Tu-160 old building
Over the past few years, Russian aviation the industry was engaged in the restoration of production of strategic bombers-missile carriers Tu-160. Recent events show that this task has been successfully accomplished. Proof of this is now the first newly built aircraft, which is now being prepared for testing. It will be followed in the near future by the next bomber.
From plans to series
The first statements about the need to restore production of the Tu-160 were made in 2015. At that time, they spoke of the need and the possibility of building fifty new aircraft in the modern modification of the Tu-160M / M2. The first cars of the new series could have entered service in the first half of the twenties.
In the same year, the process of restoration and modernization of the required production capacities, technology development, etc. began. The bulk of such work is carried out at the Kazan aircraft plant named after I. S.P. Gorbunova; a large number of other companies-suppliers of aggregates and components are also involved in the program. In particular, since 2016 PJSC Kuznetsov has been restoring the production of NK-32 engines.
All these events ended in success. Already in mid-2017, it was announced that key competencies were restored, which made it possible to start building aircraft. Then it was reported that the production of a new series of missile carriers will be able to start already in 2021.
Modernized Tu-160M of old construction with new engines NK-32-02, November 2020
Later, the first aircraft of the new series were laid down at the restored capacities. One of them was completed this year, and now it is preparing for testing. In addition, work continues on the next order. It is not known how soon this side will be rolled out, but the very fact of its construction is of great importance.
Going to the test
Over the past several weeks, the media and officials have repeatedly talked about the current state of the new-built head Tu-160M and about plans for testing. It is reported that the aircraft is preparing for ground and flight tests. Possible dates of the first flight are also mentioned. Moreover, some of these News, as it is now clear, did not correspond to reality.
On November 23, the Kazan edition of Business Online reported that work on the new bomber was going on "day and night." From unnamed sources, it learned the estimated date of the first flight. So, the plane should take off on December 18 - on the day of the 40th anniversary of the beginning of flight tests of the very first experimental Tu-160. At the level of rumors, it was reported about the possibility of the presence of senior officials at this event.
On November 29, new information was published by the TASS agency. According to his source, the first Tu-160M is already "in the hangar, ready, refueled." By the end of the year, it is planned to carry out the first run on the factory runway. There is no first flight in the plans for the near future. The source also indicated that they are going to invite senior management to these events, and therefore the exact dates for their holding have not yet been determined.
Airplane named "Igor Sikorsky" after modernization, March 2021
Soon the information from TASS was confirmed. On December 9, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov visited the UEC-Perm Motors enterprise, where, among other things, they discussed the program for the production of bombers. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, the first flight of the new Tu-160M will take place only at the beginning of next year. The more important task at the moment he called a run with the NK-32 engines of the new series.
Thus, the general situation around the new aircraft is generally clear, although the exact dates and dates have not yet been disclosed. The bomber has already been built and is undergoing the last measures before the start of the tests. In the near future it will be tested on the ground, and this stage of checks may begin in the coming days. Full flight tests, in turn, will start next year. At the same time, the information about the first flight in mid-December, as it is now clear, did not correspond to reality.
It is very likely that the first ground checks of the first Tu-160M of the new series are underway right now. After they have been carried out and the identified deficiencies have been corrected, jogging will begin, and then the aircraft will go on to full-fledged flight tests. As part of these events, he will show flight technical and combat characteristics, as well as demonstrate the operation of all components and assemblies.
How long tests and fine-tuning of the new bomber will continue is unknown. It can be assumed that they will take a long time. The duration of the tests will be determined by the need to check and test a number of components of the new production. It is necessary to test the airframe re-assembled from scratch, the power plant of the new series, modern electronic equipment, etc.
One of the Tu-160, built from the old backlog
In this regard, work on the first Tu-160M may take several months or even years. However, in this case, too, the finished aircraft, which has passed all the checks and confirmed the calculated characteristics, will be able to get into the troops during the first half of the decade - as mentioned earlier.
It is obvious that the development of the design of the first aircraft of the series will affect the assembly of the following sides. Accordingly, their testing will take less time, which will make it possible to obtain the maximum possible pace of construction and delivery of equipment.
New and updated
In its current form, the Tu-160M has a number of important features, thanks to which it will be able to show increased technical and combat characteristics. The gains in performance and overall efficiency are reported to come from redesigned and completely new components.
The glider, general aircraft systems, engines and other products of the new production are distinguished by their novelty and have a full resource, which will allow the equipment to be operated for a long time. In addition, NK-32 engines, components for them and other products are again being mass-produced, which will simplify maintenance and repair of bombers.
It was reported about a cardinal update of the avionics complex, but there is no exact information on this yet. It is planned to use new means of navigation, communication and control. This will improve the operational capabilities of the equipment and ensure its integration into the current and future contours of command and control. In addition, thanks to the new equipment, the Tu-160M will be compatible with existing and advanced weapons, incl. strategic.
Launching a cruise missile
Like the aircraft of the first series, the new Tu-160M will be able to carry and use the Kh-55/555 cruise missiles, as well as the newer Kh-101/102 with nuclear and conventional equipment. Free-fall and guided bombs will also remain in the range of ammunition. Apparently, in the future, serial bombers will be able to receive weapon promising types still under development. Old, new and future missiles and bombs will provide a solution to a wide range of combat missions, mainly of a strategic nature.
The new missile carrier construction program is interesting not only for its technical features. Quantitative plans are also noteworthy. In the medium and long term, up to 50 aircraft will be built. First, they will supplement the available bombers, then they will become the basis of the grouping, and in the future they will completely replace the outdated equipment of the first series.
Due to this, a large and effective strike group will be created, capable of serving for the next several decades. It is highly likely that the new Tu-160M, now preparing for testing, will be in operation until 2050 or longer. The following machines, respectively, will end the service even later. At the same time, regular repairs and modernization will keep the characteristics and potential of the aircraft up-to-date.
On the threshold of the future
Thus, right now, the Kazan aircraft plant is not only preparing for testing a new aircraft, but also laying the foundation for the development of our strategic aviation for several decades to come. Obviously, the aviation industry has a special responsibility and should not rush to complete the required work if it could damage quality.
However, preparation and preliminary tests should not take long. As the leadership of industry and the country promises, in the coming weeks or even days the first run of the new Tu-160M will take place, and then a full-fledged flight can be expected. It is planned for the beginning of next year - and these plans are likely to be fulfilled.