Russia is resuming the production of the famous Tu-160 strategic bomber in a modernized version - the Tu-160M2, with the first engines and other structural elements already being built, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a teleconference in Moscow.
“A great deal of preparatory work has been done and unique technological methods of producing titanium alloy parts have been restored,” Shoigu said, adding that the main elements of the bomber were already being produced at Russian defense enterprises.
Sergei Shoigu said that in February 2017, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to restart the TU-160 bomber production line at the Tupolev aircraft factory in Kazan and design a new generation of Russian strategic bombers.
Shoigu also discussed ways to bring Russia’s existing feet of Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers up to speed.
In an interview with Radio Sputnik, deputy editor-in-chief of Aviapanorama journal and former Air Force pilot, Vladimir Popov said that the Tu-160M2 will be essentially a new pane.
“Even though on the outside it looks much like its predecessor, Tu-160MS2 will be a whole new aircraft with a new fire control and navigation gear, advance system of electronic jamming, a new cockpit and more fuel-saving engines. Everything possible is being done to extend its supersonic ability. This is the bottom line of the current overhaul,” Popov said.
The Tu-160MS2 will be powered by upgraded engines with better endurance characteristics, which adds to the new bomber's range, increasing it by 1,000 kilometers (621miles) as compared with the existing version.
The engine features improved performance to allow the plane to cruise in stratosphere at an altitude of 18.3 kilometers (60,000 feet or 11.3 miles) beyond the enemy’s air defense systems reach.
In April, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said that all the 16 Tu-160 strategic bombers currently in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces will be modernized pending the delivery of the upgraded Tu-160MS2 version.
Russia is currently working on the PAK DA (prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation) new generation strategic bomber. The development is being delayed with the first unit to appear between 2020 and 2025. The upgraded Tu-160 will fill the gap.