Already feared as a carrier-killer during the Cold War because of its Kh-22 missile, the latest iteration of the Tu-22M will not only receive the updated Kh-32, but also a mysterious, brand new hypersonic missile, according to a Russian military source.
“Recently, a new hypersonic missile was tested on the Tu-22M3. The missile will be part of the armament range of the upgraded Tu-22M3M along with a number of other latest aviation weapons,” a Russian military source told TASS. The agency did not receive any official confirmation from PJSC Tupolev.
The characteristics of the new weapon are unknown. It could be a variant of the Kh-47М2 Kinzhal missile, a hypersonic missile developed by Russia. Currently carried by the MiG-31K fighter jet, it has an advertised range and speed of 2,000 km and Mach 10 respectively.
The Tu-22M3M, the modernized version of Tu-22M3, took off for the first time on December 28, 2018. Additionally to the updated avionics and electronic warfare capacities, the aircraft sports an in-flight refueling receiver, thus increasing its range.
The Tupolev Tu-22M is a strategic bomber with a variable-sweep wing developed during the Soviet era. It was later followed by several modernized versions, including the Tu-22M3 “Backfire”. Operated by four crew members, this variant can reach speeds above 2,000 km/h and deliver more than 12 tons of ordnance. It was recently deployed in Syria and is part of the Russian nuclear deterrence strategy.