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Tupolev Tu-160M Takes Flight

Resurrected Russian Bomber Makes Headway On Flight Testing

The Tupolev "strategic missile carrier" version of its supersonic, variable-wing Tu-160 has taken flight from the Kazan Aviation Plant for initial checks of its stability and control systems. The flight is a landmark for the resurrected aircraft following work on bringing a modernized, updated variant back into production. 

The Tupolev has been the focus of efforts to create a modernized, updated aircraft of the 40-year old design. United Aircraft Corporation CEO Yuri Slyusar said the project was essentially the manufacture of a brand-new Tu-160 from the ground up, telling reporters the Tu-160 is “completely rebuilt from scratch. It’s systems and equipment have been upgraded by up to 80%.” The project has required significant effort, said the company in a statement outlining their progress. "The design documentation for the Tu-160M aircraft was fully digitized in a short time, the titanium vacuum welding process restored, the airframe component manufacturing resumed, and a new cooperation arranged, uniting industry leaders in metallurgy, aviation, mechanical engineering and instrument making, as the majority of them belongs to Rostec State Corporation. The aircraft retains its predecessor’s appearance, while being based on novel engineering concepts and digital technologies," said a company spokesman.

Those involved in production and manufacturing understand the level of effort required to bring old, retired projects back to life, taking equal parts archeologist, engineer, and archivist to resurrect a design. The work has borne fruit, as the new aircraft took to the skies for a low-level flight at 2,000 feet to perform checks on the machine's fly-by-wire systems and stability control. The Tu-160 will ultimately see service as the biggest, heaviest mach 2 aircraft in the world, boasting 55,000 pounds of thrust at max output. The bright white, anti-flash coating belies its fundamental role as a standoff munitions delivery platform deep inside hostile territory. Defense Minister Denis Manturov said the addition to the Russian air fleet will "further development for new types of promising weapons." The Tupolev required revamping of nearly every part of the infrastructure required to create it, he said. 

The revamp of Kazan Aviation Plant has greatly aided to the restoration of the unique model’s manufacturing processes – the machines and testing infrastructure were upgraded and the world's largest plant for titanium electron-beam welding and vacuum annealing was put into operation," said Manturov. The result is worth it, he said, as they will soon have a world-class modern aircraft at their disposal. "Tu-160 is one of the largest and most advanced projects in Russia’s aviation industry," said Slyusar in agreement.

FMI: www.rostec.ru/en


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