The Russian Ministry of Defense will receive the first deep-modernized strategic bomber Tu-160M built from scratch already in 2021. This was reported to Interfax by the general director of PJSC Tupolev Alexander Konyukhov.
“The construction of the Tu-160M batch for the Ministry of Defense has already begun. The first contract delivery is scheduled for the end of 2021, ”said Konyukhov.
As the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov noted earlier, the construction of the first batch of aircraft under a contract with the Ministry of Defense is already underway, and the rollout of the first Tu-160M is expected at the end of 2020. In parallel with this, a deep modernization of the Tu-160s already in service is underway.
In January 2019, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a meeting in Kazan said that on the Tu-160M, in addition to the latest equipment and weapons, NK-32 engines will be installed, which will increase the flight range of missile carriers.
“It will be equipped with the latest airborne defense system, a modern reliable communication system with enhanced noise immunity, a unique weapon that will significantly expand its combat capabilities when using conventional and nuclear weapons,” said Shoigu.
New equipment and weapons
On January 25, 2018, at the airport of the Kazan Aviation Plant, in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first demonstration flight of the Tu-160M, built as part of the resumption of production of these aircraft, took place. Previously, vehicles assembled from scratch were designated as Tu-160M2 to distinguish them from existing missile carriers that underwent factory modernization.
“This is a serious step in the development of the high-tech sphere and in strengthening the country's defense capabilities. Because it is one of the elements of our nuclear triad in the air. This is a very significant thing, ”said the President of Russia during his visit.
At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract with PJSC Tupolev for the supply of new Tu-160M aircraft, which provides for the construction of ten strategic bombers, worth 160 billion rubles.
The decision to resume production of the Tu-160 aircraft was made by the Ministry of Defense in 2015. According to the plans of the department, by 2023, the Russian Air Force should receive 50 modernized Tu-160s.
Modernization of long-range aviation aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, including the Tu-160M, is carried out "under the use of the new X-101 cruise missile." This was announced in November 2017 by the chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. The main advantage of this missile is its low visibility for detection systems, which is achieved through a special aerodynamic design and the use of radar absorbing materials.
The missile is manufactured in two versions: the X-101 has ammunition with a conventional warhead with a capacity of about 400 kg in TNT equivalent, and the X-102 is equipped with a thermonuclear weapon with a warhead from 250 kilotons to 1 megaton.
A military expert Yuri Knutov in an interview with RT noted that one of the most significant advantages of the new Tu-160M will be the updated NK-32 engines.
“In the new model, the engines will change, they will be more economical and more powerful, which will allow you to have a longer flight range and develop greater speed. I think that the new aircraft will be adapted to be equipped with hypersonic missiles. If this happens, it will be a unique machine that can deliver new weapons to any point where there are no air defense systems and launch the latest missiles from there, which guarantees the suppression and destruction of military or industrial facilities that pose a threat to RF I believe that this is a breakthrough for Russia, ”said the expert.
- Sergei Shoigu inspects Tu-160M bomber at Kazan Aviation Plant
- © Press Service of the Ministry of Defense of Russia
The interlocutor of RT also noted the importance of having two bomber missiles in service with the bomber, which are distinguished by long range.
“Moreover, cruise missiles are located inside the aircraft, are not suspended from it, which improves aerodynamic performance. The radar characteristics are also positive, despite their enormous size, since the aircraft has the opportunity to reduce its radar invisibility due to special electronic warfare systems, ”the military expert explained.
According to him, Russia, using the proven design of the Tu-160, is actually building a new aircraft.
“From the point of view of design ideas, this is a time-tested bomber, but in fact it will be a new aircraft with completely new capabilities and significantly improved characteristics that are in demand not only today but also tomorrow,” Knutov emphasized.
The basis for the new aircraft was the legendary Tu-160 platform, nicknamed the "White Swan". This is a supersonic strategic missile bomber with variable wing geometry. Its main task is to defeat particularly important targets in the deep rear of a potential enemy or in remote areas of hostilities.
Designed using technical solutions used in the Tu-22M bomber and the Tu-144 passenger, the Tu-160 is a heavy monoplane with a large elongation wing and four jet engines. Revolving launchers allow the aircraft to carry up to 12 air-based cruise missiles, including nuclear warheads.
The wing span in different sweep positions is from 35.6 to 55.7 m. The unique wing design allows the aircraft to overcome enemy air defense lines at speeds of up to 2200 km / h. The aircraft can go to supersonic speed in afterburner mode and hold it for 45 minutes. Tu-160 crew - four people, combat load - 40-45 tons, flight range - 13.5 thousand km.
The development of a strategic bomber began at the Tupolev Design Bureau in 1975 in response to the appearance in the United States of an intercontinental supersonic aircraft with a variable wing sweep of Rockwell B-1 Lancer. The first flight took place in 1981, and since 1987, the Tu-160 began to enter the army.
Despite the fact that the Tu-160 was developed more than 40 years ago, it is still ahead of its foreign counterparts in its characteristics. In August this year, the US military-political publication The National Interest compiled a kind of rating of the “best of the best” Russian military aircraft, where special attention was paid to Tu-160 missile carriers, which were called Blackjack in the NATO classification.
“The Tu-160 is capable of developing an incredible speed for a strategic bomber - up to 2220 km / h, significantly surpassing in this regard American planes of the same class like B1-B Lancer (1448 km / h) and B-52 (1000 km / h). Blackjack has an impressive combat radius of 7300 km ... The Tu-160 can be equipped with both nuclear and conventional weapons. From it, we will launch an X-55MS rocket with a turbojet engine, a nuclear warhead of 200 kilotons and an incredible range of 3 thousand km, ”American experts noted.
- Tu-160 at the International military-technical forum "Army-2019"
- © Evgeny Odinokov / RIA News
Element of the Nuclear Triad
The Soviet Tu-160 platform is still far ahead of its Western counterparts, Yuri Knutov recalled in a conversation with RT. After the Avro Vulcan aircraft were withdrawn from service in the UK, Russia and the United States remained the main exploiters of strategic bombers.
“The UK does not have such bombers, the United States has a B-1B, which is inferior to the Tu-160 so much that it makes no sense to even compare. Naturally, the appearance of this aircraft and the tasks assigned to it are similar, but even now the old version of the Tu-160 is superior to the similar American one, and very seriously, and the new version will be incomparable in its characteristics, ”said the expert.
In turn, retired colonel Viktor Litovkin in an interview with RT noted that Tu-160M aircraft will become an important element of the Russian nuclear triad.
“Long-range strategic aviation is one of the three components of the nuclear triad, because each of these elements complement each other. Terrestrial missiles complement the air, which, in turn, complement the sea. In the event of war, one of these elements may fail, so the second and third components must compensate for it. All three components are important and decisive, especially today, when the policy of containing a possible serious aggressor is applied, ”he explained.
According to Litovkin, the modernization of the existing Tu-160 to the M model, carried out in addition to the construction of new aircraft, will significantly extend their service life.
“Outwardly, the aircraft will remain the same, but its filling will change. It will be an ultramodern strategic bomber with new weapons. Tu-160M is better than any American bomber, because it is faster, it has a wider range of weapons and it has supersonic speeds. This is a step to seriously strengthen our Strategic Deterrence Forces, ”the expert concluded.