KAZAN, April 29. /TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu gave instructions on Wednesday to study the issue of resuming the production of Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO reporting name: Blackjack) supersonic strategic bombers at the Kazan aviation plant in the Volga Republic of Tatarstan.
"It is necessary already today to start implementing tasks not only for keeping in good order and modernizing the fleet of long-range aviation but also for reproducing Tu-160 missile carriers," Shoigu said during a visit to the Kazan plant.
The Tu-160 bomber is "a unique plane that has been several decades abreast of time and has not used its constructive possibilities to the full extent until now," the Russian defense minister said.
"No one has devised a better plane in the supersonic category up to date," Shoigu said.
The Russian Air Force currently operates about 15 Tu-160 strategic bombers. The missile carriers are undergoing modernization, which was announced in 2012.
Russia is currently developing a new strategic bomber dubbed PAK DA (prospective aviation complex of long-range aviation). The new bomber is expected to make its first flight in 2019 and become operational in the Russian Air Force approximately in 2023-2025.
According to previous reports, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu held a workshop on the restoration and maintenance of the country’s long-range aviation fleet. The Defense Ministry said Shoigu has visited the Kazan Aviation Plant and gave orders to furnish the enterprise with new equipment to boost the long-range aviation power.
Ahead of the meeting, the ministry said, Shoigu visited shops of the aircraft plant where the Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 bombers are repaired and modernized.
The Defense Ministry press service told TASS on Wednesday that Russia’s Air Force will get two strategic bombers Tupolev Tu-160 and twelve long-range Tu-22M3 bombers before the end of this year.
In February, Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev said that deep modernisation of five Tu-160 and nine Tu-22M3 aircraft would be completed this year.
"Six more Tu-22M3 aircraft have been taken for modernization to the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant," the press service said.
The Kazan Aviation Plant, founded in 1927, is a subsidiary of JSC Tupolev. It currently manufactures special purpose aircraft on the basis of Tu-214, as well as repairs and modernises bombers. In addition, the company manufactures and supplies components and assemblies within the framework of cooperation with other plants of the United Aircraft Corporation. In particular, the Kazan plant is preparing for the production of wings and tail assembly for the IL-476 planes.