Russia Unveils New Tu-160M2 Strategic Super Bomber Update

The Newest Version of the Massive Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack Was Rolled-Out This Week.

Russia has rolled out the latest upgrade of the world’s largest supersonic strategic bomber, the Tupolev Tu-160M2 “White Swan” NATO codename “Blackjack.

While the original version of the Tu-160 first flew in December of 1981, the program was halted with collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine acquired several of the aircraft that were subsequently traded back to Russia in a bombers-for-natural gas deal.

“While ostensibly an improved variant of the Soviet-era Tu-160, the Tu-160M2 is a new bomber in all but name” according statements published in Russian media from the Russian Aerospace Force.

By appearance and Russian claims, the Tu-160 appears to be an impressive aircraft, with the completely updated “M2” version purported to be even more capable. The Tu-160 in its previous variants held a number of records for speed in its weight class. It remains the largest, fastest strategic bomber in operation, second only to the developmental U.S. built XB-70 Valkyrie in size, weight and performance. It is also the world’s largest variable-geometry swept wing aircraft, significantly larger and heavier than the U.S. B-1B strategic, supersonic variable-swept wing bomber.

This latest version of the titanic “Blackjack”, as it is known in the west, is expected to make its first flight in late 2018 and enter into full-rate production by 2021 according to Russian media.

“The first Tu-160M2 is expected to make its first flight by the end of 2018, followed by full-scale production in 2021,” Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, commander of the Russian Air Force, told media in the rollout ceremony at the S.P. Grobunov assembly facility in Kazan, in southwest Russia on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

The newly built Blackjack will initially be capable of performing the same missions as the existing Blackjack fleet and will subsequently be modified and upgraded to the M2 standard.

Analysts note that the full-scale production date has been rolled back from 2019 to the new 2021 date announced today.

The Tu-160M2 is intended to be the basis of Russia’s strategic strike capability, but funding for the project has faced challenges.

All reports suggest the only similarities between the new “M2” version of the Tu-160 are the name and the airframe. All avionics, sensors and communications equipment are reported to be new. The aircraft is also intended to be re-engined with four new, upgraded Kuznetsov NK-32 engines with afterburners.

Interestingly, the rollout of the new Tu-160M2 seems to have quieted discussion of the conceptual Tupolev PAK-DA flying wing stealth bomber, a project shown in drawings since 2008. Early reports suggested the PAK-DA would be entering service in 2025-2030. A statement today during the Tu-160M2 rollout downplayed low-observable technology, saying that the Mach 2+ speed of the Tu-160M2 and the use of stand-off weapons negated the need for stealth. Key new weapons on the Tu-160M2 are the KH-101 and KH-102 long range, low-observable cruise missiles. These large, capable, precision missile systems have ranges in excess of 1,000 miles.

The Tu-160M2 will operate alongside the aging Russian Tu-95 Bear turboprop long range maritime patrol and strategic bomber in the foreseeable future, mimicking the U.S. reliance on their B-52 Stratofortress legacy heavy bomber alongside the B-1B (conventional) supersonic strategic bomber.

Image credit: United Aircraft Corp Russia.

 

About Tom Demerly 512 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

6 Comments

  1. Tu 160 M2 , in actual combat situation , is very difficult to intercept . The Russian war doctrine is biased towards long range Cruise & Ballistic missiles not on bombs. The new Blackjack variant armed with Kh-101 with conventional warhead & 4000km+ range will deliver its load to strike strategic locations from extra-long range before being detected . For example , London could be struck if Kh 101 is launched from Russian air space itself. All the debates about stealthiness & EW & avionics seems ridiculous in view of combined range ( Tu + kh ) . Tu 160 won’t come close to your territory or air- defence radars at all . It will restrict its movement within the range of Su 35 flying from Russian territory & still would have almost all the US & other Nato military assets in its grip.

    Also their could be a possibility of development of Air launched hypersonic anti-ship missiles. If such a missile is fitted in Tu 22M3 the naval superiority of Nato allies would be faded way.

  2. Why don’t you enlighten us about your wonderful stealth. Apparently old school radar lights you up like a Xmas tree. As for EW, the Russians are light years ahead of you. You do know there are S400s and other missile batteries in Crimea? How do you intend to take those out? Russia has had S400s in Syria for a couple of years and you chicken shits have stayed out of their zone, because with all your bluster you’re not sure if your F22 can survive an encounter. And, wasn’t it just a few weeks one of your F22 turkeys was chased off by a Russian SU35 in Syria? So much for stealth I guess. Are you ready for the S500? They can take out US military satellites like they are low hanging fruit. So much for your Aegis at that point.

    If you feel lucky about the bridge, why don’t you give a shot? Use those really “powerfull” (Trump’s word) Tomahawks. They were really accurate in Syria. What was it? One failed on launch, 36 didn’t were either downed, got lost, or crashed, while only 23 made it to target and didn’t hit anything of consequence. Now that was EMBARRASSING.

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