Strategic aviation is still one of the greatest elements of the strength of the Russian and US armies. Although in the context of total war their role would rather replace intercontinental nuclear missiles, their potential to carry a lot of cargo is still used today. In today’s reality, he is often involved in the raids of conventional weapons. Examples of such activities can be observed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. It is here that the Tu-160, the heaviest and heaviest combat aircraft in the world, had its baptism.
Looking at this machine, it is impossible not to get the impression that this is a copy of the American Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber. However, the history of this aircraft is somewhat more complicated. At the end of the 1960s both the USSR and the US decided to acquire a supersonic, heavy bomber capable of carrying large amounts of nuclear weapons. The US Department of Defense has commissioned the creation of such a Rockwell aircraft. In the mid seventies, the result was the creation of four prototype B-1As that fulfilled the premise.
As a result of the change of power in the United States, the basic defense strategies of the country were changed, and one of the effects was the suspension of the B-1A project in its present form. The bomber himself was created and put into service in much altered form. A few years after announcing the change, the world saw the Rockwell B-1B Lancer bomber, produced in 100 copies. It made it possible to reach a much lower speed (equal to Ma = 1.25 instead of the original Ma = 2.5).
In the meantime, the Soviet competitor created the assumptions for the construction of its super-bomber, partly supporting the design of the first bomber’s design, the B-1A. The Tu-160 was built with the experience of various USSR engineering offices, including Tupolev, Suchoja and Myasishcheva. It is this last office with its M-18 concept that is responsible for creating the basic features of the platform, which became Tu-160.
Tu-160 is the basis of Russia’s strategic aviation. It can therefore carry a range of weapons, including atomic weapons. In its two retractable chambers up to 40 tons of armament. These may include: Kh-55 / Kh-55SM maneuvers (up to 12), Ch-15 (up to 24) nuclear missiles, and a series of conventional, cassette and atomic bombs in the aviation arsenal. Russia.
Today, all Tu-160s are stationed in the 121st Heavy Bombers Regiment in Engels, south of Moscow, near the border with Kazakhstan. Baptism for the Tu-160 was a series of raids on targets in Syria in November this year. With the simultaneous attacks of the Kalibr / 3M-54 maneuvering missiles, the Russians destroyed several dozen training bases, staff and weapons depots for the Islamic State.
The Tu-160 can accelerate even up to a speed equal to Ma = 2.0 (about 2450 km / h at high altitudes). It’s almost 2 times faster than the design competitor, the American Rockwell B-1B Lancer. In achieving this speed, in addition to powerful engines, the variable geometry of the wings is also possible.
It is also worth noting the noticeably higher maximum takeoff weight of the Russian bomber (275 tonnes for Tu-160 versus 216 tonnes for B-1). However, this does not directly affect the maximum mass of armaments being transported, since both planes in their chambers can carry a mass of approximately 28 tons. Likewise, there is a maximum range of about 12,000 kilometers.
The ability to exceed the speed of sound provides the bomber with a set of four NK-32 turbofan engines of up to 137 kN each. Achieving supersonic speed is also possible with the built-in afterburner, which increases the thrust to 245 kN (for each engine). Tu-160 can stay in the air without refueling up to 15 hours. This time, however, can be significantly longer. Tu-160 can be refueled in the air, for example from the Russian flying cistle Il-78 or the planned Il-96-400TZ.
The power of fear of the Tu-160 may be witnessed by the recent declaration by Vladimir Putin, who announced the resumption of production of this aircraft. The fleet currently used 12 Tu-160 and 3 Tu-160M is expected to include as many as 50 machines in the newer version of the “M2”. Furthermore, the first contracts for upgrading older versions of these machines have already been signed. With the still under development, the supersonic PAK-DA bomber, the target Tu-160M2 fleet is to be Russia’s strategic aviation force for at least 40 years.
– The crew of this unusual bomber are four people. It is a pilot, a second pilot, an armsman and a defense system operator. An interesting character is especially the latter because he is responsible for detecting and defending the Tu-160 against a potential attempt to shoot down enemy defenses.
– This machine is complicated and requires a pilot design. Only the most experienced Russian pilots can fly. To prepare for piloting “Blackjack”, Russian airmen must complete a number of training sessions, including the specially adapted Tu-134UBL training version.
– Throughout its history, 34 copies of the Tu-160 have been made. So why only 15 of these machines are in the hands of the Russians? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the bases in which it operated was 184. The Guards Heavy Bombardment Regiment and Strategic Air Forces hit the hands of Ukrainians. There were several Tu-160 machines in this regiment. They later became a cause of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but ultimately the Ukrainians handed over to the Russians in return for remitting part of the debt for the supply of natural gas.
– A great fan of this machine is Vladimir Putin. He himself had the opportunity to fly proud of Russian aviation. Personally, he also signed a decree in April, under which the re-production of the modernized version of the Tu-160 will begin.