Every once in a while a plane comes along that's not really an improvement over what it was supposed to replace. The TU-22 fits that bill perfectly. Designed to be a supersonic replacement for the dependable but uninspiring TU-16 "Badger"- it never lived up to its expectations.
NATO had a tough time picking a code-name for this thing. They originally wanted to call it "Bullshot" but decided against that for obvious reasons. Next they tried "Beauty" but decided that was too complimentary. They finally settled on "Blinder".
The Russians called it Shilo (Awl) in reference to its distinctive shape. After the accidents starting piling up they gave it a new name - "Man Eater".
The TU-22 came from a 1954 Soviet requirement for a supersonic bomber. The first flight was in 1957. The first crash was a few months later. The Blinder entered operational service around 1961.
It's an interesting design with a long, slender fuselage, sharply swept wings and two large Dobrynin afterburning turbojets mounted in the tail. Mounting the engines on the tail allowed for a clean wing and made it easier to service the engines.
The rest were built either as reconnaissance versions, cruise missile carriers, electronic warfare, trainers or even tankers. Roughly 300 were built with most being recce version or missile carriers. The recce version retained the ability to carry bombs.
The cruise missile version could carry a single Kh-22 missile (NATO AS-4) partially recessed under the belly.
Defensive armament consisted of a single radar-directed 23mm cannon in the tail.
Early on the Soviets realized that this aircraft was in no way a suitable replacement for the TU-16. The slower TU-16 had better range, payload and reliability.
The other primary mission for this aircraft was to defend against US carrier groups. The Soviet tactic against a carrier group would have been to saturate the defenses with massed cruise missiles launched from land, sea and air.
The Kh-22 was a very large missile with a range of 320 nm and a top speed of mach 3-4.5 depending on how it was used. It had different flight profiles that allowed it to attack from either high or low altitude. I have no idea how accurate this missile was but based on the time period I would guess not that great. It did have a rather huge 2000 lb warhead so a hit by one would be pretty devastating. There was also a nuclear version, in which case.........close counts.
Landings were, ahem, "sporty". Approach speeds were quite high, typical of most high performance aircraft of that era. What was not typical was its tendency to pitch up and strike the tail. Also the landing gear was prone to collapse - bad news if you had a Kh-22 missile slung under the belly. The brakes were quite inadequate. If the drag chute failed you'd be taking a wild ride through a wheat field.
Out of 311 built, over 70 were lost in accidents. Yikes!
These did actually see a bit of combat use. The electronic warfare version saw very limited use during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
A small number were exported to Libya and saw limited use in Tanzania in 1979 and Chad in the early 1980s. Two, possibly three, were shot down by French air defenses while attempting to bomb airfields in Chad. Libya actually still has a few of these but they haven't flown in over a decade due to lack of parts.
For the most part the TU-22 crews tried to avoid Iranian fighters. The bombers were too precious to waste so they would turn back as soon as they received warning of a fighter nearby. Several others were shot down by SAMs and AAA.
The Iraqi bomber crews reportedly became quite skilled at "toss bombing" the huge FAB-9000 20,000 pound bomb. Toss bombing involved pulling up into a steep climb and lobbing the bomb at the target. Think of it as a poor-man's standoff weapon. Beats flying directly over a heavily defended target.
Ultimately the TU-22s proved too difficult and expensive for the Iraqis to keep in service. An entire squadron of fighter-bombers could be operated for what it took to keep a single Blinder flying. The remaining handful of Iraqi Blinders were destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War.
To the relief of Russian pilots, none of these are still in service. The Russians parked all of them after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Ukraine followed soon after. The remaining Libyan Blinders are sitting unused you can see them here. You might talk them into selling you one, but I wouldn't be brave enough to fly it.
Video showing one of the last TU-22 flights. I can't tell if this is Russian or Ukranian. You'll see one of the trainer versions with a second cockpit added for the instructor.