WARSAW, ($1=4.12 Polish Zlotys) – By the end of this year, the first Tu-160M bomber built from scratch in this modernized configuration will leave the Kazan plant and begin testing, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing Defence24. Earlier examples were created as a result of the modernization of aircraft already operated by the Air and Space Forces of the Russian Federation or the assembly of elements remaining in the warehouse since the 1990s.
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According to the Russian news agency TASS, citing sources in the Kazan Aviation Works named after S. P. Gorbunova: “The plane is in the hangar, ready, refueled. By the end of the year, the Tu-160M will surely move to the runway.” The exact date of starting the tests as well as the first test flight of the machine depends on the possibility of inviting official guests to grace the event.
This is an important moment both for the Kazan plant and for the Russian tactical air force as it is the first Tu-160 built from scratch since the USSR. This is due to the decision announced in 2015 to resume the construction of the Tu-160 aircraft in the modernized Tu-160M version and its further development of the Tu-160M2, the capabilities of which are to be many times greater than the currently operated machines. In December last year, the first Tu-160M, rebuilt from an air force machine, was tested.
One copy was also assembled from parts that had been in stock for 30 years. In total, they are enough to build three aircraft, while the currently completed bomber was made of components manufactured in recent years based on new specifications and “historical” production documentation. It was so complex that for two decades many important elements, especially structural ones, were not manufactured at all. Some plants did not exist for a long time and the documentation and instrumentation had to be recreated.
As he officially informed in July this year the Tupolev company, at least one more Tu-160M plane made of stored parts is being built in the Kazan plants. The Tu-160M machines were to officially enter strategic aviation service in 2021, but due to the pandemic and technical and economic factors, there has been a traditional delay. The new machines are not only to replace the severely worn-out 16 Tu-160 bombers in service with the Engels airbase but also to increase the operational capabilities of Russian strategic aviation.
The announcement from the TASS agency speaks of a brand new Tu-160M aircraft, but most likely it is a Tu-160M2 aircraft. The currently used machines, delivered to the air force in 1984-2008, are being rebuilt to the Tu-160M standard, while in 2018 the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered 10 newer Tu-160M2 machines for 160 billion rubles. Ultimately, we are talking about up to 50 aircraft, which may mean that they will also replace some Tu-95 bombers.
The main task of the new bomber is to be nuclear deterrence missions. The main armament of the aircraft will therefore be the Ch-102 maneuvering missiles with nuclear warheads, and in the future, hypersonic missiles. However, the aircraft also received modernized weapons control systems to carry out conventional attacks using cruise missiles with conventional warheads as well as corrected and classic bombs.
The Russians do not disclose any details, but the plane certainly received new EW systems, more modern radar, and NK-32 engines of the second series with better characteristics. Other significant modifications of the Tu-160M2 include the use of coatings that lower the radar signature, modern digital avionics, and the use of new navigation and data exchange systems [including increasing their precision and resistance to jamming systems].
These works show, paradoxically, a significant lagging behind Russia about the US, which not only introduced the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber but is currently at an advanced stage of work on its successor, the B-21 Raider. The Russian equivalent of the B-2, the PAK-DA bomber, did not go beyond the declarative and conceptual phase.
On the other hand, as a success, Russian propaganda presents the achievement at the level of the American B-1B Lancer bombers, which have been systematically modified since their introduction into service and for years have had the possibilities that the Tu-160M2 will be able to boast about, for example in the use of precision weapons or modern sensors and navigation.
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