Since the mid-1990’s, China has been seeking to get they’re hands on a Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire for medium-range strike role and maritime patrol roles around its borders. The Tu-22M would be major improvement over their Harbin (Xian) H-6 which is also based around another Tupolev product, the Tu-16 Badger that Chinese gotten from the Soviet Union before the Sino/Soviet collapse in 1960 and have been making the bomber ever since. However, the H-6 is over 50 years old and is considered outdated, slow, and vulnerable to the latest air defense systems and fighters from other nations nobly from Taiwan and Japan.
So, China has been in a race to get a new bomber to supplement or replace the vintage H-6 and so they looked to Russia to buy a few Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire medium range bombers. However though, the Russian government refused the deal mostly over political issues because the Tu-22M was considered a strategic weapon and also trustworthy issues with China in the mid-1990’s. Nevertheless, in 2000, the China tried again since the new Russian president Vladmir Putin took office and wanted not only the Tu-22M, but also the Mikoyan MiG-1.42/44 5th generation fighters and additional Su-30MKK’s. With exception of the Su-30MKK’s, the Tu-22M and MiG-1.42/44 was denied by Putin over political reasons and also trustworthy issues too in 2001.
After the refusal, China gave up on the Backfire deal and focused on updating the older H-6 bombers while starting on a new bomber rumored being under development by Xian called the H-8 which some people in the defense agencies to be similar to the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Despite the ongoing rumors about the H-8, nothing has been heard about the development, but Xian was busy developing upgrades for the H-6 bombers for both stand-off missile platform and maritime patrol aircraft roles. Nonetheless, in late 2011, reports from defense websites and military forums that China was looking to buy some Backfires which brought back the rumors of the bomber that was dormant for a decade. Even so, the Russian government denied the rumors, but the reports were still ongoing every other month with every other reports being denied. However, in late-2012, reports that Russia was planning to sell 36 Tu-22M3 Backfires along with the production line to China in which caused some defense groups and military forums go into a frenzy. While the talk has been going on for a few months, the Russian government once again called the deal bogus in late January of 2013.
Nevertheless, if China does get their hands on the Tu-22M Backfires, it would become massive game-changer for nations like Taiwan, Japan, U.S, South Korea, Vietnam, and even India. Despite being designed in the 1970’s, Tu-22M3 has a range close to 5,000 miles, but with a 1,500 mile combat radius and can travel at speeds over 1,200mph which can hit targets further in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, down to Malacca Sea. Chinese Backfires would not carry Russian made weapons, but also Chinese made cruise missiles, PGMs and bombs too. Also China is developing newer supersonic and stealthy long-range cruise missiles that can be and launched from a Backfire bombers which can hit targets at long-range with great precision. Also, the Backfires can be refuel from tankers too which can give additional range.