Confirmed: Russia has included the Tu-160 bombers in the war

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Officially, the largest bomber in the world Tu-160 has already joined the war in Ukraine. On May 1, early in the morning around 2:30 a.m., nine Tu-95 bombers and two Tu-160 bombers attacked Ukraine. The Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced this on the official Telegram channel. Other Telegram accounts known for their pro-Russian content also confirmed the Tu-160’s involvement in the attack.

Photo credit: Tupolev

The Tu-160 strategic bomber fired Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles. A total of 18 missiles were fired, but how many Tu-160s were fired remains unknown. Ukraine claimed that 15 of the 18 cruise missiles were intercepted.

The 11 bombers took off from two different points. nine Tu-95s from the Olenegorsk region [Murman region] and two Tu-160s from the Caspian Sea region, the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claims.

First time used

This is actually the first documented participation of the world’s largest and heaviest bomber in the war in Ukraine. The Tu-160 is capable of Mach 2+ flight speed. At the end of last year, speculation began that Moscow could soon include the Tu-160 in the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Satellite images then revealed that at least six Tu-160s were “parked” at Engels Air Force Base, which is 14 km from Saratov, Russia.

Photo credit: Reuters

According to claims in Chinese media since 2020, Russia is keeping the design of the engine powering the strategic bomber a complete secret. The NK-32 engine is kept top secret more than the development of an atomic bomb, say Chinese journalists.

Tu-160M and M2

At the end of last year, Russia conducted flight tests of the latest modification of the bomber – the Tu-160M2. Whether this version participated in the air attack on Ukraine on May 1 remains unknown. But last year, Tupolev announced that during the flight tests, the avionics, the engine, and the performance of the fire control systems were inspected.

Photo credit: Defence Blog

Russia claims that the Tu-160M and Tu-160M2 are stealth bombers because of the new radiation-absorbing coating. According to Russian media reports, the modified Tu-160M or M2 features a new glass cockpit. The engine, which is kept secret, provides a greater operational range, Russian experts say. The bomber has an integrated defense system that warns of incoming enemy missiles.

BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that in 2022, the Russian Federation made serious changes in the production of its Tu-160M strategic bomber. Last year, the Kremlin announced that it had doubled production of the NK-32 engine of the 02 series.

Tupolev also started 3D production of Tu-160 parts. Although 3D manufacturing is not that popular in Russia, to minimize costs, Tupolev integrated such a production unit for the production of parts and components for the Tu-160.

About Tu-160

Officially, Russia has between 30 and 36 obsolete Tu-160s. All operationally ready Tu-16 strategic bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] are modernized outdated versions of the Tu-160. The only one that was tested in December last year is a completely new Tu-160M bomber.

Photo credit: FlugRevue

The Tu-160 was nicknamed the “White Swan” because of its distinctive white color and, uncharacteristically for a bomber, “elegant” design. Caleb Larson, a writer in The National Interests calls the Tu-160 “the fastest, largest, heaviest” bomber in the world.

The operational range of the Tu-160 is 7,200 km [4,500 mi, 3,900 nmi]. Operated by a crew of six or seven. Its empty weight is 37,200 kg [82,012 lb], while its max takeoff weight: 79,000 kg [174,165 lb]. In addition to cruise missiles, bombs, dumb bombs, and air bombs, the bomber can launch anti-ship missiles, the points of which are located in the semi-recessed bomb bay. The Tu-160 is also armed with several 23 mm Afanasev Makarov AM-23 cannons.

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