For the third time in 7 years (first one being in 2005, second earlier in 2012) several websites in China (link in Chinese) are reporting that China and Russia have agreed for Beijing to buy the production line for the Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber at a cost of 1.5 billion USD.
Once in service with the Chinese Naval Air Forces the Tu-22M3 will be known as the “H-10”.
The deal struck with Russia comes with 36 aircraft (and engines): an initial batch of 12 followed by a second batch of 24 aircraft are thought to be on order.
The Tu-22 will be employed in the maritime attack role and will be used to attack targets from low level (to avoid radar detection).
The Tu-22 is a Soviet supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber. It was developed during the Cold War and it is among the farthest things to a moder stealth bomber. However, it was upgraded, it will get updated with (indigenous?) systems and, with a range of about 6,800 kilometers and a payload of 24,000 kg, it is still considered a significant threat to many latest generations weapon systems.
Especially if the deal with Russia includes the Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 ‘Kitchen’) long-range anti-ship missile.
The deal could represent a significant change in the strategic balance in the region.
The Tu-22 bombers will give China another tool to pursue the area denial strategy in the South China Sea and the Pacific theatre; a fast platform to launch cruise missiles, conventional or nuclear weapons in various regional war scenarios.
In other words, a brand new threat to the U.S. Navy in the region.
Written with David Cenciotti