The upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M strategic bomber will become the world's first aircraft with backwards firing air-to-air missiles (AAM) and thus be capable of intercepting targets behind it. The first new built Tu-160M2 strategic bomber made its debut 30-minute flight on 12 January 2022.
The new aircraft received upgraded engines, updated avionics, as well as new weapons control systems, including a rear-view radar station, which will allow the aircraft to use so-called reverse launch missiles for self-defence against incoming fighters, A-A missiles or SAM missiles approaching from the rear hemisphere. Such systems are deemed appropriate on heavy bombers since these are low-maneuverable vehicles that are unable to get involved in an aerial fight.
According to the industry sources, the AAMs on the Tu-160M and Tu-160M2 shall be facing forwards and thus also be able to hit targets in the front hemisphere. When hitting targets in the rear hemisphere, based on the target designation from the tail radar, they will have to turn 180 degrees in flight.
According to Denis Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, the first Tu-160M2 strategic missile carrier from the new production shall be handed over to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation by the end of the second quarter of 2022, in order to undergo state tests and commissioning.
Manturov also noted that the Tu-160M/M2 opens up prospects for the subsequent development of the new PAK-DA project - a promising long-range aviation complex which is now in advanced stages of the development and should see its first flight in the coming years. He also noted that the Tu-160M2 and PAK-DA aircraft will be produced in parallel at the Kazan Aviation Plant.
Photo by Alexander Shukhov / AviaPressPhoto (via russianplanes.net)