Over the last four months, the Russian Air Force has been carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, using, in particular, its Tupolev Tu-22M supersonic strategic bombers. What distinguishes it from many other aircraft are its impressive air intakes, situated on either side of the fuselage - similar to those of the MiG-25.
A quick review of the plane’s history indicates that it is not new. Built under utmost secrecy in the late 60’s by Russian aircraft manufacturer Tupolev, at Kazan, 500 miles (800 kilometres) east of Moscow, it entered service in 1972. The Russian bomber is capable of attaining 1,430 mph (2,300 km/h - Mach 1.88), has a range of 4,200 miles (6,800 km), and was first used during the Cold War. In 1987, the Tu-22M was deployed to Afghanistan, and dropped large amounts of bombs from its, up to 53,000 lb (12 tonnes) capacity, internal weapons or bomb bay. The strategic bomber is at present being used in Syria.
Officially Russia has never exported the aircraft. In total, including all variants, almost 500 units of the Tu-22M have been produced, with production being stopped in 1993. A hundred are still in service.