Russia RFVKS Tu 160M 640Flight tests second Tu-160M

On 17 September 2021, the second Tupolev Tu-160M modernized strategic missile carrier equipped with new engines NK-32 series 02 (NK-32-02), started flight tests at Kazan Aviation Plant named after S.P. Gorbunov.

One of the flight tests took place during an event at the Kazan Plant, where several high Russian officials were invited to examine the modernised bomber as a part of a large-scale upgrade programme for combat aircraft systems of Russian strategic and long-range aviation.

The invited high officials were: Sergei Chemezov - General Director of the State Corporation Rostec, Rustam Minnikhanov - President of the Republic of Tatarstan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of PJSC Tupolev, Yuri Slyusar - General Director of PJSC UAC (part of State Corporation Rostec), Vadim Korolev - Managing Director of PJSC Tupolev (part of PJSC UAC) and Nikolai Savitskikh - Director of the KAZ plant (a branch of PJSC Tupolev).

The date of the first test flight of this aircraft after the upgrade was not reported but it is quite likely that it occured before the actual high-profile visit. The aircraft is still unpainted and bears a new registration RF-94444 painted on the tail, the airframe serial has not yet been reported, but it should be either 4-01 (former 342 Blue, Boris Veremey) or the mythical 8-05 which has not been seen in action for decades.

The first prototype of the Tu-160M modernized strategic bomber ​​was converted from a series Tu-160 bomber with the serial 4-05 (tail number 14 Red, registration number RF-94103, named Igor Sikorsky), which was returned from Ukraine in 1998 as 22 Red. The aircraft made its first flight after the completion of the conversion at the Kazan Aviation Plant on 2 February 2020, still with series NK-32 engines. The first batch of NK-32-02 engines was accepted in August 2020 and the first flight with NK-32 series 02 (NK-32-02) powerplants was executed on 3 November 2020.

After the completion of the flight tests, the first aircraft was transferred to the flight test and development base of Tupolev PJSC in Zhukovsky. Scramble Magazine reported on the arrival of the first modernized Tu-160M on 16 March 2021.

Fifteen Tu-160s are earmarked to be converted to the new Tu-160M standard. Additional aircraft designated Tu-160M2 shall follow from new production at the KAZ Plant. Based on the NK-32-02 engine contracts with UEC-Kuznetsov PJSC signed in 2018 and 2021, we should expect to see four upgraded Tu-160M ​​and one new-built Tu-160M2 prototype (already seen in an advanced stage of assembly at the KAZ plant in August 2021) by the end of 2022, with an additional four Tu-160Ms by the end of 2024.

With regards to the Tu-160M2, ten aircraft have already been firmly ordered and more orders should follow bringing the total number of all Tu-160s to fifty.

A small video impression of one of the test flights can be found at YouTube.

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