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Tupolev Tu-160

NATO Reporting name: BlackJack

Country of origin. Russia

Type.Strategic bomber

The project 'Aircraft 70' was started in 1973 under the leadership of V I Bliznuk, as a direct response to the B-1. Although B-1A was cancelled in 1977, design and development work continued and the first flight took place on 19 Dec. 1981. 100 Tu-160 were expected but only 30 were produced and the line was closed in 1992.

This aircraft has a crew of four, two in front and two at rear. Pilots are in the front and the Navigator/Bombardier and electronics systems operator behind them.

At present the only operators of this aircraft are Russia and Ukraine. The massive Tu-160 ('Blackjack' to NATO) is the heaviest and most powerful bomber ever built and was developed as a direct counter to the Rockwell B- 1A. But unfortunately the capability of this aircraft exceeds in almost every aspect. The Tu-160 is much more stealthier (i.e. lower RCS) than the B-1B plus has a greater payload. But as far as onboard avionics are concerned, the B-1B is way better. There are no MF digital displays inside the cockpit and the tactical situation display is probably made on the Helmet Mounted Systems apart from the analogue devices.

The Tu-160 is similar in overall configuration to the B-1, but is much larger overall and has a number of different features. The four NK-231 afterburning turbofans are the most powerful engines fitted to a combat aircraft and are mounted in pairs under the inner fixed wings. The variable geometry air inlets are designed for speed (Mach 1 at low level, over Mach 2 at altitude). The Tu-160 has a retractable in-flight refuelling probe although it is rarely used due to the aircraft's massive 130 tonne internal fuel capacity.

The variable geometry wings have full span leading edge slats and double slotted trailing edge flaps, while the airframe is free of any protuberances (except for a small video camera window for the pilots). The nav/attack radar is believed to have a terrain following function, while the Tu-160 has a comprehensive ECM jamming system. The four crew sit on their own ejection seats and the pilots have fighter style sticks. The Tu-160 has a fly-by-wire flight control system.

About a dozen Tu-160s are in Russia (some are not airworthy) and 19 in the Ukraine, with an initial 10 of these due to be transferred to Russian control.

The Tu-160SK is a commercial variant being offered as a launch vehicle for the Burlak-Diana satellite launching rocket.

Powerplants. Four 137.3kN (30,865lb) dry and 245.2kN (55,115lb) with afterburning Samara/Trud NK-231 turbofans.

Performance: Max speed at 40,000ft Mach 2.05 or 2220km/h (1200kt), cruising speed at 45,000ft 960km/h (518kt). Max initial rate of climb 13,780ft/min. Service ceiling 49,200ft. Radius of action at Mach 1.3 2000km (1080nm). Max unrefuelled range 12,300km (6640nm).

Weights: Empty 110,000kg (242,505lb), max takeoff 275,000kg (606,260lb).

Dimensions. Wing span wings extended 55.70m (182ft 9in), wing span wings swept 35.60m (116ft 9in), length 54.10m (177ft 6in), height 13.1 0m (43ft 0in). Wing area wings extended 360.0m (3875sq ft).

Armament Max weapon load 40,000kg (88,185lb), comprising freefall bombs or ASMs in two internal bomb bays. One rotary launcher can be carried in each bay to carry six Kh-55MS (AS-1 5 'Kent') ALCMs or 12 Kh-15P (AS-16 'Kickback') SRAMs. No defensive armament.

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