MOSCOW --- Russia’s first upgraded Tupolev Tu-22M3M strategic missile-carrying bomber performed 18 successful flights as part of its trials by the end of October, a source in the domestic defense ministry told TASS on Friday.
"By now, the Tu-22M3M has performed 18 flights as part of factory flight tests," the source said, adding that the flights took place in the daytime and at night.
The upgraded Tu-22M3M will take to the skies several more times by the end of this year as part of its trials. Also, a second upgraded Tu-22M3M prototype is expected to join the factory trials before the end of 2019, the source said.
If the flights of the first upgraded Tu-22M3M bomber proceed in the normal mode, it may enter state trials in late 2020 at the Akhtubinsk aerodrome of the Defense Ministry’s 929th State Flight Test Center, the source said.
The Tupolev Aircraft Company declined to comment on the information provided by the source.
Upgraded Tu-22M3M bomber
The latest upgraded Tu-22M3M missile-carrying bomber performed its debut flight on December 28, 2018. The aircraft carried no armament and its flight proceeded at an altitude of 1,500 meters and lasted 37 minutes. The bomber was piloted by the crew commanded by Test Pilot of the Zhukovsky Flight Test Center Oleg Petunin.
According to the data of the Tupolev Aircraft Company, the Tu-22M3M features expanded combat capabilities and an increased operating range. Russia’s Aerospace Force ex-Commander Viktor Bondarev, currently Head of the Federation Council for Defense and Security Committee, earlier said that the bomber’s upgraded version could carry Kh-32 cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons.
Russian Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko earlier said that the bomber’s serial production would begin in the immediate future.
The Tu-22M3M is a modernized version of the Tu-22M3 long-range supersonic missile-carrying bomber with the variable-sweep wing. During its upgrade, the bomber will get new avionics and a capability to employ new missiles.