The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest combat aircraft and the fastest bomber in operational service, but was only built in small numbers. The Russian Air Force is modernising its existing fleet and returning the type to production, as Piotr Butowski explains.
In 1965, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, who did not value aviation and terminated many aircraft programmes, was removed from power in the USSR. In the same year, requirements for a new Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA), the future Rockwell B-1, were formulated in the USA. The consequence of these two events was that, on November 28, 1967, the Soviet government launched a competition for a new strategic bomber capable of flying at 1,728-1,890kts (3,200-3,500km/h) with a subsonic range of 8,639-9,719nm (16,000-18,000km).