Just a Little Reminder That This Russian Bomber Was Made to Kill American Flattops
Rare photo captures Backfire bomber with carrier-killing missile
There aren’t that many images showing the KH-22, a large, long-range cruise missile developed by the Soviet Union to target U.S. Navy aircraft carriers with a conventional or nuclear warhead.
The pics you can find using Google are mainly old ones. So a recent air-to-air image depicting a Russian air force Tu-22M Backfire bomber flying with a couple of the giant missiles—dubbed “AS-4 Kitchen” by NATO—warrants mention.
The photo was uploaded on Russianplanes.net by a user nicknamed “White.” The image shows the swing-wing Tu-22 flying with two KH-22s—most probably upgraded to the KH-32 version, which features a new seeker head and rocket motor. The missiles have a top speed of about Mach 5 and a range of around 500 miles.
One missile is clearly visible under the bomber’s port wing; the other one is probably carried on the starboard under-wing pylon.
The Backfire debuted in the late 1970s as the main Soviet weapon for killing American flattops sailing in the North Atlantic during wartime. The concept was for massed formations of Backfires, taking off from the Soviet northwest, to launch volleys of KH-22s and overwhelm U.S. defenses.
Today the Chinese are essentially copying the Soviet method, deploying large number of land-based DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles in place of the bomber-fired munitions.
The Americans responded to the Soviet threat in a very focused way in the ‘70s and ‘80s, developing the F-14 fighter to shoot down the Backfires and the Aegis ship-based missile system to knock down the KH-22s a safe distance from the carrier.
It’s fair to say that for years the Backfire-KH-22 combo drove U.S. technology and tactics. The F-14 has been retired from American service and replaced by the F/A-18, but scores of Aegis-equipped warships still guard the carriers.
After all, the lethal missile and the speedy bomber meant to carry it both are still in service … and remain a danger to American flattops.