The aircraft designer for the Tupolev Design Bureau Valentin Bliznyuk, who led the work on the creation of the supersonic strategic bomber Tu-160, passed away at 92 years old “after a serious and prolonged illness” on December 30, 2019.

Valentin Ivanovich Bliznyuk was born on April 12, 1928, in the village of Malorossijskoe (“Little Russia”) in East Kazakhstan. After graduating from the Moscow Aviation Institute, he immediately started working for the Tupolev Design Bureau in 1952. Among the many programs in which he was involved, Bliznyuk was the deputy chief designer of the ill-fated supersonic passenger aircraft, the Tu-144.

But the chef-d’oeuvre of his career was another supersonic aircraft, the strategic bomber Tu-160. Design work began in the early 1970s, and by 1975, Bliznyuk was made the chief designer and project manager for the project. In 1981, the Tu-160 made its maiden flight. Six years later, it entered service within the USSR Air Force. 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). After the fall of the Soviet Union, Bliznyuk participated in the modernization of what has been ever since the backbone of the Russian nuclear dissuasion.

Tupolev released a statement paying homage to an “outstanding aviation designer”, citing his involvement in over a dozen aircraft projects. “The memory of Valentin Ivanovich will forever remain in the hearts of the Tupolevites,” said the manufacturer.

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