Tupolev Tu-160

Tu-160
Tupolev Tu-160 in 2001
TypeStrategic bomber
ManufacturerTupolev
Maiden flight18 December 1981
Introduced1987/2005 (official)
StatusIn production
Primary userRussian Air Force
ProducedKazan Aircraft Plant
Number built35
Developed fromMyasishchev M-18


The Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO reporting name Blackjack) is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber designed by the Soviet Union. Similar to, but more complex and with more payload capacity than the B-1 Lancer, it was the last Soviet strategic bomber design and the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. Introduced in 1987, production of the aircraft still continues, with 16 currently in service with the Russian Air Force. Its pilots call the Tu-160 the “White Swan”, due to the surprising maneuverability and antiflash white finish of the aircraft.[1]

History

The first competition for a supersonic strategic heavy bomber was launched in the Soviet Union in 1967. The new plane was to have a cruise speed of over Mach 3, in response to the American XB-70 Valkyrie. It soon became apparent that such an aircraft would be too expensive and difficult to produce, so it was decided to reduce demands (in the U.S., the XB-70 project had already been cancelled).

In 1972, the Soviet Union launched a new multi-mission bomber competition to create a new supersonic, variable-geometry ("swing-wing") heavy bomber with a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, in response to the U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber project. The Tupolev design, dubbed Aircraft 160M, with a lengthened flying wing layout and incorporating some elements of the Tu-144, competed against the Myasishchev M-18 and the Sukhoi T-4 designs. Myasishchev's version, proposing a variable-geometry aircraft, was considered to be the most successful, although the Tupolev organization was regarded as having the greatest potential for completing this complex project. Consequently, Tupolev was assigned in 1973 the development of a new aircraft based on the Myasishchev design.

Although the B-1A was cancelled in 1977, work on the new Soviet bomber continued, and in the same year, the design was accepted by the government committee. The prototype was photographed by an airline passenger at a Zhukovsky Airfield in November 1981, about a month before the aircraft's first flight on 18 December 1981. Production was authorized in 1984, beginning at Kazan Aviation Association. Production of the aircraft, designated Tu-160 (factory designation "aircraft K" or "product 70"), was originally intended to total 100 aircraft, although only 35 have been produced, including three prototypes. The second prototype was lost in flight testing in 1987, the crew ejecting successfully. Production slowed due to lack of funds, and ceased in 1994, although uncompleted aircraft still remain in good condition and could be completed if orders and funding are put through.

Deployment

Enlarge picture
Tupolev Tu-160
The Tu-160 was first presented to the public on a parade in 1989. In 1989–1990 it also set 44 world speed flight records in its weight class. Squadron deployments to Long Range Aviation began in April 1987. Until 1991 19 of those aircraft served in the 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment in Pryluki in the Ukrainian Socialist Republic, replacing Tu-16 'Badger' and Tu-22M3 'Backfire' aircraft. After the fall of the Soviet Union those aircraft became Ukrainian property, although in 1999 a deal between Russia and Ukraine led to eight of those aircraft being returned to Russia in exchange for a reduction in Ukraine's energy debts. Ukraine, which gave up nuclear weapons as part of the collapse of USSR, has destroyed the other Blackjacks in its possession, except for one airframe retained for static display.

Russia's second Tu-160 unit, the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment basing in Engels, was organised in 1992, but by 1994 it had received only six aircraft. Between 1999 and 2000 the eight formerly Ukrainian planes were assigned to the regiment, with another being completed in a factory and given to the regiment in 2000. At least one aircraft has been lost, during a test flight after engine repairs, on 16 September 2003.

There are 14 Tu-160s in service as of November 2005. Another two new-built aircraft are nearing completion at the Kazan Aircraft Plant, one of which was planned for entry into service in March 2006, with the other following later in the year.

As of 2001, six additional Tu-160 served as experimental aircraft at Zhukovski, four of them remaining airworthy. It is planned to complete two more in 2007 and raise the total number of active aircraft to 30 by 2012(?).

On 30 December 2005, under an order signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Tu-160 officially entered service in the VVS.

On August 17, 2007 it was announced by President Vladimir Putin that Russia was resuming strategic aviation flights stopped in 1991, sending its bomber aircraft on long-range patrols.

On September 11, 2007, a Tu-160 was used to drop the massive fuel-air explosive device, the Father of all bombs, for its first ever field-test. [1]

On October 16, 2007, a Norwegian F-16 met a Tu-160 outside the Norwegian coast. [2]

Description

Enlarge picture
Soviet officers stand in the shadow of a Blackjack bomber aircraft.
The Tu-160 bears a strong resemblance to the North American B-1A Lancer, although it is significantly larger, faster and with far greater range. The Blackjack has a blended wing profile and variable-geometry wings, with sweep selectable from 20° to 65°. Full-span slats are used on the leading edges, with double-slotted flaps on the trailing edges. The Tu-160 has a fly-by-wire control system.

The Blackjack is powered by four Kuznetsov NK-321 afterburning turbofan engines, the most powerful ever fitted to a combat aircraft. Unlike the B-1B, which abandoned the Mach 2+ requirement of the original B-1A, it retains variable intakes, and is capable of slightly over Mach 2 at altitude.

The Tu-160 is equipped with a probe and drogue in-flight refueling system for extended-range missions, although this is rarely used due to the massive internal fuel capacity of 130 tons, giving a flight endurance of roughly 15 hours.

Although the Tu-160 was designed for reduced detectability to both radar and infrared, it is not a stealth aircraft. Russian sources claim that it has a smaller radar cross section (RCS) than the B-1B, but this claim is not known to have been independently verified, and seems unlikely given the Blackjack's much more exposed engine inlets and broader wing gloves. Nevertheless, on 25 April 2006 Commander Igor Khvorov claimed that Tu-160s had managed to penetrate North American airspace undetected, leading to a NATO investigation. [2] [3]

The Blackjack has an attack radar ("Obzor-K", NATO reporting name Clam Pipe) in a slightly upturned dielectric radome, plus a separate "Sopka" terrain-following radar, which provides fully automatic terrain-following flight at low level. The Tu-160 has an electro-optical bombsight. Its electronic warfare suite includes comprehensive active and passive ECM systems.

The Tu-160 has a crew of four (pilot, co-pilot, weapons systems officer and defensive systems operator) in K-36DM ejection seats. The pilot has a fighter-style control stick, but the flight instruments are traditional "steam gauge" dials. A crew rest area, a toilet, and a galley are provided for long flights. There is no HUD, nor are CRT multi-function displays provided in the original aircraft; however, plans for modernization of all Tu-160s were announced in 2003. It will include new digital flight control system, and the ability to carry new weapon types, such as new non-nuclear long-range cruise missiles.

Weapons are carried in two internal bays, each capable of holding 20,000 kg (44,400 lb) of free-fall weapons, or a rotary launcher for nuclear missiles. Additional missiles may be carried externally, and the plane's maximum bombload is a respectable 45,000kg, which makes it the heaviest bomber in the world. No defensive weapons are provided, making it the first unarmed post-World War II Soviet bomber.

Modernization

In 2006, the Russian Airforce was expected to receive five modernized and another newly produced Tu-160 [4]. The Russian Airforce will further receive five modernized Tu-160s each year [5], which means modernization of the fleet may be complete within three years if the schedule is kept up.

Changes announced as follows:
  • completely digital, multireserved, neutron and other nuclear emissions resistant avionics
  • full support of cruising and steering through GLONASS global satellite positioning system
  • updated version of NK-32 engines with increased reliability. <ref name="U1" />
  • ability to operate new nuclear/non-nuclear GLONASS-navigated cruise missiles (Kh-555). [6]
  • ability to handle missiles that launch military or civil satellites [7]
  • ability to bear laser-guided bombs [8]
  • advanced radar emissions absorbing covering [9]
Army General Vladimir Mikhailov said in January 2007 that every three years the VVS would receive two new Tu-160s, and would start a new program to upgrade the avionics on its current fleet of 16 bombers.[10]

Variants

A demilitarized, commercial version of the Blackjack, dubbed Tu-160SK, was displayed at an air show in Singapore in 1994 with a model of a small space vehicle named Burlak attached underneath the fuselage. In 1995 Tupolev announced a partnership with the German firm OHB-System to produce the aircraft as a carrier for the launch vehicle; the German government subsequently withdrew funding in 1998. Development reportedly continues, although funding in the CIS is scarce.

Several other variants have been proposed, but not built, including:
  • Tu-160S: designation used for serial Tu-160s when needed to separate them from all the pre-production and experimental aircraft [11]
  • Tu-160V: liquid hydrogen fuelled version (see also Tu-155) <ref name="A&C" />
  • Tu-160 NK-74: upgraded (extended range) version with NK-74 engines <ref name="A&C" />
  • Tu-160M: a stretched bomber carrying two long-range, hypersonic Kh-90 (3M25 Meteorit-A) missiles
  • Tu-160P (Tu-161): a very long-range escort fighter/interceptor
  • Tu-160PP: an electronic warfare aircraft carrying stand-off jamming and ECM gear (Russian: ПП - постановщик помех)
  • Tu-160R: a strategic reconnaissance platform
  • Tu-160SK: commercial version, designed to launch satellites within the "Burlak" (Russian: Бурлак, "hauler") system. <ref name="A&C" />
  • Tu-170: a conventional bomber (conceived in order to avoid SALT-2 limits)

Operators

Current

Former

Specifications (Tu-160)

Enlarge picture
Orthographic projection of the Tupolev Tu-160.

General characteristics

* Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, defensive systems operator)
  • Length: 54.1 m (177 ft 6 in)* Wingspan:
  • Spread (20° sweep): 55.70 m (189 ft 9 in)
  • Swept (65° sweep): 35.60 m (116 ft 10 in)
  • Height: 13.10 m (43 ft 0 in)* Wing area:
  • Spread: 400 m² (4,310 ft²)
  • Swept: 360 m² (3,875 ft²)* Empty weight: 110 t (242,000 lb)* Loaded weight: 267 t (590,000 lb)* Max takeoff weight: 275 t (606,000 lb
)* Powerplant: 4 Kuznetsov NK-321 turbofans** Dry thrust: 137 kN (30,900 lbf) each ) each

Performance

Armament

References

1. ^ rian.ru: Tu-160 White Swan
2. ^
3. ^ [3]
4. ^ [4]
5. ^ [5]
6. ^ [6]
7. ^ [7]
8. ^ [8]
9. ^ [9]
10. ^ [10]
11. ^ "Aviation and cosmonautics" magazine, 5.2006 ISSN 168-7759, p.10-11
12. ^ [11]

External links

Related content

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence

Tu-114 - Tu-144 - Tu-154 - Tu-160 - Tu-204 - Tu-2000

Related lists

See also

strategic bomber is a large aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic
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An aerospace manufacturer is a company or individual involved in the various aspects of designing, building, testing, selling, and maintaining aircraft, aircraft parts, missiles, rockets, and/or spacecraft.
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Public Stock Company Tupolev

Public
Founded 1922
Headquarters Moscow, Russia

Industry Aerospace and defense
Products Commercial airliners
Military aircraft
Website Tupolev.
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The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground of its own accord. This is similar to a ship's maiden voyage.

The first flight of a new aircraft type is always a historic occasion for the type.
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December 18 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

Events


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1981 1982 1983 1984

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1987 1988 1989 1990

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Russian Air Force (Russian: Военно-воздушные cилы России, transliteration: Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii
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The Myasishchev M-18 is a Russian Military aircraft. It is designed to be a supersonic bomber. The project was dropped in fovour of the Tu-160 program.
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Public Stock Company Tupolev

Public
Founded 1922
Headquarters Moscow, Russia

Industry Aerospace and defense
Products Commercial airliners
Military aircraft
Website Tupolev.
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NATO reporting names are unclassified code names for Soviet/Russian and Chinese military equipment. They provide unambiguous and easily understood names in place of Russian terms which may be confusing or even unknown.
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supersonic. Speeds greater than 5 times the speed of sound are sometimes referred to as hypersonic. Speeds where only some parts of the air around an object (such as the ends of rotor blades) reach supersonic speeds are labelled transonic (typically somewhere between Mach 0.
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swing-wing is an airplane wing that may be swept back and then returned to its original position during flight. It allows the plane's planform to be modified in flight, and is therefore an example of variable geometry.
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heavy bomber is a bomber aircraft of the largest size, and typically longest ranges. The term was used primarily prior to and during World War II, when engine power was so scarce that designs had to be carefully tailored to their missions.
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Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR, Russian: ; tr.
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Type Strategic bomber
Manufacturer North American Rockwell
Rockwell International
Boeing
Maiden flight 23 December 1974
Introduction 1 October 1986
Status 67 active,[1]
24 inactive
Primary user
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strategic bomber is a large aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic
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Russian Air Force (Russian: Военно-воздушные cилы России, transliteration: Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii
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Anti-flash white is a brilliant white colour commonly seen on United States and British nuclear bombers in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the Tupolev Tu-160. The purpose of the colour was to reflect some of the thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion, protecting the aircraft
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supersonic. Speeds greater than 5 times the speed of sound are sometimes referred to as hypersonic. Speeds where only some parts of the air around an object (such as the ends of rotor blades) reach supersonic speeds are labelled transonic (typically somewhere between Mach 0.
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Mach number (Ma) (pronounced: [mɑːk], [mɑx], [mæk], see IPA) is a dimensionless measure of relative speed.
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Type Strategic bomber
Supersonic research airplane
Manufacturer North American Aviation
Maiden flight 21 September 1964
Status canceled in 1967
Primary user NASA
Number built 2 prototypes
Program cost US$1.
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supersonic. Speeds greater than 5 times the speed of sound are sometimes referred to as hypersonic. Speeds where only some parts of the air around an object (such as the ends of rotor blades) reach supersonic speeds are labelled transonic (typically somewhere between Mach 0.
..... Click the link for more information.
swing-wing is an airplane wing that may be swept back and then returned to its original position during flight. It allows the plane's planform to be modified in flight, and is therefore an example of variable geometry.
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United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial warfare branch of the United States armed forces and one of the seven uniformed services. Previously part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947.
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