Russia’s Upgraded Tu-160M2 Makes First Flight With New NK-32-02 Engines

Head on image of a Tu-160M1 "Blackjack". (All images: Alex Snow)

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.

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 original NK-32 are the largest and most powerful engines ever fitted on a combat aircraft.

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.

A Tu-160M1 takes off in Spring 2020. The original NK-32 engines produce 245 kN (55,000 lbf) of thrust in afterburner.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.