The aircraft we offer for review is known as Tupolev Tu-160 aka the White Swan with NATO designation is Blackjack. The Tupolev Tu-160 is the supersonic strategic bomber created for the Soviet Union with variable swept-wing design. The company behind the creation of Tupolev Tu-160 was the Tupolev Design Bureau. Tupolev Tu-160 holds the tile for being the heaviest and the largest bomber aircraft to ever have the Mach 2 + speed. This makes it’s the only supersonic long and heavy bomber aircraft of military other than the XB-70 Valkyrie.
The aircraft proudly holds the title for being the heaviest and the largest combat aircraft along with being the fastest, largest, and the heaviest variable swept winged bomber aircraft to ever fly in the skies.
The Tupolev Tu-160 entered the service of the Soviet Union back in 1987 where it was assigned the role of being the last of their strategic bombers. Now after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tupolev Tu-160 serves the Long Range Aviation; a branch of the Russian Air Force. Since the 2000s, the electronics systems of the Tupolev Tu-160 are continuously undergoing multiple upgrades to not only be a bomber but also to be an Electronic Warfare Aircraft as well. The model undergoing the upgrades is designated as Tu-160M which was delivered with these modernized upgrades back in December of 2014.
For our readers today, we bring to you some of the least known interesting facts about the Tupolev Tu-160 aka the White Swan.
The Tupolev Tu-160’s origin date back as far as when America started working on their prototype of a strategic long and heavy bomber named XB-70 Valkyrie. USAF created 2 prototypes of this bomber which were tested and one of them unfortunately got lost in a flight accident.
By the time it was the year 1967; the Soviet Union saw the potential in the creation of such bombers and they started their own similar program. The requirements for this program were to create the supersonic bomber which was able to move at speeds of Mach 3 which was quite similar to that of the XB-70 Valkyrie program. However, Soviets soon hit a dead end on this project as these attempts were far from becoming a viable solution for the response of American bombers.
This is why the program was laid back for until 1972 and when it was started again, it had new requirements for an aircraft with swept wings design as well as ability to reach the maximum speed of about Mach 2.3. Another aviation company by the name Myasishchev presented their design which won the army’s bid but it was Tupolev that was given the contract back in 1973.
In the hands of Ukraine:-
The Tupolev started production of the Tupolev Tu-160 and nearly 30 of these bombers were created by 977. However, shortly after they were manufactured, the Soviet Union, unluckily dissolved, and 19 of these fell in possession of Ukraine. Back in 2000, Ukraine delivered 8 of these early made Tupolev Tu-160s to Russian under their debt reconciliation agreement. It is currently believed that Ukraine also now possesses the right infrastructure for creating these massive high speed strategic bombers too. There are also rumors about Ukraine lending 3 of the Tupolev Tu-160s to USA for usage in US’s Satellite launching platforms.
Variants of Tu-160:-
The Tupolev Tu-160 family of bombers holds various variants that were produced to serve various experimental roles. The most viable and the modernized version of the Tupolev Tu-160 to date is the Tupolev Tu-160M which holds the 2 of the Kh-90 hypersonic long-range missiles to aid it in combat missions.
Another variant was the model designated as Tupolev Tu-160PP which was given the role of Electronic Warfare Aircraft which is equipped with the Electronic Countermeasure gears.
Another model of the Tupolev Tu-160 is the Tupolev Tu-160R which is the reconnaissance aircraft while the Tupolev Tu-160SK is a commercial variant of the Tupolev Tu-160 that is currently being used by Russia for their satellite launching platforms.
As for the conventional bomber version of the Tu-160, it was given the designation Tu-170.
The official design for the Tupolev Tu-160 is not in similarity with the Rockwell B-1 Lancer. The cockpit of Tu-160 is streamlined with the fuselage while the aft is consistent with the pointed nose which houses the internal radar. The wings of the Tupolev Tu-160 are built in a manner to give it the much-needed drag or lift for its flight situations.
Powerplant, Speed, and Range:-
A single one of the Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft is fitted with 4 of the Kuznetsov NK-321 turbofan engines. Each of these engines is capable of creating a thrust of nearly 55115 lbs. they are mounted on the underside of the aircraft’s wing roots. Air inlets of Tupolev Tu-160 were of variable geometry that allowed for the aircraft’s speed to reach in excess of Mach 2. The aircraft could fly easily at a maximum altitude of 60039 feet for a range of 8699 miles while having a climbing rate of nearly 13780 feet per minute.
The very first of the successful flights of the Tupolev Tu-160 was carried out on 18th December, 1981 with the mass production getting started in 1984. As for the time, it entered the service of the Russian Air Force, it was back in 1987 but it was officially entered in service in 2005.
The initial delivery for the Tupolev Tu-160 was consistent with 100 such aircraft but only 35 of them have yet been delivered to the Russian Air Force.
The armament carrying capacity of the Tupolev Tu-160 is about 88160 lbs with integral as well as external stores of mission-specific ammunitions. The rotary launcher fitted internally is fitted can be used for fitting 2 bombing bays. These bombing bays can be then used for having the following weapons.
- 6 of the Kh-55MS Kent Cruise Missiles
- 12 of the Kh-15P Kickback short-range nuclear missiles
- Drop bobs of conventional type
- Air-to-air surface missiles
Upgrades to increase capabilities of Tu-160:-
The upgrades that are being in the model Tu-160M are as follows.
- Digital cockpit
- Improved avionics
- Upgraded NK-32 engines
- GPS Integration
- Navigation of cruise missiles via the use of GPS
- Improved functionality for the Laser Guided missiles
- Radar absorbent skin tech
Current flying units and the expected increase:-
The new goal of the Russian Air Force is to acquire nearly 30 of the newly built and modernized versions of Tupolev Tu-160 by 2030. The interesting fact here is that it will be 40 plus years to the design that was perfected back in 1980. The aircraft produced under this modernization program will be of model Tupolev Tu-160M.