Putin tests new bomber for nuclear attacks

While stoking fears in the West that the stalemate in Ukraine could turn into a de facto war with NATO, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is sharpening its arsenal for such an eventuality.

This Wednesday (12), the first flight of the Tupolev Tu-160M2, the latest strategic bomber for use in conventional and nuclear attacks in the country, took place in Kazan.

It is not a new project, on the contrary: known in the West as Blackjack and among Russians as the White Swan, the Tu-160 flew for the first time in 1981 and debuted in operation six years later, in the twilight of the Soviet Union.

It is the largest and heaviest supersonic combat aircraft in action in the world, a frequent character in interceptions in the turbulent Baltic, Black or Pacific seas, and sometimes seen visiting air bases in Venezuela.

Recently, the device was sent to joint patrols with the Belarusian Air Force in the airspace of the Moscow-allied dictatorship, as a way of showing support in the crisis between Minsk and Poland over refugees at the border.

Foto: Rostec

27 planes were made, of which 16 are still flying. Of these, 7 are a modernized version, the Tu-160M, with new engines and digital avionics. But this Wednesday’s test is entirely different.

In 2018, Putin ordered ten planes to be completely rebuilt. Or almost: having taken the production and design processes to digital environments, 80% of the Tu-160M2’s systems are new, according to Tupolev.

It was not a smooth process, as the accidents and problems in the Russian aviation industry demonstrate. “The first flight was scheduled for 2021, with deliveries from 2023 to 2027,” military analyst Mikhail Barabanov of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies said in a message.

“On the outside the plane looks the same, but it’s a completely new base. It was rebuilt from the ground up,” said United Aircraft Corporation director general Yuri Sliusar in a statement. The holding includes Tupolev and other Russian manufacturers, such as Sukhoi, which in turn is part of the state-owned conglomerate Rostec.

There are no details about news about the performance of the Tu-160, in the current versions an impressive weapon, with 54 meters in length and 55 in wingspan, weighing 110 tons empty and capable of carrying 45 tons of armament, six cruise missiles or 12 missiles with short-range nuclear warheads.

Experts believe that the new version is already ready to receive hypersonic missiles like the Kinjal, which is already in operation in the belly of MiG-31K interceptors or Tu-22M strategic bombers.

Putin’s bet on the Tu-160 stems from the capabilities of the aircraft, a larger and more powerful version of the American B-1B Lancer. She has wings with variable geometry so she can reach up to twice the speed of sound when penetrating hostile air spaces.

It has a range of 12,300 km – with aerial refueling, it broke the military world record in 2020, with 25 hours of flight and 20,000 km covered. To date, it has only seen active combat in Syria’s civil war, in which Putin intervened on behalf of the local dictatorship in 2015.

Russia is still working on the PAK-DA, a subsonic aircraft in the form of a flying wing, similar to the American B-2 Spirit and its successor already under construction, the B-21 Raider. Tests on the prototype are, according to the Russian press, advanced.

With chronic funding problems, Putin opts to upgrade the existing fleet of Tu-160s, 61 Tu-22s and also 60 Tu-95s, 18 of which are the modernized MS version of this 1950s mastodon with four engines and eight propellers.

To see the video, go to the link: https://tv.uol/19Nf8

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