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    Russia’s Revamped Tu-160 Blackjack: A Soaring Symbol Amid Struggles

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    As Russia navigates the turbulent waters of a protracted conflict in Ukraine and faces international sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has taken to the skies in a modernized Tu-160M Blackjack bomber, underscoring the resilience and might of Russia’s defense capabilities.

    The Tu-160 is often referred to as the “White Swan”.

    The president’s flight, originating from Kazan Aviation Plant’s runway—owned by Tupolev—was not only a demonstration of the bomber’s renewed prowess but also served as a symbolic assertion of Russia’s robust aerospace industry.

    “It’s a new machine, a lot about it is new. It’s easier to control. It’s reliable,” Putin remarked, highlighting the Blackjack’s advancements.

    In the early 2000s, the initiative to refurbish Soviet-era Tu-160 bombers began following an agreement from the Russian Defense Ministry to upgrade 15 existing aircraft frames.

    Boasting a slew of upgrades, the Tu-160M’s latest iteration includes new low-observable coatings to diminish its radar signature, making it stealthier.

    Improved engines enhance its range and performance, while its cockpit has been revamped for better operability.

    These enhancements signify Russia’s intent to keep pace with bomber technology progress made by other major military powers like the United States and China.

    The Russian bomber has the capability to deploy twelve Raduga Kh-55SM/101/102/555 cruise missiles using two internal rotary launchers, or alternatively carry twelve AS-16 Kickback short-range nuclear weapons.

    While the reactivated bombers were equipped to deploy the new long-range Kh-555 conventional cruise missiles, they did not receive the anticipated advanced avionics upgrades.

    The aircraft’s weapon bays were outfitted with launchers for the Kh-15P missile, featuring solid fuel propulsion. According to Air Force Technology, this system can be armed with either a nuclear warhead or a conventional 250-kilogram warhead.

    Overall, the Tu-160M Blackjack has the capacity to transport nearly 100,000 lbs of munitions.

    The Russian Aerospace Forces have employed this aircraft in Ukraine for strategic bombing operations targeting Ukrainian urban areas, vital infrastructure, and the national power grid.

    Rostec’s CEO has stated that the majority of systems and equipment on this bomber will surpass the sophistication of the original Tu-160 models.

    Sergey Chemezov, as reported by Tass, mentioned, “Reviving the production of the Tu-160 posed a significant challenge for all Rostec affiliates. The design documentation was completely digitized within strict deadlines. The technology for vacuum welding titanium parts was reinstated, and the manufacturing of airframe components resumed. Today, we can confidently affirm that we have achieved success in all aspects.”

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s ‘New’ Tu-160 Blackjack Bomber Is No Pushover, The National Interest
    Russia’s Tu-160 Blackjack Bomber Is Getting a Serious Upgrade, The National Interest
    Putin Flies Aboard Tu-160M Blackjack Strategic Bomber, The War Zone

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