Russia wants to buy up to 50 newly produced Tupolev Tu-160 (Ту-160) strategic bombers, to have them serve next to the PAK DA stealthy bomber that the country from the year 2023 or later. Russian Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev has said on Thursday 28 May that his country needs both aircraft – as confirmed in earlier reports.
The Tu-160 – NATO-reporting name Blackjack – can carry 24 cruise missiles and 40 tons of bombs and can be deployed with both a conventional as a nuclear load (or a combination). Only 35 of these strategic bombers were produced from 1984 to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The 13 to 16 Blackjacks still in service are currently modernized, the first two in 2014 and another three or four planned for 2015. The bombers will also be enable to fly the new Tu-160 Raduga Kh-101 cruise missile capable of hitting targets 6,000 miles (9,600 km) from launch point.
The PAK DA stealthy bomber is being developed since 2008, designed by Tupolev as well. Work on bringing the final design into life on the first prototype has started. Aim is to have the bomber fly at subsonic speeds, powered by four engines. Unlike the Tu-160s movable wings, the PAK DA will be more like “a flying wing” – with some similarities to the US B-2 bomber. To make matters easier the PAK DA will have stuff like avionics already in use in the PAK FA stealthy fighter. This jet is already flying, but still under development.
No word yet on how many PAK DAs Moscow intends to buy, but the Tu-160 strength is likely to gain numbers in the coming years judging the latest statements. Although the number of 50 new aircraft is probably not the first aim. Airheadsfly.com believes that if production has really started, the fleet will first grow to 24, then to 32 aircraft before a decision on more is made. They will serve besides about 60 “Bear” bombers upgraded to Tu-95MS standard and – in a later stage – the first PAK DAs.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Tu-160 (Image © Tupolev)