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Russia's Modernized Tu-160 Bomber: 'More Lethal Than Ever'
Saturday, 05 March 2016 13:47
Russia's Modernized Tu-160 Bomber: 'More Lethal Than Ever'
Russia

15:47 05.03.2016(updated 15:49 05.03.2016) Get short URL

The Tu-160M2, a modernized version of the Russian supersonic strategic bomber Tu-160, will continue to resolve tasks related to  strategic deterrence, Dave Majumdar, the defense editor of the US magazine The National Interest, said.

He briefly gave his thoughts on the matter in his article: "Blast from the Past: Soviet-Era Tu-160M2 Is More Lethal Than Ever."

Majumdar's remarks came after Viktor Bondarev, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, said that "the upgrade of the Tu-160 bomber is being carried out in accordance with a presidential decree" and that "by 2019, this modernized aircraft will make its maiden flight."

© AP Photo/

Russian supersonic Tu-160 strategic bomber seen at an airfield near Kazan, about 700 kilometers (450 miles) east of Moscow. file photo

In this vein, Majumdar quoted Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov as saying last year that "this will be essentially a new airplane, not a Tu-160 but a Tu-160M2."

As for the upgrades, the details have yet to be revealed. According to Majumdar, the Tupolev Design Bureau "made long-overdue adjustments to the airframe that were supposed to have been implemented during the Blackjack's original production run."

"However, those tweaks are likely to be fairly minor. The major upgrades are almost certainly going to be focused on the bomber’s avionics suite," he pointed out.

Mahumdar referred to the Russian Radio-Electronic Technologies Company (KRET), which is working out the new avionics suite for the Tu-160M2. In particular, he quoted KRET representatives as saying that "the new aircraft will be constructed using elements of integrated modular avionics (IMA)."

"In the project to modernize the Tu-160, KRET will be creating new on-board systems, controls, a gimbal-less inertial navigation system, electronic warfare complex, fuel use monitoring systems, as well as weapons control systems," the representatives said.

Majumdar, for his part, specifically drew attention to the fact that although "much of the aircraft will be new", the upgraded Tu-160 will continue to fulfill "its original nuclear deterrence mission."

"Unlike the stealthy Northrop Grumman B-2 or future B-21, the Russian bomber primarily relies on a combination of blistering speed and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to deliver its doomsday payload," he said.

According to the Tupolev Design Bureau, the development of the Tu-160 started in the early 1970s, shortly before the US started to develop the B-2. The first prototype flew on December 18, 1981.

The first operational aircraft were delivered to the Soviet Air Force in April 1987. A total of 35 Tu-160s have been built since then.

Earlier this year, Russia announced its plans to restart production of the Blackjack at the Kazan Aircraft Production Association in 2023. Russia intends to produce over 50 new bombers.

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