Production Resumes for Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bombers

Russia plans to eventually buy about 50 Tu-160M bombers and is upgrading 16 existing Tu-160s to the standard
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  • 06:28 AM, February 22, 2024
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Production Resumes for Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bombers
Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bomber

Russia has restarted the production of the Tupolev-160 strategic bombers, known as Blackjack, with the announcement coming from Sergey Chemezov, CEO of the state corporation Rostec.

"Restarting the production of Tu-160 was quite a task for all of Rostec’s affiliates. Design documentation was fully digitized within the tightest deadlines. The technique of vacuum welding of titanium parts was restored, and the production of airframe units was resumed. Today we can say confidently that we have succeeded in all respects," he was quoted as saying by Russian state media.

The upgraded Tu-160M maintains the exterior design of its predecessor but incorporates a completely new technological base and digital solutions.

Production Resumes for Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bombers
Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bomber

Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to the S.P. Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant in Tatarstan, where he inspected four upgraded strategic bombers, drew attention amid concerns about the nation's military capabilities.

The Tu-160, acknowledged as the largest and most powerful supersonic aircraft with variable sweep wings in military aviation history, underwent an upgrade program initiated under Putin's decision.

The government contract, signed between the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Tupolev design bureau, facilitated the digitization of design documentation for the Tu-160M aircraft and the restoration of vacuum welding techniques for titanium products, leading to the resumption of airframe unit production.

Rostec's leading industrial enterprises in metallurgy, aircraft design, engineering, and instrument making played crucial roles in revitalizing their cooperation for the successful resumption of production.

The first Tu-160M strategic bomber built from scratch made its debut 30-minute flight on January 12, 2022. It is equipped with modern weapons, an electronic warfare system, as well as on-board electronic equipment.

According to reports, The Tu-160 first entered into Soviet service in the late 1980s, with production running through to 1995. In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the restart of production of the upgraded Tu-160M variant to bolster the air force's strategic bomber capabilities at a time of increasing tension with the West, and to offset delays to the PAK-DA future bomber programme.

Production Resumes for Modernized Tu-160 Strategic Bombers
First newbuild Tu-160M bomber during its first flight in January 2022 @UAC

Russia plans to eventually buy about 50 Tu-160M bombers and is upgrading 16 existing Tu-160s to the standard. With the first Tu-160M set to be delivered imminently, series production is to begin by 2023 at a production rate of at least three aircraft a year. This would fit with the order for 10 aircraft in the 2023–27 timeframe.

The Tu-160M upgrade is being rolled out in two phases, with the first Tu-160M1 phase comprising the new K-042K-1 navigation system and ABSU-200-1 autopilot, as well as the removal of some previous systems, such as bomb sighting systems. This Tu-160M1-variant has been operational with the air force since late 2014.

The second Tu-160M2 phase includes the new Novella NV1.70 radar, a digital ‘glass' cockpit, modern communications and anti-jamming equipment, upgraded NK-32 engines (designated NK-32-02), and modern conventional and nuclear weapons.

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