The first newly-manufactured Tu-160M heavy strategic bomber completed its maiden flight on January 12, state-run Rostec has announced.
The flight was completed from the airfield of the Kazan Aviation Plant – a branch of Tupolev, which itself is part of the Rostec corporation.
According to a company announcement, the flight took place at an altitude of 600 meters and lasted about 30 minutes. The crew of test pilots of Tupolev PJSC performed maneuvers to check the stability and controllability of the aircraft in the air.
The first flight milestone came after Russia decided in 2015 to resume production of the Tu-160M, a modernized variant of the Tu-160 bomber that entered service with then-USSR in 1987.
The program re-launch calls for the modernization of 16 Tu-160 airframes to the Tu-160M configuration, as well as the delivery of 10 completely new airframes. The Russian Air Force has already taken delivery of the first upgraded Tu-160M, which was delivered in March 2021.
“We have restored the full production cycle of the Tu-160, but already in the M modification, using modernized engines, modernized aircraft control systems, navigation systems, and weapons control systems,” Denis Manturov, minister of industry and trade of the Russian Federation, commented.
“The modernization of the Kazan Aviation Plant played an important role in restoring the production of unique aircraft: the equipment of the shops, the flight test base was updated, the world’s largest installation for electron beam welding and vacuum annealing of titanium was put into operation.”
The Tu-160M is a modernized strategic missile carrier equipped with four new NK-32-02 engines manufactured by the United Engine Corporation. The first experimental Tu-160M was created as part of a large-scale modernization program for combat aircraft systems of strategic and long-range aviation, which is being carried out by Tupolev PJSC.
Tu-160 still holds the record as the largest supersonic aircraft in military history. The aircraft’s two internal bays can carry 20,000 kg of weapons each, and the aircraft can also carry missiles externally.