Russia’s Upgraded Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Performs First Flight

Russia’s new upgraded Tu-160M supersonic strategic bomber performed its first flight on Feb. 2, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced.

The first flight was conducted from the S.P.Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Factory runway. The flight took place at an altitude of 1,500 meters and lasted 34 minutes.

The upgraded Tu-160M will feature the latest onboard defensive aids suite (DAS), an advanced and reliable communications system with enhanced jamming resistance and unique conventional and nuclear weapons that will vastly expand its combat capabilities.

The first serial-produced bomber is expected to be delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2021.

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.

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