Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack

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Information on the Tu-160 Blackjack

The Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO reporting name Blackjack) is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber designed by the Soviet Union. Similar, but more complex, twice as fast, with more payload than B-1 Lancer, it was the last Soviet strategic bomber design and the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. Introduced in 1987, production of the aircraft still continues, with 19 currently in service with the Russian Air Force. Its pilots call the Tu-160 the ?White Swan?, due to the surprising maneuverability and overall white color of the aircraft.


The first competition for a supersonic strategic heavy bomber was launched in the Soviet Union in 1967. The new plane was to have a cruise speed of over Mach 3, in response to the American XB-70 Valkyrie. It soon became apparent that such an aircraft would be too expensive and difficult to produce, so it was decided to reduce demands (in the U.S., the XB-70 project had already been cancelled).

In 1972 the Soviet Union launched a new multi-mission bomber competition to create a new supersonic, variable-geometry ("swing-wing") heavy bomber with a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, in response to the U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber project. The Tupolev design, dubbed Aircraft 160M, with a lengthened flying wing layout and incorporating some elements of the Tu-144, competed against the Myasishchev M-18 and the Sukhoi T-4 designs. Myasishchev's version, proposing a variable-geometry aircraft, was considered to be the most successful, although the Tupolev organization was regarded as having the greatest potential for completing this complex project. Consequently, Tupolev was assigned in 1973 the development a new aircraft based on the Myasishchev design.

Although the B-1A was cancelled in 1977, work on the new Soviet bomber continued, and in the same year, the design was accepted by the government committee. The prototype was photographed by an airline passenger at a Zhukovski airfield in November 1981, about a month before the aircraft's first flight on 18 December 1981. Production was authorized in 1984, beginning at Kazan Aviation Association. Production of the aircraft, designated Tu-160 (factory designation "aircraft K" or "product 70"), was originally intended to total 100 aircraft, although only 35 have been produced, including three prototypes. The second prototype was lost in flight testing in 1987, the crew ejecting successfully. Production slowed due to lack of funds, and ceased in 1994, although some uncompleted aircraft remained.


The Tu-160 was first presented to the public on a parade in 1989. In 1989?1990 it also set 44 world speed flight records in its weight class. Squadron deployments to Long Range Aviation began in April 1987. Until 1991 19 of those aircraft served in the 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment in Pryluki in the Ukrainian Socialist Republic, replacing Tu-16 'Badger' and Tu-22M3 'Backfire' aircraft. After the fall of the Soviet Union those aircraft became Ukrainian property, although in 1999 a deal between Russia and Ukraine led to eight of those aircraft being returned to Russia in exchange for a reduction in Ukraine's energy debts. Ukraine, which has officially renounced nuclear weapons, has destroyed the other Blackjacks in its possession, except for one airframe retained for static display. The Tu-160 is the world's largest and heaviest bomber aircraft.

Russia's second Tu-160 unit, the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment basing in Engels, was organised in 1992, but by 1994 it had received only six aircraft. Between 1999 and 2000 the eight formerly Ukrainian planes were assigned to the regiment, with another being completed in a factory and given to the regiment in 2000. At least one aircraft has been lost, during a test flight after engine repairs, on 16 September 2003.

There are 14 Tu-160s in service as of November 2005. Another two new-built aircraft are nearing completion at the Kazan Aircraft Plant, one of which was planned for entry into service in March 2006, with the other following later in the year.

As of 2001, six additional Tu-160 served as experimental aircraft at Zhukovski, four of them remaining airworthy.

On 30 December 2005, under an order signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Tu-160 officially entered service in the VVS.


The Tu-160 bears a strong resemblance to the North American B-1B Lancer, although it is significantly larger and faster. The Blackjack has a similar blended wing profile and variable-geometry wings, with sweep selectable from 20? to 65?. Full-span slats are used on the leading edges, with double-slotted flaps on the trailing edges. The Tu-160 has a fly-by-wire control system.

The Blackjack is powered by four NK-321 afterburning turbofan engines, the most powerful ever fitted to a combat aircraft. Unlike the B-1B, which abandoned the Mach 2+ requirement of the original B-1A, it retains variable intakes, and is capable of slightly over Mach 2 at altitude.

The Tu-160 is equipped with a probe and drogue in-flight refueling system for extended-range missions, although this is rarely used due to the massive internal fuel capacity of 130 tons, giving a flight endurance of roughly 15 hours.

Although the Tu-160 was designed for reduced detectability to both radar and infrared, it is not a stealth aircraft. Russian sources claim that it has a smaller radar cross section (RCS) than the B-1B, but this claim is not known to have been independently verified, and seems unlikely given the Blackjack's much more exposed engine inlets and broader wing gloves. Nevertheless, on 25 April 2006 Commander Igor Khvorov claimed that Tu-160s had managed to penetrate North American airspace undetected, leading to a NATO investigation.

The Blackjack has an attack radar ("Obzor-K", NATO reporting name Clam Pipe) in a slightly upturned dielectric radome, plus a separate "Sopka" terrain-following radar, which provides fully automatic terrain-following flight at low level. The Tu-160 has an electro-optical bombsight. Its electronic warfare suite includes comprehensive active and passive ECM systems.

The Tu-160 has a crew of four (pilot, co-pilot, weapons systems officer and defensive systems operator) in K-36DM ejection seats. The pilot has a fighter-style control stick, but the flight instruments are traditional "steam gauge" dials. A crew rest area, a toilet, and a galley are provided for long flights. There is no HUD, nor are CRT multi-function displays provided in the original aircraft, however plans for modernization of all Tu-160s were announced in 2003. It will include new digital flight control system, and the ability to carry new weapon types, such as new non-nuclear long-range cruise missiles.

Weapons are carried in two internal bays, each capable of holding 20,000 kg (44,400 lb) of free-fall weapons, or a rotary launcher for nuclear missiles. No defensive weapons are provided, making it the first unarmed post-World War II Soviet bomber.


In 2006, the Russian Airforce plans to receive five modernized and another newly produced Tu-160. The Russian Airforce will further receive five modernized Tu-160s each year, which means modernisation of the fleet may be complete within three years if the schedule is kept up.

Changes announced as follows:

* completely digital, multireserved, neutron and other nuclear emissions resistant avionics
* full support of cruising and steering through GLONASS global satellite positioning system
* updated version of NK-32 engines with increased reliability.
* ability to operate new nuclear/non-nuclear GLONASS-navigated cruise missiles (Kh-555).
* ability to handle missiles that launch military or civil satellites
* ability to bear laser-aiming bombs
* advanced radar emissions absorbing covering

Army General Vladimir Mikhailov said in January 2007 that every three years the VVS would receive two new Tu-160s, and would start a new program to upgrade the avionics on its current fleet of 16 bombers.


A demilitarized, commercial version of the Blackjack, dubbed Tu-160SK, was displayed at an air show in Singapore in 1994 with a model of a small space vehicle named Burlak attached underneath the fuselage. In 1995 Tupolev announced a partnership with the German firm OHB-System to produce the aircraft as a carrier for the launch vehicle; the German government subsequently withdrew funding in 1998. Development reportedly continues, although funding in the CIS is scarce.

Several other variants have been proposed, but not built, including:

* Tu-160S: designation used for serial Tu-160s when needed to separate them from all the pre-production and experimental aircraft
* Tu-160V: liquid hydrogen fuelled version (see also Tu-155)
* Tu-160 NK-74: upgraded (extended range) version with NK-74 engines
* Tu-160M: a stretched bomber carrying two long-range, hypersonic Kh-90 (3M25 Meteorit-A) missiles
* Tu-160P (Tu-161): a very long-range escort fighter/interceptor
* Tu-160PP: an electronic warfare aircraft carrying stand-off jamming and ECM gear (Russian: ПП - постановщик помех)
* Tu-160R: a strategic reconnaissance platform
* Tu-160SK: commercial version, designed to launch satellites within the "Burlak" (Russian: Бурлак, "hauler") system.
* Tu-170: a conventional bomber (conceived in order to avoid SALT-2 limits)


* Russia / Soviet Union
- Russian Air Force
- Soviet Air Force
* Ukraine (retired from service)
- Ukrainian Air Force

Source: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tupolev Tu-160".

Tu-160 Blackjack Specifications

Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, defensive systems operator)
Length: 54.1 m (177 ft 6 in)
Spread (20? sweep): 55.70 m (189 ft 9 in)
Swept (65? sweep): 35.60 m (116 ft 10 in)
Height: 13.10 m (43 ft 0 in)
Wing area:
* Spread: 400 m? (4,310 ft?)
*Swept: 360 m? (3,875 ft?)
Empty weight: 110,000 kg (242,500 lb)
Loaded weight: 267,600 kg (590,000 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 275,000 kg (606,000 lb)
Powerplant: 4? Kuznetsov NK-321 turbofans
Dry thrust: 137 kN (30,900 lbf) each
Thrust with afterburner: 245 kN (55,100 lbf) each
Maximum speed: Mach 2.05 (2,220 km/h, 1,380 mph) at high altitude
Range: 12,300 km (6,640 nm, 7,640 mi) unrefueled
Service ceiling: 15,000 m (49,200 ft)
Rate of climb: 70 m/s (13,780 ft/min)
Wing loading: 743 kg/m? with wings fully swept (152 lb/ft?)
Thrust/weight: 0.37

* 2 internal bays for 40,000 kg (88,200 lb) of ordnance, options include:
- 2 internal rotary launchers each holding 6? Raduga Kh-55 cruise missiles (primary armament) or 12? Raduga Kh-15 short-range nuclear missiles

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