Blackjack or White Swan: what is happening with the Tu-160M?

Savings and Upgrades

February XNUMXnd happened an event that aviation fans have long been waiting for. The deeply modernized Tu-160 took off: tests were carried out at the airport of the Kazan Aviation Plant named after S.P. Gorbunov. The plane was piloted by the crew under the leadership of Henri Naskidiants. In total, the flight lasted 34 minutes.

The question immediately arises: what kind of aircraft are we talking about? The designation of the Tu-160 itself, “White Swan” (or NATO Blackjack), says little, because there are old Soviet planes and later-built vehicles for which they used the Soviet backlog. And among the names of existing aircraft you can find Tu-160, Tu-160M, Tu-160M ​​+ and even Tu-160M2. We’ll make a reservation right away: the latter is not true, since there is no Tu-160M2, just like a “completely new” bomber. The question arises: what then took off, and why so much media attention is riveted to this event? We’ll try to figure it out.

So, January 2018. The Tu-160 rises into the sky, which for some reason previously received the designation M2 with the light hand of Russian officials, although, as it turned out later, this is not entirely true (or rather, not at all). Recall that then it was a plane with serial number 8-04 and the name "Peter Deinekin": the car was built from the Soviet backlog, that is, it could be considered formally new. “Only a small modernization was carried out on the plane, the glider and engines remained the same,” TASS subsequently wrote, citing its source in the military-industrial complex.

Earlier, we recall that part of the combat machines has already undergone a partial modernization. Thus, all of them (both old and new) could be conditionally attributed to the “modernization of the first stage” aircraft, in the frames of which, in fact, we got the same Tu-160, but with some improvements. In total, the Air Force for 2019 included seventeen different Tu-160s.

The first flight is not the first

Of course, the public was waiting for the first new aircraft - the very deeply modernized one, which was supposed to become the prototype of the Super Swan. A kind of analogue of modern American "strategists". In October last year, it became known that the staff of the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant named after V.P. Chkalov manufactured the first motorcycle compartment of the Tu-160M2 strategic bomber and prepared it for shipment to the Kazan Aviation Plant named after S.P. Gorbunov. And in November 2019, TASS announced the completion of the assembly of the first deeply modernized Tu-160M ​​bomber. And on February XNUMX, the plane completed its first flight.

Blackjack or White Swan: what is happening with the Tu-160M?

Such "agility" would deserve respect, if not for one "but." As we have said, no Tu-160 "new construction" yet exists. An airplane that ascended into the sky on January 160 is nothing more than the modernization of the Tu-2 combatant with serial number 02-1.70, previously named "Igor Sikorsky." He became a kind of “prototype” of the new “Tu”, which should receive (or have already received) the on-board radar station of the Novella family HB70, the “glass cockpit”, the new navigation system HO-021M, the navigation radar DISS-70-737 , A200DP satellite navigation receiver, ABSU-505MT autopilot, S-70-70 communication system, BKR-70M state recognition system, as well as the RedutM airborne defense system.

Experts talk about new weapons, however, so far all this is at the level of rumors. For a long time, nothing has been heard about the promising X-BD long-range / super-long-range missile. Recently, the media have been talking about a kind of “hypersonic” rocket for PAK DA. However, when you consider that hypersonic weapons they call aeroballistic “Daggers”, it’s rather difficult to say something with confidence about this complex.

Most likely, the updated Tu-160 will be able, like some other aircraft of this type, to use the X-101 cruise missiles already tested in Syria. It is noteworthy that on the machine with serial number 2-02, now, apparently, the optical-television sighting system was completely dismantled, which can reduce the multifunctionality of the complex. However, we will proceed from a conditionally optimistic option: the OTPK could be made retractable, similar to how it was implemented in the case of the Plane installed on the Su-34.

No less contradictions in the case of the power plant. As it became known, the experienced Tu-160M ​​does not have new NK-32-02 engines, but they intend to install them on other modernized machines.

In the end, we got a rather controversial upgrade option, and the available data often raises more questions than answers. It is well known that fifteen drill machines are being upgraded to a new level. The same (or very close) set of equipment will have ten completely new Tu-160Ms, the first of which should take off in 2021.

On the first second

Actually, from this moment it will begin история M2: as it became known, the Ministry of Industry and Trade uses the Tu-160M2 marking to designate vehicles built from scratch.

“The construction of the strategic missile carrier Tu-160M2 is ongoing. Its first flight is planned for 2021, and deliveries to compounds and parts of long-range aviation should begin in 2023. Until 2027, ten such missile carriers will be purchased, "

- quotes the words of the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, the journal Radioelectronic Technologies.

If the information provided by the leading Russian media is correct, then we can talk about the conditional unification of the Tu-160 strategic bombers in the future. This is very useful when you consider that, in addition to them, the Air Force will continue to operate "strategists" of the Tu-95MS type, as well as the Tu-22M3 long-range bomber and its new version of the Tu-22M3M.

All this will go against the backdrop of the active development of the promising PAK DA - the first Russian strategic “invisible” bomber, which they plan to raise to the sky in the mid-2020s and put into operation near the end of the decade. But this is if everything goes as planned by the UAC. The experience of creating "stealth" in Russia is incomparably less than that of the United States. And the price of PAK DA can be, if not comparable with the cost of the B-2, then quite comparable with the price of the promising American B-21 (experts say that one “American” will cost about $ 500 million).

On the whole, we can expect repeated postponements of the first PAK DA flight: we saw something similar in our time using the example of a fifth-generation Russian fighter. In other words, the modernized Tu-160, as the frankly old Tu-95 is decommissioned, is likely to become the basis of strategic aviation in Russia. At the same time, a real alternative to the White Swan may not appear for many more years.
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