The first newly assembled Tupolev Tu-160M took off for the first time on January 12, 2022.
The test flight took place at the aerodrome of Kazan Aviation Plant in Tatarstan, Russia. The aircraft was operated by Tupolev Design Bureau test pilots who evaluated the aircraft’s flight behavior.
The Tu-160 is a supersonic bomber capable of carrying 16 nuclear missiles and up to 40 tons of ordnance while being able to reach a speed of 2,200 km/h (1,367 mph) and with a range of 13,200 km (8,202 miles).
In 1981, the Tu-160 made its maiden flight. Six years later, it entered service within the USSR Air Force. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it remained the backbone of the Russian nuclear dissuasion.
The Tu-160M is a modernized version of the Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber. It features new communication and control systems, a new radar system, and new means of electronic warfare. It is also fitted with improved engines, the Kuznetsov NK-32-02.
In 2015, the Russian government decided to reopen the assembly line of the Tu-160M in order to replace the antique Tu-95MS turboprop bombers. 10 aircraft were ordered, and up to 40 could eventually be assembled. The existing Tu-160s currently in operation are also being brought to that new standard.
“Tu-160 is one of the largest and most advanced projects in Russia’s aviation industry,” commented Yuri Slyusar, CEO of Tupolev’s parent company, the United Aircraft Corporation. “The fundamental importance of today’s event is that the new aircraft has been completely rebuilt from scratch.”
In 2020, Tupolev was also contracted by the Russian Defense Ministry to develop a new generation strategic bomber called the PAK-DA.