Deeply modernized Russian strategic bomber Tu-160M "White Swan" flew for the first time with new serial NK-32-02 engines.
The nuclear-weapons capable long range bomber took part in Russsia’s operation against Islamic State militants in Syria during 2017 firing cruise missiles while hovering away from Western Europe, hundreds of kilometers away.
In today’s test flight with the new engines, the Tu-160M took off from Kazan aircraft plant and flew to at an altitude of 6,000 meters. The flight lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes, the plane was piloted by a crew led by Anri Naskidyants, its manufacturer, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced in a late evening release.
"During the flight, the necessary checks were performed on the updated general aircraft systems and on-board radio-electronic equipment installed as part of the deep modernization of the aircraft, as well as the performance of the new NK-32 series 02 engine, developed and manufactured by the United Engine Corporation (UEC, part of Rostec)," – said a statement in Russian released by UAC.
The production of Tu-160 strategic missile-carrying bombers, which are the air component of the Russian nuclear triad, is being restored at the Kazan aircraft plant (a branch of Tupolev, part of the UAC) after a 10-year gap.
On February 2, the deeply modernized Tu-160M flew for the first time with flight control computers and on-board systems derived from Russia’s latest combat aircraft. This aircraft did not have the new NK-32 engines.
Following today’s successful flight, the Russian Air Force plans to upgrade and modernize all 16 Tu-160 aircraft in service.
In addition, on January 25, 2018, a state contract was signed between the Russian Defense Ministry and the Tupolev company (now a part of UAC) for the supply of 10 new build Tu-160M strategic worth 15 billion rubles each.
The Soviet-era Tu-160, NATO code-named “Blackjack” is both bigger and faster than the US Air Force’s B-1 Lancer. The Blackjack was designed to fly across the globe and launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from well beyond the range of enemy air defenses.
It is reported that during the Syrian operation from 2015-17, the Tu-160 flew over the Mediterranean Sea in a 4,000-mile roundtrip and launched Kh-101 stealth cruise missiles from 500 miles away against Islamic State targets. Western media reports say the missiles landed way off target in some cases.