New Delhi: India seems likely to acquire four Tupolev Tu-22M3 “Backfire” twin-engine strategic bombers from Russia and will probably use these long-range jets on maritime strike missions to attack warships with volleys of modern anti-ship missiles (ASMs), including India’s own BrahMos-A.
When they arrive in India, the Backfires will become the country’s first long-range strategic bombers. Indian media said these four variable-wing jets should be sufficient to deter China from further expansion in the Indian Ocean.
In December 2015, China announced it would build a naval base for its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean nation off the east coast of Africa.
Indian military analysts said the only conceivable deployment for the Tu-22M3 is to attack PLAN warships in the Indian Ocean and in the South China Sea. The jets have a range of 6,800 km, allowing them to venture out to the South China Sea from Visakhapatnam, headquarters of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command. The distance to the Seychelles is 4,000 km.
The Tu-22M3 was originally designed by the Soviet Union as a long-range maritime strike bomber armed with stand-off cruise missiles capable of attacking U.S. Navy carriers at very long-range.
India might choose to arm the Tu-22M3 with the air launched version of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos-A, or with the Russian cruise missiles it’s designed to launch: the Raduga Kh-22 and the Raduga Kh-15.
The Kh-22 has a range of 600 km and a 1,000 kg warhead. This weapon can also be armed with a nuclear warhead. The smaller Kh-15 with its 150 kg warhead is the world’s fastest aircraft-launched missile.
Backfires from the Thanjavur Air Force Base in southern India armed with the BrahMos-A can hunt down and hit PLAN warships in the Indian Ocean. The BrahMos-A can be modified to carry a nuclear warhead.
Russia currently uses its Tu-22M3s to bomb targets in Syria in support of the Syrian government. The jets rain down unguided “dumb bombs” on their targets, which the United States says are mostly resistance groups allied with it.