The very meaning of military aviation lay in the creation of bombers. It was the attack of objects and groupings of troops from the air that was the main goal. Then designers began to think about creating fighters to gain air supremacy. Before the advent of the bombers, no one needed this domination.
And now bombers can be attributed to the main combat unit of the Air Force. True, they are now harder and smarter. More precisely, it is no longer “Ilya of Murom”.
Bomber Ilya Muromets
Now it is fighter-bombers. They can effectively hit both ground targets and stand up for themselves. The reduction in the number of classic interceptors, or fighters, began actively with the departure from the scene of the USSR. Now there are no serious fighters in the sky, so modern cars are trying to make more versatile. For example, F / A-18SH, F-16, F-35, F-15SE - all fighter-bombers. At its core, to summarize roughly, they are similar to Su-34, Mig-35.
There was also a separate class of more classic bombers. Such as B-2, B-52, Tu-95, Tu-22М3, Tu-160, etc. Their main disadvantage is that they can not stand up for themselves in air combat, but there are also some advantages.
However, it is nevertheless necessary to single out the Tu-22М3 from the total number. He is a long-range bomber, not a strategic one. Long-range aviation, in general, is something special for our stories. While the West with the passage of time and the development of technology went to the strategists, we continued to improve long-range bombers in parallel with the strategic ones. Now only two countries have long-range aviation - this is China with a copy of our Tu-16 and, naturally, the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation with the Tu-22М3.
Chinese copy of the Tu-16 (Xian H-6)
So why do we need long-range aviation when the whole west refused it? At the time of the Union, it was certainly a formidable force. And with the advent of the Tu-22, it only increased. The first Tu-22 and modern Tu-22М3 are completely different machines (albeit with similar indices). Omit the stages of development of the Tu-22 and go directly to the Tu-22М3.
The first flight of the Tu-22М3 took place in 1977. Serial production began in 1978, and lasted until the 1993 year. According to its tasks, it was not even a bomber, it is, rather, a missile carrier. His main task was to "deliver" missiles X-22. In standard loading, the Tu-22М3 was supposed to carry two missiles under the wing on each side, but could also take another under the fuselage.
Mount X-22 missiles under the fuselage of the Tu-22М3
The X-22 were of various modifications: with an active homing head (anti-ship), with a passive head (anti-radar modification) and guided by the ANN (the progenitor of modern Calibrov and Tomahawks). A feature of these missiles was a huge range for that time - 400 km, and according to some information, to 600 km! Naturally, for their guidance, serious intelligence and external central commandment were required, with which there were no problems in the Union either (for example, Tu-95РЦ)! Another huge advantage of the X-22 was the supersonic flight speed. For the air defense of that time, it remained a very tough nut to crack.
The first flaws of the X-22 began to appear already in the 80-x. With all the uniqueness of this rocket, its development was launched in 1958, and the creation of RCC with ARLGSN for that time was a very nontrivial task. Even now, in many missiles (for the sake of justice, not RCC, but, rather, SAM), the use of ARLGHSN does not always take place due to the complexity of implementation and the increase in mass. Therefore, in 80-x already have questions about the X-22 noise immunity. But this should not put an end to its application. As an example, we can recall the Fokland war. Argentina was bombarded with unexploded “cast iron” by the praised fleet of Her Majesty. If they had a couple of squadrons of Tu-22М3 and X-22, the Focklands would have a different owner, and London would become a district of Argentina.
However, in actual combat, the Tu-22М3 with the X-22 missile was not particularly noted. Dear unique bomber basically served as a simple bomber. The ability to carry FAB was rather a pleasant advantage than the main task. Often Tu-22М3 was used in Afghanistan, in places where front bombers had a hard time reaching out. It should be especially noted when the Tu-22М3 "leveled off" the mountains of Afgan during the withdrawal of Soviet troops, covering our caravans. And all this time the most complicated and intelligent machine was used as a “pig-iron” distribution.
It should also be mentioned about the use of Tu-22М3 in Chechnya, it is particularly interesting that he dropped light bombs. And, of course, the apogee is the use of Tu-22М3 in Georgia, which ended up very sad.
Now let's talk: Do we need Tu-22М3 now? Was it needed in the nineties and now, in the twenty-first century? Definitely, modernization is necessary to continue its life cycle. It had to consist in the appearance of the new X-32 rocket. But is it unique and new? X-32 is nothing more than the development of X-22 while preserving all its archaic and flaws for modern times. The lesser of the evils is noise immunity. Perhaps, on X-32 it was planned to use a fairly modern ARLGSN, for example, from the X-35 rocket. But there is still a live rocket engine. And this is perhaps the stupidest decision for a modern rocket. The complexity of the operation of the LRE is the high toxicity of the components, the risk of fire when in contact with the oxidizer, the need for constant and qualified maintenance. At cost, this does not go to any comparison, not only with a solid-fuel engine, but also with a compact TRD. An RCD on a PKR can only be found that in China (but they fly to the Tu-16), which they are gradually removed from duty (for more details on China’s CRP here: Part 1-I, Part 2-I), and maybe North Korea. The whole modern world has long abandoned such engines.
Another X-32 problem is the flight profile. To achieve the stated characteristics of the range it needs to go at a huge height in rarefied atmospheric layers. Even a pseudo-combined flight profile is still excessively high, as the rockets attack the ship by diving. A high-altitude flight is a gift for a “blue-plate saucer” for modern air defense systems. In addition, this almost six-ton carcass, rushing against the background of space, will be less dangerous than a boat with an RPG-7 for a modern destroyer or frigate.
X-22 / 32 Missile Flight Profile
As a development of the Tu-22М3, an option was implemented with the placement of X-15 aeroballistic missiles on it, which already have a modern solid-fuel engine. In addition, they can be placed in the internal compartments of the Tu-22М3. It would seem to be a fairly modern solution, but we turn to world experience. Its counterpart is AGM-69A SRAM, developed in 60-ies in the United States. And for its replacement, AGM-131 SRAM II was developed at the end of 80-x. However, this rocket did not go into the series. One of the reasons is the end of the Cold War. But there is another reason - the development of air defense systems. Both AGM-131 and X-15 possess a ballistic flight path, which is a good gift for modern radars.
Placement of X-15 missiles in the Tu-22М3 bomb bay
Prototype AGM-131a SRAM II
It is worth considering the option of equipping the Tu-22М3 with modern X-101 / 102 cruise missiles, which are fully suitable for the "Carcass" in terms of weight and dimensions. However, one nuance arises - the range of the Tu-22М3 is substantially less than that of the strategic Tu-160. Rockets, in contrast to the “White Swan”, will be on the external sling, and therefore will also contribute to the reduction of the radius of action. And there is no refueling bar on Tu-22М3. However, even its equipment with a refueling bar does not fundamentally save the situation. The reason is that it is two-engine, and this greatly affects the safety of flying over the ocean. By analogy, in civil aviation there is the concept of ETOPS, which determines how far the aircraft can be removed from the nearest airfield (the parameter is given in minutes of flight). Only modern aircraft with modern engines were able to reach more or less significant values by ETOPS (among other things, this requires highly qualified staff). In military aviation, there is no such thing, but it is quite clear that the old aircraft with not the most modern engines will not be able to provide the required safety. Of course, the performance of a combat mission may be more important than life, but the theory of Japanese kamikazes is very far from ideal! On X-101 / 102, it is impossible not to note a more scrupulous moment. When placed on the Tu-22М3, it automatically falls under the START Treaty. And when the "Carcasses" become the carriers of nuclear missiles, the number of real warheads will need to be reduced (follows from the START Treaty).
Rocket X-101 / 102
So what can be done to extend the life cycle of the Tu-22M3? It had to be adapted to modern types of missiles, of which we have plenty. For example, he could become a carrier of P-700. Given its weight, which is about two times less than the X-22. We can assume the possibility of placing two missiles on each side, and at least one under the fuselage. But the P-700 is also not ideal. It is better to put a "Caliber" ZM-54 with a low-altitude flight profile and a supersonic warhead. By analogy with the 3М-14, for a non-export variant, the potential in range can be at least as good as the X-22 (naturally, with an external DD).
Rocket 3M-54 "Caliber"
But all this for the Tu-22М3 would be a waste of budgetary funds due to the inefficiency of the aircraft itself in modern conditions. It would be possible to justify such modernization if the Tu-22М3 was still produced, but for modern Russia it is not only impossible, but absolutely not necessary. Modernization of the remaining park is also a very controversial issue. To begin with, according to data from open sources, about 40 "Carcasses" are in a flying state. All others are written off due to the release of the resource. In their production, no one has ever thought about the magnitude of the ESR. The huge car is perfectly visible on the radar. The low-altitude flight units have been removed from all Tu-22М3. The EW Tu-22М3 complex had a lot of problems in fine-tuning, therefore group departures were supposed to cover EW Tu-16P aircraft, which have not been in service for a long time. The version of a full-fledged EW aircraft based on Tu-22М3 was not made.
In addition, every departure of the Tu-22М3 must be accompanied by cover planes, since the “Carcass” cannot stand up for itself. An example would be a company in Syria, where Tupole was covered by Su-30CM. In this regard, the question arises about the only advantage of the Tu-22М3 - its flight range. If in any case they should be covered by escort airplanes, whose flight range is shorter. Those. either escort planes should be met by a refueling truck, or they should be based closer to the target than the “Carcass” departure aerodrome (which was the case in Syria). Then what is the advantage of range?
In addition, heavy anti-ship missiles can now not only Tu-22М3. Frontline aviation does not stand still, and since the days of Afghanistan has gone far ahead. For example, Su-30CM copes with the delivery of the P-700. Theoretically, Su-34, well, or Su-35С, can carry two or three 3М-54 missiles. The question remains in range. The distillation range of the "Carcass" is about 7000 km, the Su-34 range with one PTB is approximately 4500 km. Of course, there is a difference, but the most important thing is that the Su-34 can stand up for itself. Or in its place may be, for example, Su-35C with a range of 4000 km with one PTB, which will surely stand for itself. At the same time, on the Su-35 it is possible to hang, in addition to the two “Caliber” anti-ship missiles, another pair of RVV-SD and two RVV-MD, in addition also containers of EW “Khabin”. Calculate the distance with all the body kit is impossible, and no one will give such data. But do not forget that the range of the Tu-22М3 will drop dramatically, since the rockets will also be on the external suspension, and the HK-25 due to its venerable age does not have a hefty appetite!
Where did the modernization of the Tu-22М3 go? Installation of the complex "Gefest" (SVP-24-22) for navigation and the formation of aiming modes. It helped to more accurately throw fabs in Syria. And again, the expensive and sophisticated rocket carrier acted as a delivery of "pig-iron" pigs on the heads of terrorists. The creators did not prepare such a fate for him. The flight hour of a car of this class costs a fortune, it is much more expensive to operate than the Su-34. The operating time of the engineering staff is much longer per flight hour than that of front-line bombers. At least two people more crew.
Monitors SVP-24-22 in the cabin Tu-22М3
In addition, he has very controversial engines for modern times. NK-25 is based on the old NK-144. But the NK-25 is also a three-shaft engine. At such a complication of the design, we went because of the absence, at that time, of more optimal technologies for increasing power. Diagnosis of three-shaft engines is a very non-trivial task, due to the complexity of access to many nodes, and especially supports. At the same time from open sources, NK-25 has a very modest resource - about 1500. For comparison, the F-135 engine, with a weight per ton less, produces almost comparable thrust at the unforced mode (it is much simpler to increase the afterburner than the unforced mode, therefore we do not take it into account), has a simpler turbine design and is two-shaft.
All this directly affects the cost of service "carcass".
NK-25 engine turbine section
So where could the money be diverted for servicing the Tu-22М3 fleet? For example, the purchase of Su-34, bringing them to avionics to the possibility of using the RR “Caliber”. This option, with a bunch of advantages, has only a disadvantage in the quality of the range, which was already mentioned above. And who is much more “cheaper” to pour in FABs than the missile carrier Tu-22М3? Well, for example, IL-112, or MTS (work on it is suspended, but this is another story), at least, it will be much cheaper with comparable efficiency (more on using transport workers as bombers Antonov Bombers). Enough to put the NKPB-6, well, or a container for the control center (what the hell is not joking!) At the same time, our military transport aviation also needs them like air.
Military transport aircraft IL-112
Scope NKPB-6 from military transport aircraft An-26
Do we need modern long-range aviation in Russia? The key here is precisely “modern”, and not Tu-22М3. Of course, needed, only with a completely different aircraft. Let it not be for readers a serious shock, but the prototype should serve as the American experimental YF-23. It was he, but in scale. The design of the keels allows you to go on a supersonic flight, while maintaining low visibility for radar. A kind of compromise between the flying wing and supersonic. Between the engines you need to increase the distance for a long compartment of weapons, which could put two missiles "Caliber" or P-700. Additionally, a pair of side compartments for RVV-SD and RVV-MD, BRLS AFAR "Belka", built-in container for the control center ("ala" EOTS JSF). And there are almost even engines - Р79В-300, the afterburner of which was planned to be brought to 20 tons. But these are all dreams, all this another time and in another country.
The author is grateful to Sergey Ivanovich (SSI) and Sergey Linnik (Bongo) for the consultations.