Russia launches program to upgrade strategic aircraft

Russia’s strategic bombers are being upgraded at an accelerating rate. The first thoroughly modernized Tu-95MSM bomber will be tested in 2019, and by the end of 2020, the first Tu-160M strategic bomber built from scratch will take to the sky, reports, citing Russian Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov.

In parallel with the construction of the first batch of heavy Tu-160Ms, Russia’s aircraft industry will upgrade the already built Tu-160s to the same level. Preparations are also underway for a contract to modernize the Tu-95MS, whose fate will ultimately be determined by the results of the Tu-95MSM’s testing.

The modernization program will also include the Tu-22M3M long-range bomber. The first aircraft of this type is currently being tested, and a second will be ready by the end of 2019.

“In the third quarter of 2020, the aircraft will be presented to the military at the State Joint Tests,” said the minister, adding that based on the results of the test, a decision will be made regarding a contract to thoroughly modernize the Tu-22M3.

The Tu-160 “White Swan” (NATO reporting name: “Blackjack”) is the most powerful aircraft in the Russian Aerospace Forces. It is a strategic long-range missile carrier, designed primarily for nuclear missiles, although it can carry a wide range of weapons, including several types of bombs and precision missiles. In 2018, Russia had 16 such aircraft. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine also had a division of these bombers, but in 1999 they were partially scrapped and partially sent to Russia.

The Tu-95 “Bear” is a Soviet and Russian turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform, the fastest turboprop aircraft in the world and the only serially produced bomber and missile carrier to use these engines. The Tu-95MS variation supports Kh-101 missiles, which can hit targets at a range of 5,500 km, beyond any aerial defense systems. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine received 23 Tu-95MSs in working order and five requiring repairs. 24 of them were scrapped, three were sent to Russia, and the fate of one plane is unknown.

The Tu-22 is a Soviet-era long-range supersonic bomber and missile platform with variable-sweep wings. Despite the fact that they have been in service since the 1960s, they have undergone a series of modifications and remain usable, primarily due to the wide range of missiles and bombs they can carry. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had at least 64 Tu-22s, of which 60 were destroyed between 2002 and 2006, and four were left for museums.

  Russia, Russian Air Force