Tu-160 Blackjack Upgrades

According to an official announcement on November 28, avionics for Russia’s new Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber, designed by the Radio-Electronic Technologies Corporation, will be ready in 2017. The M2 version of the Blackjack will also have a new radar, navigation system and defensive countermeasures.

New Tu-160M2s built at the Kazan facility represent a new design by Tupolev (the aircraft’s original designer) and other design bureaus (Beriev, Ilyushin, Mikoyan-Gurevich, Sukhoi and Yakolev) and will differ considerably from those currently in service. The first new aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2023.

In addition, 16 Blackjacks currently in service with the Russian Air Force will be upgraded with the new avionics, replacing original systems that are life expired and, in many cases, depend on sources in Ukraine – now blocked – for repairs and parts. The new avionics will be fitted in addition to the current Blackjack upgrade programme, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Elements of the improved avionics developed for the Tu-160M2 will also be used, in the future, to upgrade Tupolev Tu-22M2 Backfire and Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bombers, providing greater standardisation above that provided by the current upgrade programmes for each of the three types. David C Isby