Tag Archives: Tu-160 Blackjack

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.

 

Take a look at these photographs of the Russian Tu-160 bombers intercepted by the RAF Typhoons

…an ordinary day for the British Typhoons in QRA (even though the photos show two French interceptors).

Social media went abuzz yesterday as two nuclear-capable Russian Air Force Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were intercepted by RAF Typhoons during a long-range sortie from their base in the Kola peninsula.

Although some British media reported that the Russian strategic bomber were heading into the UK airspace, as usual, the Tu-160s remained well outside the British sovereign airspace.

Two RAF Typhoons in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at RAF Coningsby were launched to intercept and escort the Blackjacks as they “skirted” the British Isles heading southwest, until they were handed over to the fighter jets launched by the French Air Force: noteworthy, a Rafale and maybe a Mirage 2000 appear in the photos released by the UK MoD today.

Tu160 intercepted UK 3

It’s not clear where the Tu-160s flew after their close encounter with the NATO fighters: according to some radiohams, they were heard northbound again a few hours later. If confirmed this would mean that this time the Blackjacks were not involved in a very long-range strike mission against IS targets in Syria as the one they flew in the night between Nov. 19 and 20, 2015, when two Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers from Olenegorsk airbase skirted the airspaces of Norway and the UK, flew over the Atlantic until Gibraltair, entered the Mediterranean sea, attacked targets in Syria with cruise missiles, and returned to Russia flying along the eastern corridor (over Iraq, Iran, Caspian Sea).

Nevertheless, the new mission proves Tu-160s are continuing flying long-range missions (for training or operative purposes) along the Atlantic route becoming more frequent visitors of airspaces near NATO countries in northern Europe than they were in the past few years.

Tu160 intercepted UK 2

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

Video: Russian Su-30SM fighters escort Tu-160 bombers launching cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea

Fantastic footage of the Russian Su-30SMs escorting the Tu-160s over the Mediterranean Sea.

Between Nov. 19 and 20, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers launched from northwest Russia for a 13,000km journey around Europe, to launch cruise missiles against ground targets in Syria.

During the mission, the aircraft were identified and escorted off UK by RAF Eurofighter Typhoons; however, the British interceptors in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were not the only aircraft they met during their long mission: over the Mediterranean Sea they were intercepted and escorted by at least three Su-30SM Flankers launched from Latakia.

And here’s a really interesting footage showing the rendez-vous between the bombers and their escorts and the subsequent launch of cruise missiles (that seem to be KH-555s).

Russian (armed) Tu-160 bombers circumnavigate Europe, launch cruise missiles against IS targets from Mediterranean Sea

Russian Tu-16os launch Syrian air strike from Kola Peninsula, in far northwest Russia, in a global strike show.

During the night between Nov. 19 and 20, the Russian Air Force conducted a very long-range strike mission against IS targets in Syria: two Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers departed from Olenegorsk airbase, in the Kola Peninsula around 21.00z but, instead of taking the usual route through the Caspian Sea and Iran, went westbound, skirted the airspaces of Norway and the UK, flew over the Atlantic until Gibraltair, entered the Mediterranean sea and flew eastbound towards Syria and then eastbound along the usual corridor, back to Russia.

This video, released by Russia’s MoD shows the Tu-160s (and Tu-95) being armed and launched for the night mission.

Interestingly, the Blackjacks launched their cruise missiles (most probably the new, stealthy KH-101s that they have been using since they launched the first air strike on ground targets in Syria) from the Mediterranean Sea for the very first time. Here’s an image (there are more available on Twitter) of the Tu-160 flying over Syria, with an escorting Su-30SMs.

During the first part of their 13,000 km long journey, the Russian strategic bombers remained in international airspace and were intercepted and visually identified by some NATO QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters scrambled to escort the Tu-160s. Among them, the RAF Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth.

 

Interesting bomb bay video shows Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber dropping KH-555 cruise missile

Something you don’t see too often.

Filmed from inside the bomb bay of a Russian Air Force Tu-160 Blackjack, the video below, released by the Russian MoD, shows the strategic bomber launching what appear to be a KH-555 air-launched cruise missile.

The KH-555 is a conventionally armed variant, with an improved guidance system and warhead, of the KH-55 (NATO reporting name AS-15 “Kent”), a cruise missile with a range of up to 2,500 km (1,350 nm) (and ability to carry nuclear warheads).