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Russia continues to upgrade Tu-160 bombers

The first strategic Tu-160M bomber built by Kazan Aircraft Plant was handed over for trials in the autumn of 2019. All Tu-160 available in the Russian long-range aviation have to be upgraded. The Army Standard writes about the upgrade program.

Russia continues to upgrade Tu 160 bombersAll Tu-160 available in the Russian long-range aviation have to be upgraded  (Picture source: Marina Lystseva/TASS)

In 2015, the Defense Ministry decided to resume Tu-160 production. It was planned to deliver 50 upgraded Tu-160M. The start of the program was not easy because of the necessity to revive some technologies from scratch, e.g. welding of titanium units of the center wing.

The bomber was designed as a carrier of long-range cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. Strategic cruise missiles Kh-55 and Kh-55SM with a range of 2500 and 3500 km have to destroy known targets. Their coordinates are booted into onboard equipment before the launch. Kh-15 missiles have to destroy targets at a shorter range.

The list of Tu-160 missiles was later expanded due to new generation Kh-101. It has two options: Kh-101 with highly explosive fragmentation warhead of 400 kg in TNT equivalent, and Kh-102 with a nuclear warhead.

A low signature is the main advantage. It is achieved due to the form of the construction and absorbing materials. Another advantage is a huge range. Official reports said the missiles can hit targets at a distance of 4.5 thousand kilometers. It means the bomber can fire missiles without entering the air defense zone.

The weapons capable of reliably destroying ground targets in the deep adversary rear triggered transformation of the tasks of the Russian strategic aviation. The strategic bombers developed from nuclear deterrence into a weapon of local conflicts. It was confirmed by the Syrian campaign when Tu-160 and Tu-95MSM fired Kh-101 in 2015-2017 to destroy terrorist objects, ammunition dumps and command posts.

The long-range aviation developed into an attack force capable of engaging a broad range of conventional arms. In November 2017, General Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov said the long-range aircraft, including Tu-160 were upgraded to carry Kh-101 missiles.

In January 2018, the upgraded Tu-160M was for the first time demonstrated at the airfield of the Kazan Aircraft Plant. Experts said the new vehicle has the same exterior as the old one, but considerably exceeds it in characteristics. The new Tu-160M has a new onboard defense suit, reliable jam-resistant communications, new types of armaments which expand combat capabilities with nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.

The upgraded Tu-160M has new electronic equipment, modern navigational devices, guidance provision, arms controls and defense, as well as automatic hardware of troops control which includes the bombers into strategic reconnaissance-strike forces, the Army Standard said.

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