The original schedule calls for TU-160M2 first flight in February but Tupolev has promised to fly it earlier
The original schedule calls for the first flight in February but Tupolev has promised to fly it earlier.
“The Tupolev Design Bureau actually promises to take the plane into the air earlier – at the end of January,” the deputy prime minister wrote on his Facebook page.
The Tupolev Tu-160 Beliy Lebed (NATO reporting name: Blackjack) is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, heavy strategic bomber. The Blackjack is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber currently in use, and is the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown.
The aircraft entered operational service in 1987, and as of 2016 the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) fields 16 Tu-160s. The Blackjack fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s. The first upgraded Tu-160M has been delivered in December 2014.
The Tu-160M2 is essentially a prototype of a next generation variant of the venerable Blackjack and represents a huge effort undertaken by Russia to modernize its bomber fleet. In fact as Michael Kofman, a research scientist specializing in Russian military affairs at the Center for Naval Analyses told The National Interest, “a new line of Tu-160s […] involves relearning the original manufacturing process for the bomber and establishing a production line for something Russia’s defense industry had not made in quite some time.”
The new bomber will feature new mission systems and will be powered by upgraded versions of the existing Kuznetsov NK-32 afterburning turbofan. The upgraded engines are more fuel-efficient and more reliable than the original ones.
“The new engine is the NK-32 02 series, which is supposed to be much more fuel efficient,” Kofman noted. “The original NK-32 engine had issues.”
Photo credit: United Aircraft Corporation and Alex Beltyukov via Wikipedia