Deeply modernized Tu-160M missile bomber has succesfully performed its maiden flight with new serial engines NK-32-02 at KAZ airfield, a branch of Tupolev PJSC (itself part of PJSC United Aircraft Corporation). With its 55,000 lbs of thrust, the Kuznetsov NK-32, an afterburning three-spool low bypass turbofan engine is already the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a military aircraft. The new NK-32-02, also known as NK-32 series 2, the new engines the Tu-160 will increase its range of flight by at least 1,000 km. The aircraft was piloted by a crew led by Anri Naskidyants. The flight took place at an altitude of 6,000 meters and lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.
In April 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu ordered launching production of the Tu-160’s profoundly upgraded modification. The new engines are just one of the updates being implemented as part of the second phase of the Tu-160M upgrade. The new Tu-160M version, includes a glass cockpit, weapons upgrades, new engines and the removal of obsolete equipment no longer relevant to the Tu-160’s mission. The first experimental Tu-160M was created as part of a large-scale modernization program for combat aircraft systems of strategic and long-range aviation, which is currently being carried out by Tupolev PJSC.
The Tupolev Tu-160 White Swan (NATO reporting name: Blackjack) is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. It is the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built and next to the experimental XB-70 Valkyrie in overall length. Entering service in 1987, the Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union. The Tu-160 active fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s. As of 2020, it is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in use and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown.
Weapons are carried in two internal bays, each capable of holding 20,000 kg (44,000 lb) of free-fall weapons or a rotary launcher for nuclear missiles; additional missiles may also be carried externally. The aircraft’s total weapons load capacity is 40,000 kg (88,000 lb). No defensive weapons are provided; the Tu-160 is the first post-World War II Soviet bomber to lack such defenses. While similar in appearance to the American B-1 Lancer, the Tu-160 is a different class of combat aircraft; its primary role being a standoff missile platform (strategic missile carrier). The Tu-160 is also larger and faster than the B-1B and has a slightly greater combat range, though the B-1B has a larger combined payload.