Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire C
The Tu-22M3 Backfire C has had a somewhat confusing development history. The original Tu-22 was NATO code-named Blinder. It had two pod-mounted engines above the rear fuselage, one on either side of the vertical stabilizer, and fixed sweptback wings. Then Tupolev came out with what I think is almost a new design, with the engines mounted in the rear fuselage and intakes along the fuselage side, and variable-position wings...I think the first on a large Russian bomber. This was the Backfire. The designation for this aircraft was Tu-22M1. The M probably stands for “Modified.” There were only nine Tu-22M1s built, and it was fairly quickly replaced by the Tu-22M2. The M2 had more powerful engines, a bigger wing, and an area rule fuselage.
The Tu-22M3 first flew in 1976. The first big difference between the M2 and M3 were that the intakes on the M2 looked like those on an F-4 Phantom, while the M3’s look like those on an A-5 Vigilante. The second, more subtle difference, is that the nose cone bends down on the M2 and up on the M3.
The Backfire is still in service with the Russian Air Force and Naval Aviation, and has gone out of service with India and Ukraine.
When I first got this kit, I thought it was identical to the Minicraft Tu-22 I built a number of years ago. I was wrong there. The earlier kit was a Tu-22M2, but this is the M3 with revised intakes. You get 4 gray sprues and one clear. It looks like they reworked the molds when they redid the intakes, as the parts were clean, crisp, flash-free, and nicely molded with no voids. The kit comes with markings for a Russian or Ukrainian aircraft. The nose shape is also correct for the M3. More on that difference later.
Building the Model
Construction went fairly easily and quickly, considering we did a home remodel and my hobby room was torn up for about 3 weeks. The fuselage halves were nicely molded and had no warp. The wing swing mechanism is ingenious and worked well…until I got some glue on it. The new intakes were only 3 parts each, and fit together well. I did have to use some putty on the fuselage/intake mating points. I saved the landing gear, the missile, and the tail guns for after painting and decals. Whoever designed the method for attaching the folded fin on the under-fuselage missile deserves an extra coffee break. The fin goes into a nicely designed slot and holds solidly.
Here is where I ran into a conundrum. The painting instructions show the aircraft with a nose-mounted air-to-air refueling probe. This also appears on the drawings of the markings on the box top. There are no parts for this in the kit, and I was thinking of scratch-building a probe from sprue.
I found an answer to this problem in Soviet Strategic Aviation in the Cold War by Yefim Gordon (ISBN 978 1 90210 908 4). He states that the Tu-22M2 did have a refueling probe (page 157), but the US negotiators for the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT 2) demanded that the Tu-22M2s be classified as strategic bombers rather than long-range. The Soviets couldn’t see giving up this valuable asset, so the refueling gear was removed. As a result, the Tu-22M3 was never equipped for air-to-air refueling. I also then noted that the box art showed an M3 for the large picture and M2s for the color schemes. The nose shape is also different on the two versions.
I painted the white underside, leading edges, and antennas with Floquil’s Reefer White. I’m going to miss that paint, as Testors has announced they’re discontinuing the Floquil line.
I then masked the antennas, wing leading edges, and fuselage sides and painted the rest of the aircraft gray. I made a mistake in assuming that the Russian and Ukrainian aircraft are the same gray. The instructions only give the colors on the page with the Russian plane, and they’re marked A through E. I failed to notice that the Russian has A gray (36176) and the Ukrainian has C (36375).
A coat of clear gloss (I still use Future, another product we’ll have to find a substitute for) made the model ready for decals.
The decals are printed by Cartograf, and they were marvelous. The only place where I had any problem was putting the plane numbers on all 3 nose gear doors. The small parts and small decals resulted in markings which floated on the surface tension of the bit of water transferred from the decal paper, and I really had to fight them to get them in position and lie down. It’s good to have superior decals when you have a problem like this.
I always save the landing gear, guns, antennas, etc. for after painting and decals because I know I’m going to break something if I don’t. The landing gear went together problem-free, and the tail guns fit cleanly and nicely. I also saved the tail radar for last because it’s a separate white part, and it’s easier than trying to mask it.
Highly recommended. This is an aircraft which hasn’t been available before in this scale. Everything fits well, and it has good decals with interesting markings. The failure of the boxart and instruction sheet to differentiate between the M2 and M3…well, we all make mistakes, and at least they did the correct nose and didn’t put a refueling probe in there.
Thanks to Minicraft for the review kit and IPMS/USA for letting me add to my Soviet/Russian/Ukrainian bomber collection in 1/144.