Largest military supersonic aircraft in history, the upgraded Russian Tu-160M

The Tu-160M is designed to deploy nuclear and conventional weapons to strike enemy targets at remote locations.

The United Aircraft Corporation of Russia (UAC) announced earlier this week that Russia’s second upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M strategic missile-carrying bomber has made its maiden flight. The plane is said to have conducted maneuvers to test the controllability and stability of the flight. Pilots also check the quality of the aircraft’s radio-electronic equipment as well as the operation of the engines.

The Tu-160M is designed to deploy nuclear and conventional weapons to strike enemy targets at remote locations. According to Russian media, Tu-160M is currently the largest military supersonic aircraft. The Tu-160M is an upgraded variant of the Tu-160 bomber. It is the backbone of the Russian Aerospace Force’s long-range aircraft, along with Tu-95MS bombers. The Russian Aerospace Forces has used these bombers in the ongoing conflict to strike targets deep inside Ukraine.

The Tu-160 entered service in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and remained in production until 1995. To improve the strategic bomber capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Forces at a time of rising tension with the West and to make up for delays in the PAK-DA bomber program, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the manufacturing of Tu-160M in 2015.

The defining feature of the Tu-160 series is its white coating, that gave the plane the moniker “White Swan.” While it gives the aircraft a sleek and elegant look, the coating was created to protect the crew if the nuclear payload was launched. During a nuclear explosion, the coating might theoretically reflect some of the thermal energy.

Russia plans to modernize its entire fleet of 16 existing Tu-160 bombers, in addition to the purchase of about 50 Tu-160M aircraft. Mass production of the updated bomber is scheduled to begin in 2023, with a minimum production rate of three aircraft per year. The Tu-160M upgrade is being carried out in two phases, the first phase is the removal of some older systems, such as bomb sighting systems, and the installation of the new K-042K-1 navigation system and ABSU-200-1 autopilot.

Tu-160M will also be upgraded with new engines, named NK-32-02. It will also have a new radar, Novella NV1.70 radar, a computerized “glass” cockpit, contemporary communications and anti-jamming gear, and contemporary conventional and nuclear weaponry. The Tu-160M is expected to be armed with X-101 cruise missiles with conventional and nuclear warheads. These missiles can be fitted to 12 positions on the aircraft. According to some sources, the Tu-160 was launch the first combat tests of these missiles in Syria. Tu-160M is considered to significantly increase the strength of Russian forces.


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