Following up an earlier blog about China buying the entire Tu-22M Bacfire production line lock, stock and barrel from the Russian Kazan facility for a mere $1.5 billion (when our redoubtable air force has spent more than that amount on a propeller trainer aircraft!), the Chinese discovered that some of the manufacturing jigs secured from the Ukraine (which was part of the Tu-22 assembly line) simply fell apart. This the Chinese, working 24/7, have sought to get around by setting up their own jigs, and otherwise to get the aircraft project underway. The Tu-22 that will emerge — designated Hong-10 — is what a source said was a souped up “M ++” version. It will come complete with an AESA air-to-air and surface attack radar, and ability to fire surface-attack long range cruise missiles from its rotary weapons platform nestled within the H-10 fuselage, etc.
Apart from helping realize the Chinese defensive/offensive design of using the Backfire in tandem with the Dong Feng-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles to attack US carrier groups, and force them out of the second island chain and push them to the line of the “third island chain” of the Hawaiian islands, the Tu-22 poses a mortal danger to India. The PLA will not anymore be hampered by the problems of embarking ordnance-loaded aircraft from the high-altitude air bases on the Tibetan plateau on attack missions. These can now be launched against even Indian peninsular targets from deep within the Chengdu MR.
It is a capability this analyst has been advocating IAF should have, but is something the determinedly sub-strategic-minded air force leadership has time and again passed up, preferring planes with lesser range instead. India was first offered Tu-22 in mid-1971 but the mission to Moscow under Air Marshal Sheodeo Singh chose the MiG-23 BN, despite a squadron of the Tu-22s with IAF roundels painted on them being parked at a military air base outside the city ready to fly to India. Worse, as I have detailed in my book “Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security”, IAF played dog in the manger and prevented the more strategically-oriented Indian Navy from acquiring this aircraft! India could have bought up the Tu-22 production line anytime in the last two decades — it being so offered by a cash-strapped Russia. It would have provided India with a manned option for strike sorties against targets in deepest China and anywhere in the extended Indian Ocean region. When, oh God!, when will our air force, operating in an open strategic medium acquire a strategic mindset?