Aerial Warfare

Russian Air Force Unveils Upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Fleet

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Russian Air Force Unveils Upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Fleet

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Russian Air Force Unveils Upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Fleet
Russian Air Force Unveils Upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Fleet

On February 21, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a significant visit to the Kazan Aviation Plant, where he personally oversaw the presentation of four Tu-160M strategic bombers. These aircraft, renowned as the “White Swan” in Russia and designated as the Blackjack by NATO, stand out as some of the largest and heaviest supersonic military planes with a variable-sweep wing configuration ever developed. Vladimir Putin took the helm of one of the modernized Tu-160M. During the business visit, the President also got acquainted with the work of the enterprise. the Kazan Aviation Plant named after S.P. Gorbunov UAC Rostec.

The showcased Tu-160M bombers, named B/N “22” Red (soon to be “Mintimer Shaimiev”), B/N “06” Red (“Ilya Muromets” with serial number RF-94105), B/N “07” Red (“Alexander Molodchy” with serial number RF-94106), and B/N “23” Red (with serial number RF-66017), mark a significant addition to the Russian Aerospace Forces. Of these, B/N “22” Red and B/N “23” Red are brand-new models of the Tu-160M variant, while B/N “06” Red and B/N “07” Red represent upgrades from the original Tu-160 configuration to the modernized Tu-160M standard.The resumption of production of Tu-160M ??aircraft would have been impossible without the large-scale cooperative work of various enterprises in the country, including those included in Rostec.

Russian Air Force Tu-160M Strategic Bomber
Russian Air Force Tu-160M Strategic Bombers. (Photo by Kazan Aviation Plant)

The Tupolev Tu-160, also known as “Belyj Lebe?” or the ‘White Swan’ in Russian, and Blackjack by NATO, is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber and airborne missile platform originally designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the 1970s during the Soviet era. It holds the distinction of being the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built and ranks second only to the experimental XB-70 Valkyrie in overall length and top speed. As of 2024, the Tu-160 remains the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in active service, and the most substantial variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown.

In recent years, the active Tu-160 fleet has undergone several upgrades, with a primary focus on various electronic systems. The Tu-160M modernization program for existing models commenced with the delivery of the first updated aircraft in December 2014. Plans announced in 2015 outlined the delivery of 50 new-build Tu-160Ms, along with the upgrading of 16 existing aircraft. January 2022 marked a milestone when the first serial-built Tu-160M successfully performed a test flight, with two more expected to be delivered in 2022 out of the ten on order. The ongoing advancements in the Tu-160M fleet showcase Russia’s commitment to maintaining a formidable and cutting-edge strategic bomber force.

Russian Air Force Unveils Upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Fleet
Russian Air Force Tu-160M Strategic Bombers. (Photo by Kazan Aviation Plant)

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