- Yes, as a tech tree vehicle
- Yes, as a premium vehicle
- Yes, as an event vehicle
- Yes, as a squadron vehicle
- No, I would not like to see the Tu-22RD in game.
The Tupolev Tu-22RD “Blinder-C” was a long range supersonic reconnaissance aircraft originally developed as a bomber in the Soviet Union by OKB Tupolev in the late 1950’s to replace the Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger” in service. The Soviet government, and most of the world at large, was interested in developing supersonic aircraft of all classes. By the time the requirement for a supersonic long range bomber was issued in 1954, supersonic jet fighters had already flown in the Soviet Union, and light bomber prototypes were nearing completion. It logically followed that the VVS would want a supersonic strategic bomber. For expediency and familiarity, the Tu-22 design began with the tried and true Tu-16. During the design process, the engines were relocated to the back and raised above the fuselage. The design also built off of the experience Tupolev had with designing the Tu-98 “Backfin” supersonic bomber prototype. The VD-7M engine with a two-stage afterburner was selected to power the new aircraft. With 16,000 kgf thrust while afterburning, this was the kind of power needed for the heavy aircraft to reach the speeds it did.
Tupolev’s ‘105’ required some revision before being service-ready. Part of this was switching the tail gun from two AM-23s to a single Rikhter R-23 cannon. Despite losing a gun, the fire rate of the R-23 was just about double the AM-23, so it balanced out.
Despite the commonality with previous designs, the ‘105’ prototype bomber would take almost four years to go from design stage to prototype stage. The aircraft was optimized for high speed supersonic flight, which required a different aerodynamic design than traditional flight regimes. The long, tapered nose, as well as the highly swept wings, were evidence of this. By the time the design process was finished, the original concept, a Tu-16 with stronger engines, had evolved into a sleek and powerful aircraft. The first flight of the prototype ‘105’ took place in June 1958. However, even before that, preliminary studies suggested the aircraft would need some serious adjustment to meet its speed and range goals. The modified ‘105A’ developed in 1957 incorporated a smoother shape overall with the “area rule” concept applied for better performance in transonic flight. The modified aircraft didn’t fly until September 1959. Despite that, several production Tu-22As had already begun construction before the ‘105A’ flight tests even started! Tupolev was respected and influential enough, and Soviet high command desperate enough for a supersonic strategic bomber, that the Tu-22A “Blinder-A” entered its production run. On July 9, 1961, ten examples were present at the Tushino airshow, with more on the factory floor, where it first became known to NATO. However, trouble would soon come for Tupolev and his bomber.
Reselling the “Blinder”
Starting production before the flight tests were even finished was not the smartest move for the VVS, as they ended up changing their mind very quickly over whether they actually wanted the aircraft. The main thing that threatened to kill the “Blinder” was lack of expected range, speed, and shifting priorities within the Soviet Union. Advances in ballistic missile and surface-to-air missile technology threatened the existence of the nuclear strike bomber. The Soviet government was not as interested in bombers like the Tu-22 anymore. Desperate to save his aircraft, Tupolev and his bureau came up with an idea. The VVS wanted a long-range supersonic reconnaissance aircraft, and Tupolev conveniently had a long-range supersonic aircraft at his disposal. The air force was persuaded to adopt the Tu-22R “Blinder-C” for this role. This reconnaissance version did not lose its original bombing capabilities and could carry conventional or nuclear weapons in the way that was originally envisioned.
The “Blinder-C” was capable of staggeringly high angle of attack during takeoff. This was in spite of the fact that the takeoff performance of the Tu-22 design was considered to be somewhat weak!
The numbers speak for themselves: only twenty Tu-22A long-range bombers were constructed, but the Tu-22R reconnaissance aircraft had 126 units built. Trainer, missile carrier, and ECM versions also proved to be more popular than the original bomber. Later, several aircraft were upgraded to the Tu-22RD standard and given, among other structural improvements, superior RD-7M2 engines. The engine and avionics upgrades would be applied to the whole Tu-22 fleet as part of ‘Article A’ (Izdelyie A, изделие A) in the 70’s. In the end, the Tu-22 would not replace the “Badger” as originally envisioned, but would instead flourish in its own niche. It served with the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991 and was only fully replaced by its improved cousin, the Tu-22M “Backfire”, afterwards. “Blinders” saw limited combat use in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but the majority of its career was thankfully quiet.
The Death Trap
The “Blinder” was a legendarily unforgiving aircraft to fly owing to the design choices made for high performance. Highly swept wings led to high takeoff and landing speeds, reminiscent of the F-104 Starfighter, also known for being unforgiving. In addition, the Tu-22 had ejection seats which went downwards - effectively making a low-altitude bailout impossible. This meant that if the “Blinder” suffered some form of failure during takeoff or landing, it was almost a death sentence for the crew. It also didn’t help that the cockpit design restricted visibility for the pilot, especially during crosswind landings. Because of this, only the most experienced Tu-16 pilots were chosen to fly the new aircraft. However, unlike the long-range bombers before it, the Tu-22 lacked a copilot, which added to the pilot’s workload. If that wasn’t enough, the aircraft tended to have oversensitive controls and buffeting during supersonic flight, which the Tu-16 pilots were unaccustomed to.
The Tu-22 crew entered and exited the aircraft through the ejection seats, which were winched up into the aircraft for flight. This design worked fine in level flight, but was impossible to use at low altitude or when the plane was rotating.
This was a perfect storm of variables which led to a high amount (though it can be a little exaggerated) of accidents and mortalities. It’s a bit of a stereotype that the Soviets didn’t care about crew safety, but this wasn’t true, at least for the “Blinder”. The majority of accidents could be attributed to crew error in a plane that absolutely had to be operated by the book. Sadly, even during the prototype’s testing program, many aircrew lost their life in accidents. This, in part, likely motivated OKB Tupolev to design the swing-wing Tu-22M “Backfire” to include a copilot, upwards ejection seats, and a variable-sweep wing for improved low-speed performance. Ironically, the “Backfire” had an even worse accident rate from 1970-1979 during its introduction to service. Such was the price for large advancements in technology.
Discipline from the crew and rigorous training helped keep the temperamental aircraft from taking too many lives, and it was retrofitted to reduce its killer flaws. Even though it may get a bad reputation, as the first long-range supersonic bomber to be accepted for production by the Soviet Union, it holds a significant place in history and was a long-serving aircraft.
The “Blinder” was designed to cruise at transonic speeds, and to this end it employs the aerodynamic features discussed earlier. It is capable of reaching 1,700 km/h at altitude with the rear-mounted RD-7M2 engines, and it can reach a speed of up to 1,020 km/h at sea level. The bomb load was up to 9,000 kg, all stored in the internal bomb bay, and was dropped by the navigator/bombardier with the assistance of a ground radar, optical sight, and navigation computer. The navigation systems in particular were very advanced for the time. One R-23 cannon with unique telescoping ammunition defended the rear hemisphere and was controlled remotely with a TV camera and radar ranging sight which automatically computed ballistics against a locked target. This gun was operated by the airborne officer, who also managed the active and passive countermeasures systems (ECM, flares, chaff, etc.). Each of the three crew sat in their own enclosed compartment and was equipped with the downwards ejection seats mentioned earlier.
The tail turret installation of the Tu-22 was noted to be somewhat unreliable. Seems like putting a TV camera and gun ranging radar directly between the engines was not the best idea. In some models, it was replaced with an active ECM suite.
For expedient landing, the plane was equipped with two brake chutes, and for takeoff it could be equipped with four JATO units, though these were rarely used. For the time, the navigation and bombing computer of the Tu-22 was very advanced, allowing it to find its target area more easily. In the underside of the Tu-22RD’s forward fuselage, there were permanently fixed cameras, with larger reconnaissance packages installed in the bomb bay when desired. Otherwise, normal bombs were all carried internally. An internal countermeasure dispenser could be placed in the bomb bay as well, though this could lead to a reduced bomb load depending on the configuration. The plane was equipped with an in-flight refueling probe which was a lot easier to handle than the Tu-16’s wing-to-wing refueling system. A unique feature to solve high-speed control problems were the outer wing flaps, which could function as “flaperons” for lateral control when the ailerons would otherwise suffer reversal.
- Span: 23.6 m (77 ft 8 in)
- Length: 42.6 m (139 ft 9 in)
- Height: 10.0 m (35 ft)
- Wing area: 162.3 m2 (1,747 ft2)
Empty weight: 48,000 kg (105,822 lb)
Gross weight: 85,000 kg (187,393 lb)
Takeoff weight: 91,000 kg (200,621 lb)
Propulsion: 2 x RD-7M2 afterburning turbojet engines
- At sea level:
- 11,000 kgf (24,251 lbf) thrust each dry (22,000 kgf [48,502 lbf] thrust total)
- 16,500 kgf (36,376 lbf) thrust each with full reheat (29,000 kgf [63,934 lbf] thrust total)
- At 11,000 m (36,089 ft):
- 2,500 kgf (5,512 lbf) thrust each dry (5,000 kgf [11,023 lbf] thrust total)
- 8,000 kgf (17,637 lbf) thrust each with cruise reheat (16,000 kgf [35,274 lbf] thrust total)
- 13,250 kgf (29,211 lbf) thrust each with full reheat (26,500 kgf [58,422 lbf] thrust total)
Thrust/weight ratio (gross weight, full reheat): 0.3585
- 1,020 km/h (634 mph) at sea level
- 1,600 km/h (994 mph) at 10,000 m (32,808 ft)
- 1,700 km/h (1,056 mph) at 11,000 m (36,089 ft)
Service ceiling: 13,500 m (44,291 ft)
Rate of climb:* 12.7 m/s (41.7 ft/s)
- 10.5 minutes to 8,000 m (26,247 ft) with full afterburner
*Note figure is given for the Tu-22R with weaker VD-7M engines while other figures here are the RD-7M2. Actual climb rate for the Tu-22RD, especially as altitude increases, can be presumed to be superior.
Crew: 3 (pilot, navigator/bombardier, airborne officer/gunner)
- 1 x Rikhter R-23 in DK-21 tail turret (500 rounds total)
- Equipped with a PRS-4 Krypton ranging radar
- Horizontal radar area: + 35 / - 35 degrees
- Vertical radar area: + 35 / - 35 degrees
- The radar dish (and therefore scan/track sector) can be moved up to 30 degrees left or right horizontally.
- Target lock range: 5,300 m against a MiG-19 or similar target
- Horizontal turret traverse: + 30 / - 30 degrees
- Vertical turret traverse: + 30 / - 30 degrees
- Rate of fire: 2,500 rounds per minute
- Up to 9,000 kg of conventional bombs, including:
- 24 x OFAB-100-NV 100 kg bombs
- 16 x OFAB-100-NV 100 kg bombs (w/APP-22 chaff dispenser)
- 24 x FAB-250M46/54 250 kg bombs
- 24 x FAB-250TS 250 kg ground penetrating bombs
- 24 x OFAB-250-270 270 kg bombs
- 16 x OFAB-250-270 270 kg bombs (w/APP-22 chaff dispenser)
- 18 x FAB-500M46/54 500 kg bombs
- 18 x FAB-500TS 500 kg ground penetrating bombs
- 12 x FAB-500M62 500 kg bombs
- 6 x FAB-500M62 500 kg bombs (w/APP-22 chaff dispenser)
- 6 x FAB-1500M46 1,500 kg bombs
- 4 x FAB-1500M54 1,500 kg bombs (w/APP-22 chaff dispenser)
- 3 x FAB-1500-2600TS ground penetrating 2,600 kg bombs
- 2 x FAB-3000M46/54 3,000 kg bombs
- 1 x FAB-5000M54 5,000 kg bomb
- 1 x FAB-9000M54 9,000 kg bomb
- Up to 9,000 kg of incendiary bombs, including:
- 24 x ZAB-250-200 200 kg incendiary bomb
- 18 x ZAB-500-400 400 kg incendiary bomb
- 18 x FZAB-500 500 kg fragmentation incendiary bomb
- Rubin-1A bomb-aiming radar
- OBP-15 optical bomb sight
- SPO-10 Sirena-3M radar warning receiver
- KDS-16GM (ASO-2) chaff/flare dispensers
- APP-22 chaff dispenser (optional, in bomb bay)
- PRS-4 Krypton gun ranging radar
- TP-1A television sight/tracker
- PT-4952-58 brake chute
- 4 x SPRD-63 JATO units
- 5,500 kgf (12,125 lbf) thrust each (22,000 kgf [48,500 lbf] thrust total)
- Burn time: 13-17 seconds
A side view of the unique 23x260mm telescoped round used in the rearward-feeding R-23 cannon. The long casing allowed for a marked increase in muzzle velocity to 850 m/s. Confusingly enough to those not “in the know”, the tapered end houses the primer, while the shell is pointed out the tubular end.
The ammunition belt of the R-23. The very existence of this ammunition was relatively secret. First contact with a party outside the Soviet Union and her allies was with Israel, who captured a crate of R-23 ammunition among a shipment of standard 23mm ammunition for the ZSU-23-4. Even then, they didn’t know what it was for. Only when a Libyan Tu-22B was shot down in 1987 did Western forces finally get their hands on some and learn what it was used in.
The square indent seen in the rear of the undercarriage nacelle houses the ASO-2 integrated countermeasure dispensers that the aircraft can use by default. A larger chaff dispenser could optionally be fitted in the bomb bay.
A nice in-flight shot of a Tu-22RD refueling.
- Tupolev Tu-22: Russia’s Pioneering Supersonic Bomber by Sergey Burdin and Alan Dawes (2006)
- Tupolev Tu-22 ‘Blinder’ / Tu-22M ‘Backfire’: Russia’s Long Range Supersonic Bombers by Yefim Gordon and Vladimir Rigmant (1998)
- Tupolev: The Man and his Aircraft by Paul Duffy and Andrei Kandalov (1996)
- Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" & Tu-22M "Backfire"
- From 20mm to 25mm - The Russian Ammunition Page
- Rikhter R-23 - Wikipedia