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Russia to renew Tu-160 Production?


Belesarius
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I would be shocked if any of the tooling and manufacturing expertise needed to make those things was still easily to hand after 20+ years.  They did make some "new" blackjacks in the mid 1990s if memory serves, but those were made from mostly already completed airframes they had lying around.

 

On top of that, TU-160 needs a lot of specialized ground equipment.  There's a big ground trolley to start the engines, for example.  Can they still make those?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Maybe Looser or Ensign could clarify or correct, but from what I have read, the TU-160 is more than just a strategic force projection tool for the Russian Air Force.  It's the biggest, heaviest combat aircraft in the world.  It has, next to the flanker, the most advanced engines and most advanced avionics that ever the Soviet Union did produce.  It even has (modest) stealth features.  As a strategic bomber only the B-2 could reasonably called its better.

 

In short, it's a bit of a point of pride, and I suspect that this pride needs to be considered in addition to purely strategic concerns.  Blackjack needs an enormous amount of support to be kept in the air.  The B-1B is supposed to be a bear to maintain; TU-160 is thirty metric tons heavier and has variable-geometry inlets!  But the Russian Air Force keeps them flying.

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Maybe Looser or Ensign could clarify or correct, but from what I have read, the TU-160 is more than just a strategic force projection tool for the Russian Air Force.  It's the biggest, heaviest combat aircraft in the world.  It has, next to the flanker, the most advanced engines and most advanced avionics that ever the Soviet Union did produce.  It even has (modest) stealth features.  As a strategic bomber only the B-2 could reasonably called its better.

 

In short, it's a bit of a point of pride, and I suspect that this pride needs to be considered in addition to purely strategic concerns.  Blackjack needs an enormous amount of support to be kept in the air.  The B-1B is supposed to be a bear to maintain; TU-160 is thirty metric tons heavier and has variable-geometry inlets!  But the Russian Air Force keeps them flying.

Exactly.  Nailed it right there. The Russian STRONK Ego must be maintained.

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This is a more plausible story than Colli believes, I think. The Russians have been fastidious about preserving what industrial architecture they can from the Soviet era. Unlike the US, where if a project goes dead it almost never gets resurrected in any way, the Russians will mothball projects for years and then revisit them.

Putin is looking to strengthen national defense, and the Tu-160 is still one of the most advanced bombers in the world. If they have the means to restart production, or at least production of spares, they may well do so.

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Word from Russia-watchers is that this is journalistic integrity at its best; they twisted the words of a senior official to mean something much more exciting than what they actually did.

 

What was said was that restarting production of TU-160 would only product attractive unit costs if the production run were 50 or so aircraft or more.

 

So then journalists started reporting that there were plans to make 50 TU-160s, which would be insanely expensive.

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Thirty-something were produced.  Production was closed off in the nineties, but there were enough half-completed airframes left over that they were able to bang out a few complete bombers every couple of years until the early 2000s or something.

 

Of those, less than half are combat-ready, although reports vary on exactly how many are good to go.

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Maybe there's something to all this...

6XT244e.jpg

 

This is a photo of an unfinished blackjack fuselage.  I have been unable to find out what year the picture is from.  Earlier reports were that all the unfinished fuselages had been finished into complete aircraft or cannibalized for parts, but there are some newer contentions that there are actually several more unfinished airframes in varying stages of completion.

 

So like Bele said, at the very least it's a persistent rumor.

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I heard that they were planning on getting 50+ more, so a full production restart.

 

https://theaviationist.com/2017/11/16/russia-unveils-new-tu-160m2-strategic-super-bomber-update/

 

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/16175/russia-rolls-out-new-tu-160m2-but-are-moscows-bomber-ambitions-realistic

 

Apparently new versions of the NK-32 are being used as well, with a corresponding 600km range increase.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Collimatrix said:

The bird being towed out now is, as I understand it, made from half-completed leftovers.  But a complete production restart is planned to follow later on.

 

Perhaps the Syrian conflict convinced the Russian military of the utility of more heavy bombers.

I think what's interesting to me, given some of the discussion we've had about the difficulty of engine production that they are doing an improved version of the NK-32.

 

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