Tupolev Tu-22

The Tupolev Tu-22 (NATO reporting name Blinder) is a Soviet jet supersonic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.

Missing image
Tu-22 at Monino AF Museum



The Tu-22 was originally intended as a supersonic replacement for the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber. The design, designated Samolet 105 by Tupolev, was drawn in 1954, but the first flight of the prototype did not take place until 21 June 1958. The availability of more powerful engines and the TsAGI discovery of the Area rule for minimizing transonic drag led to the construction of a revised prototype, the 105A. This first flew on 7 September 1959.

The first serial-production Tu-22B bomber, built at Kazan Factory No. 22, flew on 22 September 1960, and the type was presented in the Tushino Aviation Day parade on 9 July 1961. It initially received the NATO reporting name 'Bullshot,' which was deemed inappropriate, then 'Beauty,' which was felt to be too complimentary, and finally 'Blinder.' Soviet crews called it "shilo" (awl) because of its shape.

The Tu-22 entered service in 1962 and 1963, but it experienced considerable problems, leading to widespread inserviceability and a number of crashes. Even after some of its teething problems had been resolved, the 'Blinder' was never easy to fly, and it was maintenance intensive. It was exceptionally unpopular with both flight crews and ground personnel throughout its career.

By the time the Tu-22B (Blinder-A) entered service it was already clear that its operational usefulness was limited. Despite its speed, it was inferior to the Tu-16 in radius, weapon load, and serviceability. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev felt that ICBMs were the way of the future, and bombers like the Tu-22 were in danger of cancellation. As a result, only 15 (some sources say 20) Tu-22Bs were built.

A combat-capable reconnaissance version, the Tu-22R ('Blinder-C'), was developed alongside the bomber, entering service in 1962. The Tu-22R had an aerial refueling probe that was subsequently fitted to most 'Blinders,' expanding their radius of operation. 127 Tu-22Rs were built, 62 of which went to the AVMF for maritime reconnaissance use. Some of these aircraft were stripped of their camera and sensor packs and sold for export as Tu-22Bs, although in other respects they apparently remained more comparable to the Tu-22R rather than the early-production Tu-22Bs.

A trainer version of the 'Blinder,' the Tu-22U ('Blinder-D') was fielded at the same time, with a raised cockpit for an instructor pilot. The Tu-22U had no tail guns, and was not combat capable. 46 were produced.

To try to salvage some kind of offensive purpose for the Tu-22 in the face of official hostility, the 'Blinder' was developed as a missile carrier, the Tu-22K ('Blinder-B'), with the ability to carry a single Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') stand-off missile in a modified weapons bay. The Tu-22K was deployed both by DA (Strategic Aviation) and AVMF (Naval Aviation).

The last Tu-22 subtype was the Tu-22P ('Blinder-E') electronic warfare version, initially used for ELINT electronic intelligence gathering. Some were converted to serve as stand-off ECM jammers to support Tu-22K missile carriers. One squadron was usually allocated to each Tu-22 regiment.

The Tu-22 was upgraded in service with more powerful engines, in-flight refueling (for those aircraft that didn't have it initially), and better electronics.

Tu-22s were exported to Iraq and Libya in the 1970s (an Egyptian request was turned down after the cooling of Soviet-Egyptian relations in the wake of the Yom Kippur War).


The Tu-22 was gradually phased out of Soviet service in favor of the Tupolev Tu-22M. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union there were 154 remaining in service, but none are now believed to be flying. More than 70 were lost in various operational accidents.

The Iraqi aircraft that survived the Iran-Iraq war were destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War. Libyan aircraft are probably now unserviceable because of a lack of spare parts.

Combat service

Libya used the 'Blinder' in combat against Tanzania in 1979, striking the town of Mwanza on 29 March 1979. The Libyan aircraft were subsequently used in Chad, with strikes into Sudan. and Chad In the 1980s Libyan bombers intervened in the civil war in Chad, and also hit targets in Sudan.

Iraq used its 'Blinders' in the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, losing about seven of its 12 aircraft in combat.

The only Soviet combat use of the 'Blinder' took place in 1988, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Radar jamming Tu-22PD aircraft covered Tu-22M bombers operating in Afghanistan near Pakistan border, protecting strike aircraft against Pakistani air defence activity.


The Tu-22 has a 55° swept wing. The two large turbojet engines, originally the Dobrinin VD-7M, later the Kolesov RD-7M2, are mounted atop the rear fuselage on either side of the large vertical fin. Continuing a Tupolev OKB trademark, the main landing gear are mounted in pods at the trailing edge of each wing. The highly swept wings gave low drag at transonic speeds, but led to very high landing speeds and a long take-off run.

The Tu-22's cockpit placed the pilot forward, offset slightly to the left, with the weapons officer behind and the navigator below, within the fuselage. The cockpit design was abominable, with very poor visibility (doing nothing for the 'Blinder's' poor runway performance) and uncomfortable seats.

The Tu-22's defensive armament, operated by the weapons officer, consisted of a tail turret beneath the engine pods containing one or two AM-23 23mm cannon, each with 250 rounds of ammunition. The turret was directed by a small PRS-3A 'Argon' gun-laying radar to compensate for the weapons officer's lack of rear visibility. The bomber's main weapon load was carried in a fuselage bomb bay between the wings, capable of carrying up to 24 FAB-500 general-purpose bombs, one FAB-9000 bomb, or various free-fall nuclear weapons. On the Tu-22K, the bay was reconfigured to carry a single Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') missile semi-recessed beneath the fuselage. The enormous weapon was big enough to have a substantial effect on handling and performance, and it was also a safety hazard.

The early Tu-22B had an optical bombing system (which was retained by the Tu-22R), with a Rubin-1A nav/attack radar. The Tu-22K had the Leinents PN (NATO reporting name 'Downbeat') to guide the Kh-22 missile. The Tu-22R could carry a camera array or an APP-22 jammer pack in the bomb bay as an alternative to bombs. Some Tu-22Rs were fitted with the Kub ELINT system, and later with an underfuselage palette for M-202 Shompol side-looking airborne radar, as well as cameras and an infrared line-scanner. A small number of Tu-22Ks were modified to Tu-22KP or Tu-22KPD configuration with Kurs-N equipment to detect enemy radar systems and give compatibility with the Kh-22P anti-radiation missile.


A total of 311 Tu-22s of all variants were produced, the last in 1969.

  • Tu-22B - Original free-fall bomber variant. Only 15 built, ultimately used mostly for training or test purposes.
  • Tu-22R, RD, RK, RDK - Reconnaissance aircraft, retaining bombing capability. -K suffix denoted some aircraft fitted with Kub ELINT systems in the 1970s. About 127 built, including RDM.
  • Tu-22RDM - Upgraded reconnaissance version, converted from earlier RD aircraft in the early 1980s, with instruments in a detachable container.
  • Tu-22P, PD - Electronic warfare/ELINT version. 47 built.
  • Tu-22K, KD - Missile-carrier version built from 1965, equiped to launch the Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 Kitchen) missile. 76 made, including KP / KDP.
  • Tu-22KP, KPD - Electronic warfare / bomber version, introduced circa 1968, carrying anti-radiation missile Kh-22P.
  • Tu-22U, UD - trainer version, 46 made.

The -D suffix (for dalni, long-range) denotes aircraft fitted for aerial refueling.

Specifications (Tu-22R)

General characteristics

  • Crew: three - pilot, navigator, weapons officer
  • Length: 41.60 m (136 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 23.17 m (76 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 10.13 m (33 ft 3 in)
  • Wing area: 162 m² (1,742 ft²)
  • Empty: N/A
  • Loaded: 85,000 kg (187,390 lb)
  • Maximum takeoff: 92,000 kg (202,400 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 x Dobrynin RD-7M-2 turbojets, each rated 107.9 kN (24,250 lbf) dry and 161.9 kN (36,376 lbf) with afterburner


  • Maximum speed: 1,510 km/h (938 mph)
  • Range: 4,900 km (3,045 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 13,300 m (4,055 ft)
  • Rate of climb: N/A
  • Wing loading: 525 kg/m² (107 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust-to-weight ratio: 38 kN/kg (0.38 lbf/lb)


  • 1 x AM-23 23mm cannon in tail turret
  • 9,000 kg (19,800 lb) bombs, or
  • one Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') cruise missile

Related content

Related development: Tu-98 - Tu-106

Comparable aircraft: B-58 Hustler - BAC TSR-2 - Dassault Mirage IV

Designation sequence (Tupolev): Tu-102 - Tu-103 - Tu-104 - Tu-105 - Tu-106 - Tu-107 - Tu-110

Designation sequence (Soviet Air Force): Tu-14 - Tu-16 - Tu-20 - Tu-22/Tu-22M - Tu-24 - Tu-26 - Tu-28

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:Tupolew Tu-22 pl:Tu-22 fr:Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder


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