Russia has assembled its first Tupolev Tu-160M, a strategic missile transport bomber that began its ground tests, preliminary to flight tests.
On November 28, the first highly upgraded Tu-160M strategic missile transport bomber was transferred from production facilities to the Kazan aviation company's flight test station for ground and flight tests. Once the ground tests are completed, the Tu-160M will enter the flight test stage.
The new Tu-160M was not only built to increase the Russian strategic bomber fleet. The most important objective is to prepare the resumption of production of these aircraft at the Kazan Gorbunov aviation plant for the production of an order for 50 aircraft at the rate of production of three aircraft per year. The aircraft of this new production, designated Tu-160M (izdeliye 70M), keep the previous cell, but they will be equipped with modernized turbojets as well as new equipment and weapons.
The Russian Air Force currently employs 16 Tu-160s, all within the 121st heavy bombardment regiment based in Engels. As part of its intercontinental primary mission as a strategic missile carrier, the Tu-160 flies at a speed of Mach 0.77 and at an altitude of 11,000-12,000 m to achieve a maximum range of 12,300 km without refueling, with six Kh-55 cruise missiles.
The resumption of production, or rather the production of the new Tu-160M will also enable to maintain the current Tu-160 fleet in flight condition, which lacks more and more spare parts during maintenance sequences.