The Tu-22M3 is one of world's fastest long-range bombers. (Internet photo)
A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber's name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service.
China's air force currently still uses the Tu-16 middle-range bomber introduced from the former Soviet Union for its main bombing missions. Though the plane is equipped missiles of the same level as US Tomahawk cruise missile, the long-range and all-weather subsonic cruise missile, its outdated design forced Russia to abandon them in the last decade.
China intended to buy Tu-22M3 bombers from Russia in 1998, but Moscow refused the deal out of concerns of changing the military balance in eastern Asia.
The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world's fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific.
The bomber reportedly has the range to break through the first island chain of the Pacific, an assumed line of defense against China ranging from Japan in the north to the Philippines in the south. The plane can also be refueled in mid-air to allow for longer-range missions.