China buys Tu-22 production line from Russia. A major threat to the U.S. aircraft carriers in the region

Dec 29 2012 - 27 Comments
By Richard Clements

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

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  • Farthest thing to a stealth bomber? Care to put that into English? Is that like having too much electricity in your skin or being more plaid than a shark-elephant?

  • It’s a very old and unconfirmed rumour . Look at the date of this article – 2010-10-13

  • bagman

    Ugh..Please tell me this is some sort of sick joke. The prospect of the mass introduction of strategic bombers in the region can only spur a new arms race with no upside. Credit to China for backing their intentions with real action. I see big trouble a comin’

  • Maverick

    A significant threat if this is true…especially because the US Navy has retired all their long range fleet defenders aka F14 that were specifically designed for this…

  • It would be an interesting move, but I struggle to see the “major threat” here. Unless they can be equipped with the requisite sensors and avionics, these are Cold War relics – huge, and expensive to run. As for stealth, Norwegian F-16s have been routinely tracking and intercepting these things for decades without much issue (1986 intercept pictured here: so even with significant “indigenous” upgrades I don’t see these things launching some surprise attack on a well defended US carrier group anytime soon

  • There wouldn’t be ANY ‘threats’ to the US navy if they just went home!

    • Sounds like a great opportunity for the Koreans and Japanese to spend some defense money.

    • The U.S. Navy keeps shipping lanes open that are vital to our trade. They’re not some brigands just looking for trouble.

  • MZ

    It would be like shooting fish in a barrel, no threat.

    • rmc

      At least some one gets it. The Tu-22m is an obsolete overpriced piece of flying garbage that the USN is perfectly capable of managing. There is no way the Chinese are stupid enough to waste their $$$ on this trash. This entire story is another Russian fairy tale.

  • It would be difficult to make the TU 22 stealthy and flying at low level doesn’t mean you can avoid radar and the AS4 Kitchen missile isn’t exactly a new weapon so I sure the US Navy would no trouble shooting down these Georgia didn’t have too much trouble downing 1 during there short war

    • topolcats

      Georgia did shot down one with a Buk air defense system.
      But Serbia shot down a much more modern
      F-117 stealth bomber………so I guess they are in the same class?

      • Chris

        The F-117 was brought down from AA fire and heat missiles due to lazy mission planning. It can still be seen on radar it’s role is to avoid radar stations instead repetitive mission planning kept it flying hot spots where it was eventually spotted. But 1 aircraft lost to how many missions successful? ‘Merica! Also I don’t think China is in the right place to launch an all out attack. U.S. is watching and waiting. The F/A 18 super hornet is more than capable i’ve seen it fly and it’s highly maneuverable and it’s currently being replaced by the F-35 which can fire a missile and kill a target over 100 miles out. But I’m glad Russia China and the U.S. want anything but war. If anything China would invade North Korea and put a stop to the circus over there.

  • Dario Leone

    Maybe it’s for the US Navy to understand that need a real fighter-interceptor if this threat is or will bw true in the future.

  • If the Chinese do buy the Tu-22M3 from Russia and make a cloned copy of it. That will spark a massive Asian-pacific region Arms race of massive proportions. You can bet your money that their will be countries lining up to buy weapons and systems to counter the Tu-22M3

  • Michael Gene

    Vietnam spanked China in 1979 during a month long war with little support from their ally the USSR, Chinas worst nightmare would be a real peace and military alliance between the Vietnamese and Americans, the US does engage when an ally is invaded.

    • jm

      Michael, I thought it was the other way around in that war. The Chinese successfully exposed the Soviet lack of will to come to VN’s aid. All without even expending any air power. And “spanking” was premier Deng Xiaoping words, even to Jimmy Carter months before he invaded.

    • rmc

      BS. It was no more a victory for Vietnam than the Tet Offensive was.

  • Nuno Gomes

    The problem is IF China gets these bombers in big numbers…the soviet tactic to engage the US Navy was to perform saturation attacks…
    As for interception i think that a SuperHornet or a F-35 wont have much trouble in dealing with this kind of treath…specially whem the «D» version of the AMRAAM enters service…

  • Clancy

    Please read Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy for a fictional account how TU-22s savage a Carrier Battle Group…

  • When was the last Tu-22M produced? In the eighties? Could a production line have survived all this time? In Russia?

    Are the engines still being made? If not, what could replace them?

    Would 1.5 billion be enough to start a new production line from scratch and integrate new engines and avionics?

    As much as I love this plane, I really don’t think this can ever happen. We would see China buying the Su-34 before this.


    Noel gifts from Russia! HO HO HO!!!

  • Gorad

    Now, a relic of the cold war this aircraft might be, but remember, if the Chinese gets the AS-4 deal, then it’s already a hard game to win. Once they get a fixed location on their target, the Backfire could fire the Kitchen at maximum range, thereby lessening the amount of intercept time available for fighterrs. Also, even though that the Kitchen is quite visible on radar and is not that smart (they do not have any snaking evading movements, as far as I knew) they fly mightily fast. Their speed might make interceptions by SMs difficult, or even nigh impossible.

    Although, that the worst case I presented, and that might not be the mot realistic situation.


    Hey, the TU-22 is a potent threat even today. I did some research on Backfire incursions and came up with this. Interesting?

  • Neil Joseph Yamit
  • Sharleen Buckman

    Thought-provoking commentary – I was fascinated by the details ! Does someone know if I might get access to a fillable a form copy to complete ?