The video in this post features the maiden flight of Russia’s first Tupolev Tu-160M strategic bomber that rolls the Blackjack’s newly reconstituted production line.
Taken on Jan. 12, 2022 at Kazan Aviation Plant the video in this post features the maiden flight of Russia’s first Tupolev Tu-160M strategic bomber that rolls the Blackjack’s newly reconstituted production line.
“The flight took place at an altitude of 600 meters [1,969 ft] and lasted about 30 minutes. The crew of test pilots of Tupolev performed manoeuvres to test the stability and controllability of the aircraft in the air,” Rostec said.
The Tupolev Tu-160 Beliy Lebed is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, 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 Tu-160 entered operational service in 1987, and as of 2016 the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) fielded 16 Tu-160s. The Blackjack fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s.
According to Janes, the restart of production of the upgraded Tu-160M variant was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015 to bolster the air force’s strategic bomber capabilities at a time of increasing tension with the West, and to offset delays to the PAK-DA future bomber programme.
Russia not only plans to eventually buy about 50 Tu-160M bombers but also to upgrade 16 existing airframes to the standard. Series production is to begin by 2023 at a production rate of at least three aircraft a year. This would fit with the order for 10 aircraft in the 2023–27 timeframe.
The Tu-160M upgrade is being rolled out in two phases, with the first Tu-160M1 phase comprising the new K-042K-1 navigation system and ABSU-200-1 autopilot, as well as the removal of some previous systems, such as bomb sighting systems. The first upgraded Tu-160M1 has been delivered in December 2014.
The second Tu-160M2 phase includes the new Novella NV1.70 radar, a digital ‘glass’ cockpit, modern communications and anti-jamming equipment and modern conventional and nuclear weapons.
The new bomber will also 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.
Photo credit: United Aircraft Corporation