— Alex Ansary (@AlexAnsary) November 1, 2017
Russia’s upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bombers will remain unrivaled in terms of technology for the next 40 years, says Russian Colonel General Viktor Bondarev, who commanded the country’s air force until recently.
Speaking to Russia’s TASS news agency on Wednesday, Bondarev, who chairs the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, said even the first generation of the Soviet-era aircraft could still hold its ground against similar Western designs.
“For example, the strategic Tu-160 missile carrier is still unrivaled in the world and so many technologies will be incorporated in it when its production is resumed that it will remain a super-new plane for another 40 years,” said the Aerospace Force ex-commander, who led the force for two years before resigning in September.
It was reported in 2015 that Russia had made a decision to resume the production of Tu-160 bomber— codenamed Blackjack by NATO— in their upgraded Tu-160M2 modification and reschedule the development of the new-generation bomber PAK DA (Perspective Airborne Complex of Long-Range Aviation) for a later term.
However, the upgrade program was sped up in January this year, after Putin ordered Tupolev to resume producing Blackjacks.
Bondarev said in June that the first Tu-160M2 was expected to take off in 2018. The serial production would begin around 2023, he noted. The Russian Aerospace Force intends to purchase no less than 50 of the aircraft.
According to latest official data, Russia currently operates 16 Tu-160 aircraft, about half of which already modernized over the past years.
The Tu-160 is considered the world’s largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber currently in use, and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane to have ever flown.
It was reported in late August that the Russian military had finished modernizing a Tupolev Tu-160 long-range bomber along with two modernized turboprop-powered Tu-95MS (Bear) bombers as well as a supersonic Tu-22M.
The soviet-era long-range bombers are designed to carry nuclear warheads. They are also armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles.
Russian military experts claim that the Tu-160M2 is “leagues ahead of all other strategic bombers in the world” and “outperforms” its stealth American counterparts B-2 Spirit and the B-1B Lancer in terms of speed, range, flight altitude and operational payload.