What is the modernization potential of the supersonic missile carrier Tu-160

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The day before, President Putin, during his visit to Tatarstan, not only inspected the supersonic strategic missile carrier Tu-160M ​​with the symbolic name “Ilya Muromets”, but also flew on it himself. What is the modernization potential of this aircraft, developed back in the seventies of the last century?

"White Swans"


Supersonic missile-carrying bombers Tu-160 “White Swan” (Blackjack - according to NATO classification) are an integral part of the air component of our “nuclear triad”. These are the largest, most powerful and fastest military aircraft weighing under 300 tons with variable sweep wings, capable of intercontinental flights. For obvious reasons, only three world powers have bombers of this class - the USA, Russia and China.



The decision to develop the Tu-160 in the USSR in the seventies of the last century was a response to the Pentagon’s emergence of the supersonic strategic bomber Rockwell B-1 Lancer as an air carrier of nuclear weapons to replace the relatively slow-moving B-52. The Soviet Tu-160 was originally created as a carrier of long-range cruise missiles with a special nuclear warhead. The aircraft has the ability to refuel in the air and can cover a distance of up to 12 thousand kilometers with a full combat load. This would allow the White Swans, in afterburner, to get within range of a missile strike on North America or other military targets in the Pacific Ocean.

Subsequently, the Tu-160s were adapted to carry out strikes with missiles with a non-nuclear warhead, as well as free-fall bombs, which can be either nuclear or non-nuclear. The huge combat load of the White Swan, reaching 45 tons, turns it into the “ultra-long arm” of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which can be used in conventional armed conflicts in remote theaters of operations. For example, in 2015, strategic bombers of the Long-Range Aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-95MS and Tu-160 carried out air strikes on military targets of militants in Syria.

These aircraft are also used during air defense in Ukraine, delivering strikes from as far away as possible, almost from the Caspian Sea, so as not to fall into the enemy air defense zone. Probably the main disadvantage of the Tu-160 is its high radar signature, which is inherent in the design of the aircraft itself. It is curious how the USSR at one time planned to solve this problem.

Based on the supersonic bomber, two unique aircraft were developed. The first is the Tu-160P, a project for a super-heavy escort fighter armed with long- and medium-range air-to-air missiles. The second is a supersonic electronic warfare aircraft designated Tu-160PP. It is obvious that the Tu-160P and Tu-160PP were supposed to accompany the White Swans on their intercontinental flight to North America in order to increase their survivability for the successful completion of the retaliation mission.

The second youth


However, these projects and some others, such as a carrier aircraft for a launch complex for launching satellites in the conditions of the destruction of spaceports by the enemy, were not implemented. Tu-160s are still in service with the modern Russian Federation. There are only 16 of them, and each has its own unique name.

In 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense decided to resume production of strategic missile carriers and modernize existing ones. The modernized aircraft received the designation Tu-160M, and those produced today from scratch - Tu-160M2. Doing this turned out to be a difficult task. After the collapse of the USSR, many production chains were broken. I had to completely digitize everything technical documentation for the aircraft developed in the 70s of the last century. Analog avionics in the Tu-160M ​​and Tu-160M2 needed to be replaced with modern digital ones.

Externally, the missile carrier remained the same, but its filling was completely updated. President Vladimir Putin made the decision to fly the modernized Tu-160M ​​Ilya Muromets himself during a visit to the Kazan Aviation Plant named after S.P. Gorbunov, where the production of unique aircraft was restored:

This is truly a new car, a new generation. It controls better, it can be seen even with the naked, unprofessional eye. Reliability is very high. Armament (high). The technology is excellent.

Let us recall that at one time, back in the peaceful year of 2018, President Putin expressed the idea of ​​​​creating a supersonic civil airliner based on the Tu-160 platform:

We need to make a civilian version.

This transformation, it seems, will not affect the “White Swan” after all. Maybe it’s for the better that KAZ’s production facilities are no longer occupied by civilian orders, but are used to increase the country’s defense capability.
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26 comments
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  1. -7
    23 February 2024 12: 17
    Probably the main disadvantage of the Tu-160 is its high radar signature, which is inherent in the design of the aircraft itself.

    That’s the whole answer: when these “swans” take off, the enemy will already make efforts to destroy them. With modern capabilities, this means that a 300-ton, extremely expensive aircraft becomes disposable. What you have, keep it in good working order; there is no point in spending more money on them. Invest in more modern and cheaper unmanned aerial vehicles, for example, as the “trendsetter” of the United States, in its new, cheaper B-21, although they are also already in question. The competition in arms is proceeding at an accelerating pace, and falling behind means laying the foundations for your defeats.
    1. +2
      23 February 2024 12: 48
      Why whine right away? To listen to you, you are a truly brilliant generalissimo. Paper only.
    2. -7
      23 February 2024 13: 02
      With modern capabilities, this means that a 300-ton, extremely expensive aircraft becomes disposable

      I join this. Moreover, if the Tu is detected by a satellite immediately after takeoff and cannot enter the enemy’s air defense zone or even approach it, then the question arises: why do we need such an expensive aircraft? Maybe arm the Il-76 or similar with missiles and fly and launch cruise missiles from afar in the same way. Everything will be cheaper. I'm not talking about drones.
      1. +5
        23 February 2024 13: 43
        Quote: Alexey Lan
        I join this. Moreover, if the Tu is detected by a satellite immediately after takeoff and cannot enter the enemy’s air defense zone or even approach it, then the question arises: why do we need such an expensive aircraft?

        Can I ask you a question? Why would he even enter the enemy’s air defense zone?
        1. -1
          24 February 2024 12: 48
          In principle, the military operations in Ukraine showed this; the plane was escorted from the moment it took off. And then it turns out that the missiles can be carried by any aircraft with a suitable payload and sufficient range, and not necessarily the super-expensive TU-160. All the same, they cannot fly up to the enemy’s air defense zone (even in Ukraine).
    3. +5
      23 February 2024 13: 42
      Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
      That’s the whole answer: when these “swans” take off, the enemy will already make efforts to destroy them. With modern capabilities, this means that a 300-ton, extremely expensive aircraft becomes disposable.

      Your opinion is very valuable to us))). No. Can you tell me how they will destroy it?
      1. -4
        23 February 2024 17: 16
        You know the Aegis system; its reach is increasing exponentially every decade. When surrounded by NATO countries, your understanding of air defense capabilities is strange.
      2. 0
        25 February 2024 14: 08
        Your opinion is very valuable to us))). No. Can you tell me how they will destroy it?

        One slingshot is enough.
    4. +6
      23 February 2024 19: 53
      How do you think the enemy will destroy an aircraft that can launch missiles with a flight range of 7000 km? The missiles will be launched at least 3000 km from enemy territory. You have confused the class of the aircraft, the Tu-160 is not an attack aircraft but a strategic missile carrier, its task is to launch missiles from the farthest possible distance
      1. -3
        23 February 2024 22: 58
        I'll have to explain.

        The missiles will be launched at least 3000 km from enemy territory

        So there are contradictions between an expensive aircraft of the 20th century and weapons of the first third of the 21st century. The purpose of the Tu-160 was to bring weapons to distant targets, today there is no such need, and air defense systems will no longer allow this. The Tu-160 no longer fits into modern combat operations with the armed forces of developed countries. The same thing with the B-52, B-1, even B-2, it’s not for nothing that the United States is urgently creating a replacement for them, the B-21 and other cheaper options... Today, mass production, relative cheapness and efficiency are the main criteria, and Tu -160 has lost its purpose and remains a mammoth in the VSK of the Russian Federation.
        1. +4
          24 February 2024 00: 38
          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          I'll have to explain.

          Judging by the nonsense written below, the explanation either has not grown or has already degraded.

          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          So there are contradictions between an expensive aircraft of the 20th century and weapons of the first third of the 21st century.

          The ideology of creating a carrier and bullet-piercing weapon has not changed. Logic and reality contradict you.

          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          The purpose of the Tu-160 was to bring weapons to distant targets, today there is no such need, and air defense systems will no longer allow this.

          The apotheosis of idiocy... I have never read anything like this about the Tu-160. Starting with the fact that the Tu-160 was initially a pure missile carrier with missiles that, in principle, excluded any entry into the stationary air defense zone of any object and exclude it now. Explain one point, I don’t quite understand why a missile with a range of 5500 km should be brought to the target, this is on AB? Or is it the same thing for you? Because many people call the Tu-160 a bomber? And yes, so what means will not allow you to reach the launch line?

          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          It’s the same with the B-52, B-1, even the B-2, it’s not for nothing that the United States is urgently creating a replacement for them, the B-21 and other cheaper options...

          Well, yes, well, yes... B-52s will fly until they begin to fall apart in the air. These are the only real strategists. Only they can carry tomahawks, which also allow them to eliminate the possibility of interception. The B-1 and especially the B-2, unlike the Tu-160, did not have long-range missiles and used bombs, which really made them disposable against any air defense. Until recently. But the AGM-158 JASSM ER significantly improved the situation, but still 960 km does not exclude interception of the carrier. But the B-1 can take a lot of them and push through any air defense if it does not work together with AWACS. The B-2 is being changed because it is very expensive and its losses will at the same time greatly affect the prestige of the United States; advertising itself has played a bad joke on them. In the end, the B-21 may not be much cheaper and, most importantly, more problematic in terms of software than the F-35. And the United States is creating new aircraft not because they are morally obsolete (they are primarily carriers) but because they will soon physically begin to fall apart.

          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          Today, mass production, relative cheapness and efficiency are the main criteria, and the Tu-160 has lost its purpose and remains a mammoth in the Russian Air Force.

          Well, another nonsense))) mass production, relative cheapness and effectiveness - this is at very short distances. And if you need to be able to reach an enemy on the other side of the world without intermediaries, there will be no smell of cheapness or mass production. Therefore, the Tu-160, unlike you, is a mammoth)) but a means of convincing the enemy at any distance. And neither the Americans nor we are going to abandon our strategists.
          I will say again that your opinion is very valuable)) NO. Because, as it turns out, you have no idea at all about the subject of the conversation, except for the name.
          1. -1
            24 February 2024 12: 02
            Everyone sees according to their own views. there is no point in convincing. And that today the concept and the aircraft are 50 years old, with rapidly progressing weapons and methods, your optimism seems unfounded. In my opinion, the use of the Tu-160 in a major war will be similar to the use of huge TB-3s at the beginning of the Second World War with tragic results.
            1. -1
              24 February 2024 14: 19
              Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
              Everyone sees according to their own views. there is no point in convincing.

              You are confusing beliefs and religion with sober calculation based on facts. You believe that the Tu-160 will shoot down the air defense, but you cannot provide any specific facts to support your words: what complexes/aircraft and what missiles.

              Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
              . And that today the concept and the aircraft are 50 years old, with rapidly progressing weapons and methods, your optimism seems unfounded.

              And of course you can give an example of what progressed so quickly? or, as usual, is it from the realm of faith?

              Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
              In my opinion, the use of the Tu-160 in a major war will be similar to the use of huge TB-3s at the beginning of the Second World War with tragic results.

              your faith is all I understand)) What will the Tu-160 shoot down over the Caspian Sea when launched across Europe? What will bring it down over the ice of the North Pole when attacking targets in Alaska or Canada.
              1. -1
                24 February 2024 14: 46
                Replica. Dreaming is not harmful, just like flying over the Arctic and everywhere else. But they forgot to ask the enemy if he would allow him to fly, even take off....
          2. 0
            25 February 2024 14: 12
            Who? Who will give the command to reconcile these weapons? Do you think Medvedev? Or who thinks that four rocket carriers will make a difference in the house? These counterarguments of yours are complete crap. I agree with Vladimir. All locations of deployment are well known to the potential enemy, does anyone think that they launched military satellites for money laundering? I'm sure they won't take their eyes off them.
    5. -1
      24 February 2024 12: 02
      that’s how it was created so that it would strike a retaliatory blow with all its weapons at least once, one of its successful combat sorties with missile launches is already thirteenth half of Britain... according to the standards, one tank is designed for 15-60 intense battles (also disposable) , so something like this...
      1. +1
        24 February 2024 12: 44
        Controversy. So why an expensive aircraft carrier, when for the same money twice as many Sarmats, Bulaves and other things are one-time with their delivery. Strategic aviation is already losing its position in a major war; other means are coming first, especially hyper-speed, underwater, and space-based ones with unlimited capabilities. (Poseidon, Vanguard, Zircon, etc.). As they say, betting on outdated weapons is a bad idea...
        1. The comment was deleted.
        2. -2
          24 February 2024 14: 22
          Quote: Vladimir Tuzakov
          olemika. So why an expensive aircraft carrier, when for the same money twice as many Sarmats, Bulaves and other things are one-time with their delivery.

          Let me remind you how the bet on missiles ended during the time of Khrushchev)). Or does history teach something that teaches nothing))
          1. +1
            24 February 2024 16: 42
            N. Khrushchev hoped for missiles, but what strategic defense is based on today is again missiles. Then they threw all their efforts into rocket science, which was in its infancy - so who is wrong in the end. The Brezhnev bureaucracy filled everything with N. Khrushchev with crap, and much of it was good. During that period, they fired a million in the troops and built “Khrushchev” buildings and developed the economy, which was absolutely correct. The development of the state has grown exponentially in five-year periods (statistics). The mass dismissal and resentment of the military remained. But the main thing is the country, not personal grievances... Because of the little things, they didn’t see the main thing.
          2. 0
            26 February 2024 05: 13
            Ilyukhin spoke about the state of the army back in 2008

  2. The comment was deleted.
    1. +3
      24 February 2024 00: 03
      About modernization there is almost nothing.

      Let me introduce - this is a flexible weapons platform:
      1. Nuclear triad complex. Massive launches of long-range missiles of 5-7tkm from positional areas. The strikes are automated, the crews' tasks are only to bring the carrier into the launch zone. The launch areas are obviously outside the enemy air defense zones. With all this, the Tu-160 is a second strike system, after the ICBM. When the entire enemy territory has already been cleared of existing air defense and missile defense systems.
      2. Operations with conventional long-range weapons in local theaters of operations. Examples - NVO, Syria.
      3. Potential carriers of promising strike systems as part of RUK-ROK
      4. Power projection and supersonic State Flag demonstrator on intercontinental routes.
    2. The comment was deleted.
  3. +1
    24 February 2024 12: 06
    the same people are dissatisfied, whether they work unclearly or are seriously worried...
  4. -1
    24 February 2024 12: 40
    For a strategic aircraft, the ability to launch missiles in the shortest possible time upon command is important. The missile launcher can launch while standing at the pier before it is destroyed. The Tu-160 needs to be prepared for flight for at least half an hour. And the Trident rocket from the Mediterranean or Norwegian seas to Engels takes 7 minutes of flight. All that stands at the airfield are targets. Only the plane in the air will survive and launch. A strategic cruise missile platform is required to be able to provide air surveillance that is permanent and, if possible, requires a minimum of cost and hassle. The Tu-160 does not correspond to any of this and does not provide constant duty in the air with nuclear weapons on board. Each flight is like a flight into space: T8 special fuel, its nitriding, cooling. 15 special departure technical support vehicles. You say: there will be an aggravation, we’ll take it into the air. Wait for June 22. In any case, the rest of our nuclear forces are ready to launch within 2 minutes.
    1. -3
      24 February 2024 14: 36
      Quote from Pembo
      For a strategic aircraft, the ability to launch missiles in the shortest possible time upon command is important. The missile launcher can launch while standing at the pier before it is destroyed. The Tu-160 needs to be prepared for flight for at least half an hour. And the Trident rocket from the Mediterranean or Norwegian seas to Engels takes 7 minutes of flight. All that stands at the airfield are targets. Only the plane in the air will survive and launch.

      Unfortunately, yes... everything is sad. It feels like the strategists are being kept in Engels, so that they will all be covered there at once and with one blow. Moreover, the flight time will most likely be from 2-3 minutes from the Mediterranean to 3-4 minutes from the Barents Sea. No one will even have time to twitch, or transmit information about what is flying and where. The Americans can and do launch their Tridents on a low flat trajectory, and this is a completely different approach time. From the outside it looks very beautiful, as if a meteorite is in the atmosphere.
      1. 0
        26 February 2024 19: 38
        There is one nuance in an emergency situation. Tu-160s with crew on board can be on duty at the airfield, ready for takeoff. They take a few minutes to take off. This was back in the Soviet army.
  5. 0
    25 February 2024 07: 15
    Again, arithmetic and the accuracy of the study of primary sources failed. There are not 16, but 18 aircraft in service with the Russian Armed Forces.