MOSCOW, December 22. /TASS/. The upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber planned for production in Russia will be 150% more efficient than its predecessor Tu-160, Long-Range Aviation Commander Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash told Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Friday.
"We expect the plane’s combat efficiency to increase by more than 2.5 times," he said, speaking about the Tu-160M2.
In November, the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise demonstrated the first prototype of the Tu-160M2 plane produced under the program of resuming the strategic bomber’s manufacture.
"The plane has now been delivered to the enterprise’s flight testing station to check the operation of new onboard radio-electronic and navigation equipment and test the engines with improved characteristics. The first flight of the Tu-160M2 is planned for the beginning of next year, the commander said.
The introduction of new digital technologies will make it possible to "considerably raise the combat capabilities of the attack platform with long-range precision weapons," he noted.
"The efficient engines with the enhanced potential will allow increasing the flight range and, together with the stated power-to-weight ratio, will enable the Tu-160 strategic missile carrier to retain its leading positions among strategic attack aircraft," Kobylash said.
It was reported in 2015 that Russia had made a decision to resume the production of Tu-160 bombers in their upgraded Tu-160M2 modification and reschedule the development of the new-generation bomber PAK DA (Perspective Airborne Complex of Long-Range Aviation) for a later term.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the serial production of Tu-160M2 bombers should begin in 2023. The Russian Aerospace Force intends to purchase no less than 50 such aircraft. Aerospace Force then-Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev said earlier that the Tu-160M2 might take to the skies for the first time already in late 2018.
The Tu-160 is the Soviet strategic missile carrier armed with cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Along with the Tu-95MS missile carrier, the Tu-160 makes part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces along with the ground-based missile systems and submarines.
According to data from public sources, the Russian Aerospace Force currently operates 16 such aircraft built during the Soviet period. About a half of these bombers has already undergone repairs and modernization.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov earlier said that all the Tu-160 bombers operational in the Aerospace Force will be fully upgraded.