NATO reporting name: Blackjack
Unofficial name: Belyi Lebed (White Swan)
TYPE: Strategic bomber.
PROGRAMME: Designed as Aircraft 70 under leadership of V I Bliznuk; programme began 1967, but relaunched following issue of more modest specification in 1970; derived from unbuilt Tu-135 bomber and Tu-144 derivatives; some features from rival Myasishchev M-18. First of two prototypes (70-01) observed by intelligence source at Zhukovsky flight test centre 25 November 1981; first flew 18 or 19 December 1981; first exceeded M1.0 February 1985; second (production-standard) aircraft first flew 7 October 1984. Third prototype (70-03) set world records for altitude, speed in a closed circuit and weight-to-altitude on 31 October 1989, 20 of these remaining unbroken in 2001. Further nine closed-circuit records established 22 May 1990 by aircraft '70-304'.
Second production aircraft lost pre-delivery, March 1987; US Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci invited to inspect 12th aircraft built, at Kubinka airbase, near Moscow, 2 August 1988; deliveries to 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, Priluki airbase, Ukraine, began April 1987; equipment of 1096th HBAR at Engels from 16 February 1992, but only six received before production at Kazan airframe plant terminated 1992; of 100 aircraft due to be built, at least 32 (including prototypes) accounted for by mid-1990s; unconfirmed reports suggest total of 40 having flown, plus three uncompleted at Kazan.
In 2001, Russia was reported to be formulating a Tu-160 upgrade, to be undertaken at Kazan, which includes provision for a conventionally armed cruise missile. Upgrade of 15 aircraft was agreed late 2001 and formally announced at Kazan on 18 January 2002; work will extend service lives to 2030; first upgrade candidate was delivered to Kazan on 5 April 2002. In October 2002, Tupolev confirmed this to be a two-stage upgrade, the first part (2003-04) concentrating on the addition of new weapons and the second, at an unspecified date, involving new avionics for navigation, attack and electronic warfare, with high degree of commonality with parallel Tu-22M and Tu-142 (Tu-95MS) upgrades.
CURRENT VERSIONS: Tu-160 ('Blackjack'): Strategic bomber.
Tu-160SK: Commercialised, demilitarised version, as carrier component of Burlak aviation space launch system; Burlak-Diana two-stage rocket, carrying payload, under fuselage on centreline mount. Announced at Singapore Air Show '94; proposed by Russian partners MKB-Raduga, OKB MEI and Tupolev, with German company OHB-System. At the 1995 Paris Air Show, Tu-160 0401 was exhibited statically (the type's Western debut) with a model Burlak rocket below the fuselage. Development of the system continued even after the German government withdrew funding in 1998, and may form the basis of the Ukrainian/PIC HAAL-2000 programme.
Tu-160M: Proposed stretched variant carrying two 2,700 m mile (5,000 km; 3,107 mile) range hypersonic Kh-90 missiles.
Tu-160P: Proposed very long-range escort fighter.
Tu-160PP: Proposed escort jammer.
Tu-160R: Proposed strategic reconnaissance platform.
CUSTOMERS: In January 2001, Russia had seven operational Tu-160s; a further eight undergoing refurbishment for delivery over following months; and one under construction.
Of original deliveries, Ukraine government seized 19 at Priluki on achieving independence, pre-empting planned transfer to Engels; purchase of these by Russia was subject to protracted negotiations, and aircraft deteriorated in storage; March 1996 agreement on transfer of 10 best airframes was not implemented; attempts to purchase eight failed in March 1998 and Russia then supposedly abandoned hopes of expanding Tu-160 fleet. However, October 1999 announcement revealed eight to be returned to Russia for refurbishment (together with three Tu-95MSs, for a total of US$285 million) and these were delivered between 5 November 1999 and 21 February 2000. Six others scrapped with US assistance, last being destroyed on 4 February 2001. August 2000 report mentioned further three Tu-160s which Ukraine could return to Russia in part-payment for natural gas deliveries. One further Ukrainian Tu-160 was flown to Poltava Kondratyuk-Shagray aerospace museum on 5 April 2000.
Russia maintained force of six (declared as ALCM carriers under START) at Engels (where 1096th HBAR was redesignated as part of the 121st Guards HBAR, within 22 Air Division, in 1994), plus flying testbed at Zhukovsky; at least four more were derelict at Zhukovsky by 1995. Despite this, 1998 US estimates of Russian combat forces reported total holding of nominally serviceable aircraft as 25, though this would not seem to be possible. Eight more to re-enter service from 2001 after purchase from Ukraine, while plan announced in June 1999 to complete one unfinished Tu-160 at Kazan. This aircraft ('07' Aleksandr Molodchyi) was delivered on 5 May 2000. Another, brand new Tu-160 (the first of three more incomplete, unfinished aircraft at Kazan) was due to be delivered in late 2002 (although this was not achieved, because of funding shortage), and the remaining two will follow, increasing the fleet to 18. At one time there were plans to refurbish some (perhaps four) of the grounded aircraft at Zhukovsky. Ex-Ukrainian aircraft failed to enter service when planned due to poor condition and need for extensive refurbishment; requirements were still being discussed in early 2002. Tu-160 may re-enter limited production, to meet a stated requirement for 25 operational 'Blackjacks' by 2003, allowing formation of a second regiment. Original six at Engels are also named: '01' Mikhail Gromov; '02' Vasily Retsetnikov; '03' Pavel Taran; '04' Ivan Yarygin; '05' Il'ya Muromets (1) and '06' Il'ya Muromets (2). The 10th Tu-160 (fleet number '16') was named Aleksey Plokhov on 17 April 2003.
On 3 March 1999, the Russian Commonwealth Aerospace Technology Consortium (RCATC) was authorised by the Ukrainian government to sell three demilitarised Ukrainian Air Force Tu-160s, plus spares, to Platforms International Corporation of the USA, with which it has finalised a strategic partnership. The US$20 million deal includes a 20 per cent interest in Orbital Network Services Corporation, which plans to use the aircraft as reusable communications satellite launchers in its HAAL-2000 High-Altitude Air Launch programme. The aircraft would probably be modified to Tu-160SK standards and continue to be based at Priluki, maintained and flown by Ukranian crews, but flown to customer countries for individual space launch missions.
DESIGN FEATURES: Intended for high-altitude standoff role carrying ALCMs and for defence suppression, using short-range attack missiles similar to US Air Force SRAMs, along path of bomber making low-altitude penetration to attack primary targets with free-fall nuclear bombs or missiles; this implies capability of subsonic cruise/ supersonic dash at almost M2 at 18,300 m (60,000 ft) and transonic flight at low altitude. About 20 per cent longer than USAF B-1B, with greater unrefuelled combat radius and much higher maximum speed; low-mounted variable geometry wings, with very long and sharply swept fixed root panel; small diameter circular fuselage; horizontal tail surfaces mounted high on fin, upper portion of which is pivoted one-piece all-moving surface; large dorsal fin; engines mounted as widely separated pairs in underwing ducts, each with central horizontal V wedge intakes and jetpipes extending well beyond wing centre-section trailing-edge; manually selected outer wing sweepback 20, 35 and 65o; when wings fully swept, inboard portion of each trailing-edge flap hinges upward and extends above wing as large fence; unswept tailfin; sweptback horizontal surfaces, with conical fairing for brake-chute aft of intersection.
FLYING CONTROLS: Quadruplex fly-by-wire with mechanical reversion. Full-span leading-edge flaps, long-span double-slotted trailing-edge flap and inset drooping aileron on each wing; five-section spoilers forward of flaps; all-moving vertical and horizontal one-piece tail surfaces.
STRUCTURE: Slim and shallow fuselage blended with wing-roots and shaped for maximum hostile radar signal deflection; 20 per cent titanium, including leading-edges and wing centre-section spar box.
LANDING GEAR: Twin nosewheels retract rearward; main gear comprises two bogies, each with three pairs of wheels; retraction very like that on Tu-154 airliner; as each leg pivots rearward, bogie rotates through 90o around axis of centre pair of wheels, to lie parallel with retracted leg; gear retracts into thickest part of wing, between fuselage and inboard engine on each side; so track relatively small. Nosewheel tyres size 1080x400; mainwheel tyres size 1260x425.
POWER PLANT: Four purpose-designed Samara NK-321 turbofans, each 137.3 kN (30,865 lb st) dry, 245 kN (55,115 lb st) with afterburning. In-flight refuelling probe retracts into top of nose. Fuel in centre-section spar box and in outer wings.
ACCOMMODATION: Four crew members in pairs, on individual Zvezda K-36LM zero/zero ejection seats, in pressurised compartment; one window each side of flight deck can be moved inward and rearward for ventilation on ground; flying controls use fighter-type sticks rather than yokes or wheels; crew enter via extending ladder in nosewheel bay. Cooking facilities and lavatory.
AVIONICS: Systems utilise around 100 digital processors and eight digital nav computers.
Radar: Obzor (NATO 'Clam Pipe') nav/attack radar in slightly upturned dielectric nosecone with separate Sopka radar providing terrain-following capability.
Flight: K-042K astro-inertial nav with map display.
Instrumentation: Analogne instruments. No HUD or CRTs.
Mission: OPB-15 strike sight fairing with flat glazed front panel, under forward fuselage, for video camera to provide visual assistance for weapon aiming.
Self-defence: Baikal self-protection system, with integrated RHAWS, chaff/flare dispensers in tailcone and active jamming.
ARMAMENT: No guns. Internal stowage for free-fall bombs, mines, short-range attack missiles or ALCMs; two tandem 12.80 m (42 ft) long weapon bays; MKU-6-5U rotary launcher for six (or up to 12) Kh-55MS (AS-15 'Kent') or RKV-500B (AS-15B 'Kent-B') ALCMs or 12 to 24 Kh-15P (AS-16 'Kickback') SRAMs in each bay. Aircraft upgraded from 2002 onwards have ability to launch Kh-555 missiles; later plans envisage carriage of up to 12 non-nuclear Kh-101 ALCMs, when available.