A new Tu-160 bomber takes to the skies 40 years after first flight

Tupolev performed the maiden flight of a Tu-160M, a modernized variant of the largest supersonic military aircraft still in production

Tupolev on Wednesday carried out the maiden flight of a new Tu-160M ​​supersonic bomber at its facilities in Kazan, Russia.

The aircraft is part of a batch of 10 bombers ordered by the Russian Air Force that will complement the fleet of 16 Tu-160s currently in service.

The Tu-160 is the largest military aircraft in production today, despite having been conceived more than four decades ago, during the Soviet Union.

The first flight of the bomber prototype took place on December 18, 1981, 40 years ago, with entry into service taking place in 1987.

Despite the age of the project, Russia continues to invest in the 275-ton aircraft, the largest in history to be configured with a variable-sweep wing.

While similar to older versions, the Tu-160M ​​is equipped with new avionics and weaponry. United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which controls Tupolev, said the supersonic jet’s manufacturing processes had been updated.

“The Tu-160 is one of the largest and most advanced projects in the aviation industry. Implementing this program required not only renovating the production facilities, but also creating a fundamentally new digital environment in which to work on the project,” said UAC Director General Yuri Slyusar.

In parallel with the Tu-160 modernization program, Tupolev is developing a new bomber, the PAK DA, which follows the concept of stealth, subsonic speed and the shape of a flying wing, like the B-2 Spirit of the US Air Force.

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