The first prototype of the upgraded strategic missile carrier Tupolev Tu-160M, NATO reporting name Blackjack, will perform its maiden flight in the 4th quarter of 2021, reports news agency TASS. “Next year will see the first newly-assembled plane,” said the unnamed defence industry official, when asked about progress in the work on Tupolev Tu-160M.
The first upgraded strategic bomber Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack, equipped with new NK-32-02 engines flew in November 2020 from the airfield of the Gorbunov aircraft plant in Kazan. “The flight proceeded at an altitude of 6,000 meters and lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes,” said a release from the United Aircraft Corporation. The test flight occurred with a Tu-160M from existing service.
The Kuznetsov NK-32 engine is a cold war era Soviet Union built engine equipping the Tu-16 bomber planes. The Kuznetsov NK-32 engine is considered as the most powerful engine to be fitted on a combat aircraft. NK-32-02 is the improved version of the previous engine.
The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic strategic missile-carrier with a variable sweep wing. The decision to resume the production of the upgraded version of the Tu-160, the Tu-160M, was made in 2015.
On September 19, 2020, the Tu-160 supersonic strategic bombers of Russia had set a world record for non-stop flight range and duration time for this class of aircraft. “The pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces were in the air for more than 25 hours and covered over 20,000 km”, said Lieutenant General Sergey Kobylash, the commander of long-range aviation of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation. During the flight, the planes conducted three in-flight refuellings from six Il-78 aircraft.