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Putin Flies Aboard Modernized Tu-160M Strategic Bomber

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Putin Tu-160
A screenshot from the video showing Putin aboard a Tu-160. (Image credit: Kremlin.ru)

Vladimir Putin took a 30-minute ride in a modernized Tu-160M supersonic bomber as part of the crew yesterday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin flew in a Tu-160M strategic bomber on Feb. 22, 2024. A 30-minute sortie from Kazan Aviation Plant, located some 450 miles to the east of Moscow. The flight came the day after Putin visited the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant, a Tupolev subsidiary that ranks among major Russian aviation industry enterprises and employed 8,400 people in 2023.

The plant whose runway has been renovated recently, is preparing to produce new Tu-160M ‘White Swan’ strategic missile-carrying bomber, a new version of the Tu-160 plane.

Footage released by the Kremlin shows Putin in the left seat of the Blackjack’s cockpit, at times handling the large bomber under the supervision of the pilot: a show of might, that comes on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Russia’s President  prepares for the election race next month.

Interestingly, the glass cockpit of the bomber has been blurred in the clip.

As explained in a previous post here at The Aviationist:

The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic strategic missile-carrier with a variable sweep wing. The decision to resume the production of the upgraded version of the Tu-160, the Tu-160M, was made in 2015.

As a consequence, two existing Tu-160s were upgraded to the Tu-160M ​​standard under a contract with the Ministry of Defense. Overall, 15 airframes should be upgraded. The aircraft that first flew on Jan. 12, 2022 is the first newly build airframe under a contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade out of ten advanced Tu-160M2 aircraft which will be produced for the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The new Tu-160M2 version, includes a glass cockpit, weapons upgrades, new engines and the removal of obsolete equipment no longer relevant to the Tu-160’s mission. According to the CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Yury Slyusar, the new aircraft has 80% of its systems and equipment upgraded. The original Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack” first flew in 1981 and entered service in 1987.

The first flight of the first deeply modified Tu-160 (designated Tu-160M2), built from backlog airframe took place on Feb. 2, 2020 and lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes.

On Nov. 3, 2020, the first “fundamentally upgraded strategic bomber” flew from Kazan, Russia, powered by the new NK-32-02 engines . The United Aircraft Corporation said that during the flight the upgraded general systems and onboard radio-electronic equipment were tested and the performance of the new engine NK-32 of the 02 series assessed.

At the moment, we can’t but notice that the new Tu-160 is often referred to as Tu-160M and M2. If any, the difference between M and M2 variants is not clear.

The flight on Feb. 22, 2024 was not the first time Putin flew on a Tu-160, the first time was on Aug. 16, 2005.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.
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