KAZAN, RUSSIA – The Russian Ministry of Defense has published a video of the first flight on February 2 of the Russian Tupolev Tu-160M Blackjack – an upgraded variant of the Tu-160 strategic bomber. The aircraft took off from the Kazan Aviation Plant and returned safely after a short and successful first flight, Pravda Report reports.
The aircraft took off from the Kazan Aviation Plant – 500 miles (800km) east of Moscow – and returned safely after a short flight. The pilots of the Tu-160M tested the upgraded systems and equipment of the aircraft during a flight that lasted for 34 minutes at an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 m).
Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack
The Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack is a supersonic, swing-wing, heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union in 1972 as a response to the heavy strategic bomber of the USAF – the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.
The Tu-160 is the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military jet ever built, the fastest bomber now in use, and the largest and heaviest swing-wing aircraft ever.
The Tu-160 made its first flight on December 18, 1981 and entered service in 1987. The Russian Air Force has at least 16 of these aircraft in service.
Tu-160M modernization program
The Tu-160 active fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s.
The Tu-160M modernization programme has begun with the first updated aircraft delivered in December 2014.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Tu-160M upgrade is rolled out in 2 phases:
With the first Tu-160M1 phase, the bomber will receive the new K-042K-1 navigation system and ABSU-200-1 autopilot.
Some previous systems will be removed, such as bomb sighting systems. This Tu-160M1-variant has been operational with the air force since late 2014.
With the second Tu-160M2 phase the bomber will receive a digital ‘glass’ cockpit, a Novella NV1.70 radar, modern communications and anti-jamming equipment, upgraded NK-32 engines, and modern conventional and nuclear weapons.
The first upgraded Tu-160M bombers will be delivered to the Russian Air Force in 2021.
(Head image: Russian MoD)