The first Tu-160 to be built completely new since 1992 has completed testing and will be delivered to the Russian Air Force this year.
“The Tu-160M is a deeply upgraded version, adding many features compared to the original Tu-160. We are upgrading the existing Tu-160 fleet and setting up a new production line in Kazan and will deliver the first brand new Tu-160M to the Russian Air Force this year,” said the president of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Yury Slyusar on December 23.
This Tu-160M made its first test flight in January. The aircraft then had a yellow-green color of the base paint, not yet painted white due to testing. The flight lasted 30 minutes at an altitude of 600 m, during which the crew performed maneuvers to assess the aircraft’s stability and controllability in the air.
Russia has not built a brand new bomber since 1993, of which the Tu-160 series production line was closed in 1995. The country produced several Tu-160 aircraft between 2002- 2017, but they are all based on pre-fabricated fuselages.
The Russian Ministry of Defense decided to restart the new production line of the Tu-160 series in 2015 in the context of the delayed PAK DA stealth bomber project and lack of budget.
The contract to buy ten modernized Tu-160M bombers was signed by the Russian military with the manufacturer in 2018 under the witness of President Vladimir Putin, with a unit price of about $ 270 million / unit.
The Russian Air Force claims to need at least 50 newly built Tu-160Ms, but no more contracts have been signed in the past three years. This force is operating 17 original Tu-160 and modernized Tu-160M aircraft.
The Tu-160 is a supersonic bomber with the largest wingspan and void mass ever built. It was nicknamed the “White Swan” for its radiation-reflective coating and maneuverability, rare for a bomber.
A total of 36 Tu-160s have been produced at the plant in the Russian city of Kazan before this year, including nine test prototypes and 27 complete aircraft.
The modernized version of the Tu-160M is equipped with an integrated self-defense system, new communication equipment, and engines, and many advanced weapons to enhance the ability to attack long-range with high precision.
The Russian military asserts that the power of the Tu-160M is much higher than the original Tu-160 variant, and the range is also increased by 1,000 km.