samolet 105" prototype by Tupolev to become the "Samolet 105A". First flight was recorded on September 7th, 1959 and, after testing and evaluation, the aircraft was adopted into Soviet air service as the Tu-22. The first production run revealed the Tu-22B variant and made public to the world in July of 1961. Upon identifying the new breed, NATO observers assigned the codename of "Blinder" the aircraft. Formal entry into Soviet air service occurred sometime in 1962. By the end of production, some 311 Tu-22 Blinder aircraft were delivered with production spanning 1960 to 1969.
Tu-22 Blinder Walk-Around
Design of the Tu-22 produced a very elegant shape though utilitarian to the core as in previous Soviet aircraft attempts of the Cold War. This route of simplicity usually led to a very capable and robust aircraft and the Tu-22 was no exception. The fuselage was highly tubular and area-ruled in its shape with a very well-pointed nose cone housing a nav/attack radar suite. The cockpit sat a ways behind the nose cone and was home to three crew to include the pilot, navigator and weapons officer. The pilot sat at the front left with the navigator at his lower right. The weapons officer was situated to the rear of the pilot. A fuselage spine defeated any useful rearwards visibility and the heavily framed cockpit hindered forward and side views to an extent. Wings were well-swept, low-mounted and fitted amidships for the required stability at supersonic speeds. Strakes were noted along the surface of each wing. The empennage the most unique design aspect of the Tu-22 for it was home to the twin turbojet engine nacelles mounted at the base of the single vertical tail fin. This allowed for more internal volume at the wings and fuselage for the carrying of ordnance and fuel. A pair of swept horizontal planes were also noted. The undercarriage consisted of a conventional nose- and main-leg arrangement. An internal weapons bay allowed for the carrying of various munition types. All told, the Tu-22 was a massive aircraft by any regard. All three crew positions featured downward-firing ejection seats.
Standard defensive armament for the Tu-22 series was 1 x 23mm AM-23 or R-23 series cannon and this was fitted to a remote-controlled turret to be found in the tail. This weapon placement protected the vulnerable "six" of the aircraft and operated by the weapons officer. Offensive firepower was managed through an internal bomb bay buried in the fuselage at amidships and this could range from 24 x FAB-500 series general purpose conventional drop bombs to nuclear bombs as required. Only later production forms managed missile support. The included navigation-attack radar suite allowed for modernized support. Up to 20,000lbs of stores could be taken aloft. In the case of missile support, the Tu-22 was typically fielded with 1 x Kh-22 (AS-4 "Kitchen") cruise missile.
Power for the Tu-22 was provided for by a pair of Dobrynin RD-7M-2 series turbojet engines. Output was 24,250lbs thrust on dry (each) and up to 36,376lbs of thrust with afterburner (essentially raw fuel pumped into the engine for short bursts of power and, thus, speed). Maximum speed was 938 miles per hour (Mach 1.42) with an operational range of 3,000 miles. The Tu-22 could operate as high as 40,500 feet. Maximum take-off weight was 202,400lbs.