Russian Tu-160M2 to take off for debut flight in February 2018
On November 16, 2017, Russia presented its new Tu-160M2 Blackjack long-range super bomber. The aircraft was rolled out at the S.P. Gorbunov assembly facility in Kazan, in southwest Russia. According to the manufacturer, aerospace and defense company Tupolev, the plane is scheduled to make its first test flight in February 2018.
The Tu-160M2 is an upgrade to the Tu-160M and original Tu-160 aircraft. The new aircraft is sharing with Tu-160M the same avionics, sensors, displays, communications systems, and operating software, the Jane's Defense Weekly informs.The only comparable difference between the Tu-160M and the Tu-160M2 is the new Kuznetsov NK-32-2 turbofan – an afterburning 3-spool low bypass turbofan jet engine, which is the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a combat aircraft.
Also, the Russian Deputy Minister Dmitry Rogozin claimed that the Tu-160M2 has new radio-electronic equipment onboard, RIA Novosti reports.
According to the country's Ministry of Defense, the serial production of the Tu-160M2 will begin in 2023. The Russian Air Force, which has 16 Tu-160 aircraft in its fleet, is planning to acquire at least 50 Tu-160M2s, TASS informs.
Tu-160, codenamed Blackjack by NATO, is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed in the 1970s. It is the largest and the fastest military supersonic fighter currently in use and also the heaviest combat aircraft in the world, called White Swan among the pilots.
The Tu-160 active fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s. The Tu-160M modernization programme has begun with the first updated Tu-160M aircraft delivered in December 2014. Russia's Defence Ministry decided to resume the production of Tu-160 bombers in the upgraded version of the Tu-160M2 in 2015.
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