MOSCOW ($1=69.45 Russian Rubles) — Bombers, often referred to in Russia as strategic missile carriers, continue to play an essential role in theater strategy. Moscow needs them because one part of the inventory is part of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Like the Tu-160 missile carrier.
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Its upgraded version, the upgraded T-160M, sometimes called the Tu-160M2, made its first flight this December. The state company PJSC Tupolev announced the information through its Telegram channel.
According to the press release, the flight was part of key tests. These included checking the avionics, engine performance, and fire control systems, as well as the stability and handling of the aircraft.
PJSC Tupolev released a video showing the takeoff and landing of the Tu-160M. It can be seen from the video footage that the aircraft’s stealth coating is about to be applied. Also, upon landing, the T-160M slows down by deploying a triple parachute at the rear of the airframe.
Russia has built about 30-36 T-160 units. The first flight was carried out way back in 1981. At the moment, only the Russian Air Force is the operator of this missile carrier, although in past Ukraine also had it.
In recent years, the Russian Federation decided to modernize the bomber. Modernization focused primarily on control systems, avionics, and weapons rather than aircraft construction. This variant consists of the modernization of existing models and newly built models with some differences.
The Tu-160M is now available with a coating that gives the aircraft a low radar signature, i.e. stealth. It has a new glass cockpit, new engines as well as a new defense system. According to Russian sources, this system is supposed to counter incoming missiles. The new engines, on the other hand, guarantee a greater operating range. Communication, electronics, and control systems are also new.
Engine production doubled
Russia is investing in maintaining and improving its bombers. The new engines with which the Tu-160M flies are produced by the Samara enterprise UEC-Kuznetsov.
Over the past few years, Russian taxpayers have provided nearly $6.6 billion to modernize and increase production at UEC-Kuznetsov. In November of this year, Rostec announced that 12 new production facilities have already been opened at the company. Thus, the production of the NK-32 series 02, NK-12MP, and NK -25 series engines are doubled.
The NK-32 engine of the 02 series is the engine that powers all Tu bombers. This engine powers the Tu-160M as well. According to open Russian sources, the same engine will initially be used to power the next-generation PAK DA missile carrier [bomber].
3D parts for Tu-160M
It is a little-known fact that some parts required for the construction of the advanced Tu-160M missile carrier are 3D manufactured. Although such production is not new to Western countries, 3D production is rarely used in the Russian Federation.
However, UEC-Kuznetsov has a separate production unit for 3D printing large-sized parts. This unit is part of the previously mentioned multi-billion dollar investment. The Tu-160M may be the first aircraft on which the installations for plasma and detonation spraying and compressor treatment will be tested.
Russia had very different intentions nearly 24 months ago. According to the initial plans, as early as 2021, the Russian Air Force should have received the first modernized advanced Tu-160M.
The deadlines, as usual, were changed again. In February, the Ministry of Defense announced that the first Tu-160M should be brought into operational readiness in the second quarter of 2022. However, the war in Ukraine has changed many of the planned expenditures in the Russian Federation’s military budget.
The latest information announced the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov announced that 2023 is the deadline for the first delivered advanced Tu-160M rocket launcher.
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