About 30 Tu-22M3 strategic bombers from Russia's Long Range Aviation fleet will be modernized by 2020, Russian Air Force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik said on Tuesday.
"We plan to upgrade about 30 strategic bombers to the M3M standard,” Drik said.
Tu-22M3 (NATO reporting name Backfire-C) is a supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic bomber that Russia uses mainly to patrol the skies over its southern borders, Central Asia and the Black Sea region.
The Tu-22M3 has a flight range of 6,800 km (4,300 miles) and can carry a 24,000 kg (52,910 lb) payload, including nuclear bombs and cruise missiles fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads. Aircraft of the M3M standard can be equipped with a wider range of weapons.
As of 2008, the Russian Air Force had at least 141 Tu-22M3 bombers in service.
Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, commander of Long Range Aviation, earlier said that Russia's strategic aviation fleet will undergo extensive modernization while Russia’s next generation strategic bomber, the PAK DA, is being developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau.
He said the modernized aircraft will be equipped with new equipment, communications systems, cockpits and avionics.