The first upgraded Tu-160M strategic missile carrier built from scratch will be handed over to the military for testing ahead of schedule.
“I believe that the president’s decision to resume production of the Tu-160 in a new guise was timely. We were able to complete this task as soon as possible. Because the contract initially envisaged delivery at the end of 2023. And we will hand over the plane by the end of the second quarter to the Ministry of Defense for subsequent state tests and commissioning,” said Denis Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.
Last week, he visited the Kazan Aviation Plant, where the Tu-160M will be mass-produced. The Minister was convinced that the enterprise was ready to start this task ahead of schedule. Moreover, the factory workers are determined to simultaneously work on another project – the long-range aviation complex Tupolev PAK DA.
“In the coming years, it must also complete preparations for the first flight and after that go through all the stages of testing and launch into serial production. Two aircraft will be produced in parallel: both the Tu-160M and the PAK DA,” Manturov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to resume the Tu-160 production in a modernized version in Kazan in May 2015. In January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract to supply the first batch of 10 such aircraft to the Aerospace Forces. In total, the Aerospace forces need fifty new Tu-160Ms. In addition, it is planned to modernize all 16 Tu-160 White Swans in service.
New engines made it possible to increase the Tu-160 flight range by a thousand kilometres. The Tu-160M is equipped with modern electronic equipment, avionics and a new weapon control system.
Tu-160M, the new swan
In January, a deeply modernized Tu-160M ”White Swan” strategic missile carrier-bomber, made from scratch, took to the skies for the first time, the press service of Rostec reported.
The plane took off from the airfield of the Kazan Aviation Plant – Tupolev branch, a part of the Rostec State Corporation. It took place at an altitude of 600 meters and lasted about 30 minutes. During the test flight, the crew performed manoeuvres to test the stability and controllability of the aircraft in the air.
The full production cycle of the Tu-160 was restored, and the M modification uses modernized engines, modernized aircraft control systems, navigation systems, weapons control systems.
“Today, we see significant prospects for the Tu-160 platform: further development will allow the use of it for new types of weapons, including promising ones,” said Denis Manturov.
According to Manturov, to restore the production of the Tu-160 in a new look, the equipment of the workshops of the Kazan Aviation Plant, the flight test base was updated, and the world’s largest installation for electron beam welding and vacuum annealing of titanium was put into operation.
“The fundamental importance of today’s event is that the new aircraft has been completely rebuilt from scratch. The systems and equipment in the new aircraft have been updated and modernized by 80 per cent,” said Yury Slyusar, head of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
Tu-160 serial production in Kazan was suspended in the 1990s.
Outwardly the new aircraft does not differ from the basic Tu-160, but at the same time, its combat capabilities has increased significantly, including due to the expansion of the range of weapons. In addition, a new series of NK-32 engines are being made for this plane, which will increase the flight range by a thousand kilometres.
Tupolev reported that new flight and navigation equipment, an onboard communications system, a control system, a radar station and an electronic countermeasures complex are being installed on the Tu-160M.
The first experimental Tu-160M ”Igor Sikorsky” took off on February 2, 2020.
The Tu-160 is a supersonic strategic missile-carrying bomber with a variable sweep wing, developed at the Tupolev Design Bureau in the 1970s and 1980s. It is designed to destroy the most important targets deep behind enemy lines with nuclear and conventional weapons. It can carry 12 cruise missiles on board; all weapons are located inside the fuselage. The Tu-160 is called the “White Swan” for its grace in Russia. NATO calls it Blackjack.