Russian Tu-160M2 bomber flies with new engines for the first time

MOSCOW, (BM) – Russia is modernizing its most powerful bomber: in February, a remodeled version of the Tupolev Tu-160 took to the air in Kazan. Now the Tu-160M2 celebrated its second maiden flight at the same location – this time with the new NK-32-02 turbofans from Kuznetsov, learned citing

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The Tu-160 is a monster. Anyone who has ever stood face to face with a copy of the Mach 2 bomber known in the West as “blackjack” knows this. Its dimensions are enormous, its flight performance impressive, its effect devastating. But even the largest fighter aircraft in the world cannot withstand the ravages of time forever: The 16 Tu-160s that are used by Russia’s long-distance pilots are getting on in years.

New Tu-160 for Russia

It is precisely for this reason that Russia started a comprehensive modernization program for its flagship bomber a long time ago. The result was the Tu-160M2, equipped with a glass cockpit and modern avionics, new engines and a weapon upgrade. All 16 Tu-160s of the Russian Air Force are to be converted to this standard in the coming years. In addition, the Kremlin has decided to resume series production of new “blackjacks”. Up to 50 new Tu-160M2 are supposed to secure the future of the model for the coming decades.

“Second first flight” in Kazan

At the beginning of February it was the Tu-160, baptized “Igor Sikorsky”, which was the first of its kind to take to the skies at the factory airfield in Kazan. But one thing was still missing from the aircraft at the time: its new engines, the Kuznetsov NK-32-02 turbofans. Nine months later this notch was wiped out: On November 3rd, the prototype started at the same location for the first time with the greatly improved “Series 2” variant of the most powerful engine ever used in a fighter aircraft. The first flight took two hours and 20 minutes, the manufacturer UAC [United Aircraft Corporation] announced afterwards. The Tu-160M2, commanded by Anri Naskidyants, climbed up to 6,000 meters. During the flight, the crew checked all systems installed as part of the upgrade and assessed the operation of the new NK-32-02 engines. “Everything went smoothly,” said UAC.

Same performance, less consumption

The Kuznetsov NK-32, manufactured in Samara, was specially developed for the Tu-160 around 40 years ago. Each of the four afterburner turbofans who work in a “Blackjack” has a thrust of 245 kN (with afterburner). The future built-in Series 2 of the NK-32 should bring the same performance, but consume significantly less kerosene and allow the Tu-160 to fly over 1,500 kilometers further than before. This is achieved through optimized compressor and turbine blades. The NK-32-02 is not really new: It was developed in 1987, but it never went into series production after the collapse of the USSR. Until now.

Read more: Russia keeps in secret the Tu-160’s engine more seriously than the atomic bomb design


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