Russian Tu-95MSM modernized strategic bomber conducts new test flight

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A Tu-95MSM, the modernized version of the Russian strategic bomber Tu-95 Bear, conducted a new test flight.  

“Under the test program, a heavily upgraded Tu-95MSM missile-carrying bomber performed a new flight,” the United Aircraft Corporation said in a statement. “During the flight, all the necessary tests of its systems and equipment were carried out.” 

The modernization of the Tu-95MS was contracted by the Russian Ministry of Defense in December 2009. Tupolev and Beriev Aircraft Companies, both part of the United Aircraft Corporation, oversee the update.  

The new variant features four new turboprop engines, the Kuznetsov NK-12MPM. The NK-12 remains the most powerful turboprop engine ever to enter service. It also includes a new radar system and a target-acquisition and navigation system using GLONASS, Russia’s equivalent of the US-operated GPS

The first flight of a Tu-95MSM was conducted in August 2020 at the Taganrog Aviation Plant. 

As a result of its modernization, the Tu-95 is expected to be used in the Russian armed forces until 2025. 

The Soviet answer to the USAF Strategic Air Command 

The Tupolev Tu-95 Bear was developed as a long-range bomber to replace the Tu-4, a Soviet copy of the Boeing B-29.  

The Tu-95 took to the skies for the first time in 1952 and entered service with the Soviet Air Forces in 1956. Throughout the Cold War, it was one of the main components of Soviet nuclear deterrence. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aircraft role evolved into what Russia defines as a “strategic missile carrier”. The Long-Range Aviation branch of the Russian Aerospace Force still operates a fleet of 47 Tu-95s.  

They were used during the invasion of Ukraine by Russia to launch Kh-101 cruise missiles, targeting civilian infrastructures that included airports, and hydraulic and nuclear power plants. The current versions of the Tu-95 can carry a total of eight Kh-101 missiles on external pylons. 

In early December 2022, explosions at the Engels-2 strategic bomber airbase reportedly damaged two Tu-95s. 

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