Despite rumors to the contrary, Russia has not sold 36 Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire supersonic bombers to China, Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports.
“There are no negotiations on this issue with China that have taken place,” says Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for Rosoboronexport. Another Russian source tells TASS, “The supply of Tu-22M3 to foreign countries is, in principle, impossible, because these aircraft are strategic weapons.”
Read the ITAR-TASS story here–but it’s in Russian.
The Backfire was the bane of the US Navy’s carrier fleet during the Cold War. It was expected that if World War III broke out, the Soviets would try to halt the flow of men and materiel from the US to Europe by attacking allied shipping across the Atlantic using surface ships, submarines and airpower. Carriers were a prime target, as one might expect.
Key to those Soviet plans would have been the Backfire, hordes of which would launch barrages of Raduga Kh-22 (NATO: AS-4 ‘Kitchen’) supersonic anti-ship missiles at USN carrier strike groups. It was hoped that Grumman F-14 Tomcats and surface ships like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers could hold off the onslaught. (This was all assuming such a war didn’t immediately go nuclear and we weren’t all vaporized in a large thermonuclear fireball with those few survivors exhibiting a healthy green glow)
Of course, then the Soviet Union collapsed, and we didn’t have to worry about it. Now, with the rise of China, the US is again contemplating the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) challenge, which in many ways resembles the Soviet strategy. If the Russians had indeed sold the Tu-22M3 to the Chinese, it could have played a role in China’s plans to keep the US Navy “off its turf.”
However, the Backfire would, no doubt, have to be upgraded with new avionics and weapons–but it would still be a formidable weapon. It is kinda strange that the Chinese haven’t started to invest in a long range strike capability; I know if I was in their place, I would.
So the good news is that this video is about the Backfire, the bad news is that it’s in Russian.