The new Tu-160M2 strategic bomber will enter service in 2024 with the Russian Air Force

The first Tu-160M2 strategic bomber, a modernized version of the famous Blackjack supersonic bomber, should enter service with the Russian air forces in 2024, according to recent official statements. The arrival of this device will make it possible to begin the modernization of the last Russian strategic component, until now somewhat neglected in favor of the strategic submarine fleet and land launchers.

Speaking to Russian journalists, the commander of the Russian Strategic Air Forces, Sergey Kobylash, announced thata new combat aircraft would join its fleet in 2024.

If the usual communication convolutions of the Russian authorities may suggest that it could be a new bomber like the PAK-DA, in fact, the most probable hypothesis is that it will be, there, of the entry into service of the first Tu-160M2 strategic bombers, the ultimate modernized version of the Blackjack supersonic bomber.

Russian strategic aviation today

Since 2012, Russian strategic forces have undergone a major modernization effort, enabling them to have a modern equipment rate of more than 85%, compared to 50% ten years earlier. However, these efforts have been very uneven depending on the components of the country's nuclear triad.

Thus, the Russian Navy's fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines has received 7 new Borei and Borei-A class submarines since 2012, out of a theoretical fleet of 12 ships. The last 5 ships, construction of which has already started, will be delivered between 2024, for the Knyaz Pozharsky, and 2031, for the last unit.

Russian Borei-A class nuclear ballistic missile submarine
The Russian strategic submarine fleet has been given priority for modernization credits, having so far admitted to service 7 of the 12 Borei and Borei-A which it will implement in 2031.

The Russian strategic land component has also progressed rapidly in recent years, with the delivery of the first RS-28 Sarmat ICBMs armed with Avangard hypersonic gliders, in order to replace the RS-36 and RS-36M.

The Russian strategic air forces, finally, today operate around fifteen Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic bombers which entered service in the 80s, but rely mainly on the fifty Tu-95MS still in service and dating from the 50s, an immense turboprop bomber offering performances close to those of the American B-52, of which it shares precedence.

If the effort to modernize strategic submarine and land forces began at the end of the 2000s, that of the air forces did not really begin until 2015, with the launch of the Tu-160M2 program, and the announcement of the PAK-DA stealth bomber program.

The Tu-160M2 Blackjack strategic bomber of the Russian Air Force

An evolution of the Tu-160, the Tu-160M2, designated within NATO by the code Blackjack, uses its four-engine configuration and variable geometry, to support speeds of up to Mach 2. With its two large ammunition bays, the The aircraft can carry up to 24 cruise missiles armed with a Kh-15 nuclear warhead, or 12 heavy cruise missiles of the Kh-55 family, over 7 km at Mach 000, and over 0,9 km at Mach 2.

Anecdote : NATO code names generally use the same first letter to designate similar equipment. Fighter planes start with an F for Fighter, like the Mig-21 Fishbed, the Mig-23/27 Flogger, the Mig-31 foxhound or the Su-27 family, the Flanker. Bombers start, however, not with a B, like the Tu-95 Bear, the Tu-22 Blinder, the Tu-22M Backfire and the Tu-160 Blackjack.

Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber
The Russian strategic air component still relies today mainly on the fifty modernized Tu-95 Bear bombers still in service. These devices must be replaced with the arrival of the PACK-DA program.

The Tu-160M2 Blackjack is a profoundly renewed aircraft, with modern avionics and an ergonomic glass cockpit, a new electronic warfare and self-defense suite, as well as new, more powerful and, above all, more fuel-efficient turbojet engines. The bomber would also be covered ina coating capable of absorbing 30% of radar emissions, to increase its stealth.

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