The newly upgraded Tu-160 “White Swan” made its first flight with the new version of the NK-32, the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a military aircraft.
The latest version of the Russian massive Tu-160 (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) has flown from Kazan, Russia, powered by the new NK-32-02 engines, United Aircraft Corporation announced on Nov. 3, 2020.
The first flight of the modernized Tu-160M2 strategic bomber with the new turbofans lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes and was conducted at an altitude of 6,000 meters.
Interestingly, no image of the aircraft’s new engines, whose testing began in 2017, was released for “security reasons” and the photographs used in social media by UAC show the the extensively upgraded Tu-160M, named “Igor Sikorsky’”, during a previous flight.
На аэродроме КАЗ им. С.П. Горбунова состоялся первый полет глубокомодернизированного ракетоносца-бомбардировщика Ту-160М с новыми серийными двигателями НК-32-02. Самолёт пилотировал экипаж под руководством Анри Наскидянца. Полёт проходил на высоте 6000 метров и длился 2 ч 20 мин. pic.twitter.com/glkuMPJtVj
— United Aircraft Corp (@UAC_Russia) November 3, 2020
With its 55,000 lbs of thrust, the original Kuznetsov NK-32, an afterburning three-spool low bypass turbofan engine is already the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a military aircraft. The new NK-32-02, also known as NK-32 series 2, has improved performance and efficiency: thanks to the new engines the Tu-160 will increase its range of flight by at least 1,000 km, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov announced in 2015.
The new engines are just one of the updates being implemented as part of the second phase of the Tu-160M upgrade.
The new Tu-160M2 version, includes a glass cockpit, weapons upgrades, new engines and the removal of obsolete equipment no longer relevant to the Tu-160’s mission. The original Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack” first flew in 1981 and entered service in 1987. The first flight of the first Tu-160M2 took place on Feb. 2, 2020 and lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes.