Russia Sonic Bomber is on Production

The Russian air force wants to procure 50 copies of a faster than sound heavy bomber, which flew for the first time in 1981 and is no longer built: the Tupolev Tu-160, also known under the name of BlackJack. Probably earlier than 2020, the new bomber fleet in the military service. Until then, much of the old technology is to be modernized thoroughly.

Russia Sonic Bomber is on Production
Russia wants its former pre show bombers Tu-160 technical improvements new set. While it changed its name in the “Blackjack” NATO, the Russians call him “White Swan”. Photo: Ministry of Defense

When the Tu-160 designed by the Russian Tupolev Design Bureau started on its first flight in 1981 she was far superior to Western patterns in many respects: the heavy long-range bombers flew at supersonic speeds. The variable geometry of wing came very to the help. The faster flew the four engine bomber, the more the wings put himself on the fuselage.

Outstanding speed and very long range

2220 km/h, top speed is slightly over twice the speed of sound. For takeoff and landing, but the wings were pushed by the pilot forward and gave the bombers in this way more lift and more security at the slow flight. That was important, because the Tu-160 not least had a considerable weight of maximum 110 t through its high weapon load with 40 t. The range is located at 12,300 km. in 1987, the Tu-160 finally came in the military service. Eight prototypes and then 27 series machines were built.

Photo: Wikipedia

High wear and tear on the Blackjack

The Tu-160 Blackjack is in the NATO flag. NATO and especially the US air force estimates the Russian bombers as a particularly dangerous weapon, at least initially Western patterns was many years ahead.

However the Tu-160 is characterized also by a disproportionately high wear. No enemy action, the Tu160 bombers fleet has shrunk by 2016 from 27 to 16 machines, of which only 13 can be used, while the remaining three engines as a replacement reserve must serve and can no longer fly.

Early search for a successor

The less excess Sonic Bomber were the Russian air force available, the calls were the louder after a succession pattern. An appropriate order to the Tupolev Design Bureau resulted in 2009, then started work on the planned radar invisible “PAK as”. This project proved to be as technically extremely demanding and at the same time as extremely expensive.

Both together prompted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, 2015 to claim instead to pursue the “PAKDA”, but better the old Tu-160 once again to hang up. It was then the demand to build at least 50 of the “old” machines. Now, one year later this project will be addressed seriously. Also the new Tu-160 with the additional designation of M2 is manufactured at the aircraft factory in Kazan, which built already the old Tu-160.

Many technical improvements for the Tu-160 M2

The planned technological improvements is essentially about the Jet engines and the cockpit. There are four engines of the Russian type NK-32-2 by Vodokanal. Due to different metal alloys, they can withstand permanently higher temperatures. Thus, there are fewer engine failures and a lower maintenance requirement. All electronics are replaced in the cockpit. Thereby, a modular avionics is to receive the Tu-160 M2 which facilitates the subsequent further modernization.


The technology of electronic warfare (electronic warfare) will be renewed.

As far as it concerns the weapons payload, the new version of the Tu-160 is either 12 cruise missiles (cruise missiles) or 90 bombs of 500 kg carry weight. The cruise is missiles but about the new pattern of KH-555 and Kh101/102 instead of the old Kh55SM of Raduga.

Holding on old planes in the United States: regardless of ordering a new strategic bomber the US air force plans its oldest long-range bombers, the B-52, to use for several decades. For this, the military aircraft to get new engines and also otherwise be modernized.