Factbox-What is the Russian bomber plane that Ukraine says it shot down?

(Reuters) - The Ukrainian military said its anti-missile units succeeded for the first time on Friday in shooting down a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber plane. Russia said the plane had crashed as it returned to base, apparently due to a technical malfunction.

What do we know about the Tu-22M3?

- The designer, Tupolev, describes it as a long-range supersonic missile carrier bomber designed to destroy sea- and ground-based targets with guided missiles and aerial bombs. The NATO codename for it is Backfire.

- Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia has frequently used Tu-22M3s to bomb Ukraine. The plane that Ukraine said it shot down was used to carry Kh-22 cruise missiles for attacks on Ukrainian cities, according to the country's air force commander. The Kh-22 is a dual-capable missile, meaning that it can carry a nuclear or conventional warhead, although Russia has not used nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

- Russian airfields where the planes are based have been targeted by Ukrainian drones. British military intelligence said a Tu-22M3 was "highly likely destroyed" in one such attack at a base in Novgorod region last August.

- The first prototype of the plane was launched in 1977 but a completely modernised Tu-22M3M with what Tupolev describes as increased tactical effectiveness and larger operational radius was flown for the first time in December 2018.

- The plane is made of aluminium alloys as well as high-strength, heat-resistant steel and alloys of titanium and magnesium. It has variable-swept low wings that consist of a fixed part and moveable panels that can sweep through angles form 20 to 65 degrees.

- Russia's air force has 57 Tu-22M3s, according to the 2024 Military Balance report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)