Russia’s modernized Tu-160M supersonic strategic bomber performed its maiden flight with the new serial NK-32-02 turbofan engines.
The first flight was performed at the airfield of the Kazan Aviation Plant. S.P. Gorbunov, a branch of Tupolev PJSC of the Rostec State Corporation. The bomber was piloted by a crew led by Anri Naskidyants and the flight took place at an altitude of 6000 meters and lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.
During the flight, the necessary checks were performed on the updated general aircraft systems and on-board electronic equipment installed as part of the modernization of the aircraft, as well as the performance of the new NK-32 series 02 engine, developed and manufactured by the United Engine Corporation (UEC), was assessed.
According to the crew’s data, the flight proceeded normally, the systems and equipment worked without any issues.
Tu-160M is a deeply modernized strategic missile-carrier bomber based on the combatant Tu-160 “White Swan” aircraft, the largest and most powerful supersonic aircraft with variable wing geometry in the history of military aviation. Tu-160M is capable of speeds up to 2000 km/h.
The first experimental Tu-160M was created as part of a large-scale modernization program for combat aircraft systems of strategic and long-range aviation, which is currently being carried out by Tupolev PJSC. The first flight of the first prototype aircraft took place on February 2 this year.
Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack”
Tupolev Tu-160 Beliy Lebed (“White Swan”), also known with its NATO reporting name Blackjack, is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Soviet Union’s Tupolev Design Bureau.
The Tu-160 is the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic aircraft ever built and second only to the comparable North American XB-70 Valkyrie bomber in overall length. It is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber currently in use, and is the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing aircraft ever flown.
The Blackjack can be armed with long-range cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Along with the Tu-95MS missile carrier, the Tu-160 makes part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces along with the ground-based missile systems and ballistic missile submarines.
Entering service in 1987, the Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union. It was reported in 2016 that the Russian Air Force’s Long Range Aviation branch has around 16 aircraft remaining, with fewer being airworthy and in service.
In 2015, it was reported, that Russia had made a decision to resume the production of Tu-160 bombers in their upgraded Tu-160M2 modification and reschedule the development of the new-generation bomber PAK DA (Perspective Airborne Complex of Long-Range Aviation) to a later term. The Russian Aerospace Force intends to purchase no less than 50 such aircraft.