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Tu-160M takes off from Kazan

17th January 2022 - 09:47 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The first production-standard Tu-160M bomber, pictured during its first flight on 12 January. (Photo: Rostec)

The first upgraded Tu-160 strategic bomber for the Russian Air Force made its first flight on 12 January.

The first factory-produced Tu-160M strategic bomber for the Russian Air Force took off from the airfield adjacent to the Kazan Aviation Plant on 12 January, according to Rostec.

In addition to an upgrade of the 16-aircraft Tu-160 fleet, up to 50 Tu-160M2s are planned for eventual production.

‘The 30-minute flight was at an altitude of 600 metres,’ Rostec noted in a statement. ‘The crew of Tupolev test pilots performed the required manouevres to check the aircraft stability and control.’

Compared to the baseline Soviet-era Tu-160, the upgraded Tu-160M features new avionics and control systems as well as a glass cockpit. 

Upgraded and more efficient NK-32-02 engines will enable the Tu-160M and Tu-160M2 to extend their maximum range without refuelling from 14,000km to 15,000km.

Shephard Defence Insight forecasts that the first production-standard upgraded Tu-160Ms will be delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2023 at the earliest. 

‘The fundamental importance of today's event is that the new aircraft has been completely rebuilt from scratch,’ Yuri Slyusar, CEO of Tupolev parent company United Aircraft Corporation, said on 12 January. ‘Its systems and equipment have been upgraded by up to 80 per cent.’

Widely regarded as the world’s largest bomber, the Tu-160M has two weapon bays that have a capacity of 45,000kg of ordnance. Since it has been in service with Russia since 2013, it is most likely the main payload will be 12 Raduga Kh-101/102 air-launched cruise missiles.

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