Russia has been working for a long time to advance its army and modernize its military capabilities in line with technological developments and global arms race. Therefore, today we find it ranked second in the world among the list of the most powerful armies in the world, according to the classification of the latest report of “Global Fire Power”, as it spends billions of dollars annually on its military sector, until it has ranked fourth in the world in this regard, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report 2021. Due to Russia’s great interest and its relentless pursuit of building a military force comparable in its capabilities to the most powerful armies in the world, Moscow today has huge and advanced military fleets in the defense fields of land, sea and air, and there are now plenty of reports about its modern military industries and the huge development processes that affect its military sector.
Modernization and development
During the past decade, Moscow has carried out numerous and massive modernization and development of its most important strategic weapons, as these upgrades covered various military fields, perhaps the most prominent of which was the modernization process, which affected about 60 percent of the famous TU-160 strategic bomber systems, nicknamed “the White Swan.” as it has had a wide response in military circles around the world during the past few years.
Power Projection on Victory Day
In a majestic display of military strength, the Russian Air Force, which possesses large numbers of warplanes, flew the giant plane in the sky of the Red Square in the capital, Moscow, last May, in conjunction with the Russian Bear’s celebrations of the 76th victory, which falls on May 9 of each year.
A long history and a bright future
The legendary “Tu-160” or “White Swan” plane is a multi-wing hypersonic ICSB missile carrier and bomber, designed during the Soviet Union, in the Cold War era by the prominent Russian aircraft designer, Andrei Tupolev, which was famous for designing civil and military aircraft.
In 1987, the Russian bomber entered service with the Soviet Air Force to carry out the tasks assigned to it at any point on the planet, and it is still under production and modernization, albeit to a limited extent. There are also at least 16 of these bombers in the service of the Russian Air Force, which considers them an integral part of the country’s nuclear shield.
During its years of operation, the Russian bomber succeeded in carrying out many military maneuvers and sorties with fighter jets in many countries of the world. It also participated in precise military operations and bombed and destroyed many targets of the terrorist organization “ISIS” in Syria with conventional ammunition.
Moscow spares no effort whenever it allows the opportunity to display its forces and show off its military products. We find that it regularly participates in the most important aerospace exhibitions, and has exhibited in many of these events the giant strategic bomber.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has been working for years to develop and modernize Tu-160 bombers after their production stopped for a period of time, as it seeks to double its fleet of these aircraft and increase their efficiency by a large percentage, within the framework of the long-term Russian government armament program. Modernization aims to extend the service life of the bomber for a period of between 45 and 50 years, due to its great importance in the Russian Air Force.
Before modernization operations, many reports indicated that the only thing that this bomber was missing was the technology of “Stealth aircraft”, as fighters escorted it to protect it in the lower layers of the atmosphere, so the modernization operations included coating the plane with special materials that make it invisible by radars.
The Russian strategic bomber broke dozens of records indicative of its robust performance and durability.
Given its distinctive white color that reflects part of the thermal radiation of nuclear explosions, its slim exterior, and its supernatural power, the military and aviation experts nicknamed Tu-160 “the White Swan”, due to the consistency of its dimensions and its “aerodynamic” performance, in what NATO calls it “Black Jack”, and the upgraded version of this bomber was named “TU 160M,” which passed many modernization tests.
Specifications and features
The Tu-160 is a multi- curvature wing aircraft, where the bomber commander can choose the degree of wing curvature according to the mission and flight speed.
The length of the strategic bomber is about 54 meters, and the wingspan, which is related to the overall design of the aircraft, exceeds 55.7 meters.
The “White Swan” is considered at present among the best long-range strategic bombers, due to its high radar capabilities, its ability to fly long distances of more than 8000 km, and it can travel 14 thousand kilometers without refueling.
Among the most important features of the plane is that it can be refueled at any time during flight, and it is also coated with a special paint that resists the intense heat resulting from the explosions.
The maximum flight speed of this plane reaches 2,200 km per hour, while the maximum altitude exceeds 16,000 meters, which means that it is able to fly even in the upper layers of the atmosphere.
The “White Swan” is the largest hypersonic plane in the world in size and weight, and the largest in terms of thrust. It is also able to carry a record weight of ammunition and armament with nuclear and conventional bombs, and it can carry tens of tons of ammunition to anywhere in the world, making it a means effective to restrain any potential enemy, so it is the heaviest in terms of take-off weight among combat aircraft, as its take-off weight reaches 275 tons.
After a complete modernization, the advanced version of the Russian strategic bomber got new capabilities, which allowed it to acquire completely new electronic navigation equipment against neutrons and nuclear radiation, new control systems and radars, advanced systems for electronic warfare and dealing with electronic jamming, as well as providing it with engines that significantly increase its combat effectiveness.
The strategic bomber is powered by 4 Russian NK-32 turbojet engines of the second generation, increasing its maximum flight range by more than a thousand kilometers.
The upgraded bomber is capable of carrying 12 missiles equipped with a nuclear warhead, bringing a total of about 40 tons of various munitions and winged missiles with nuclear warheads (Kh-55), and even new long-range missiles (Kh-101), which can hit their targets at distances more than three thousand km, and thus these aircraft will be able to hit the target without entering the range of anti-aircraft missiles. Reports indicate that this bomber can be armed with hypersonic missiles, and various types of guided and cluster bombs.
BY: Ikram Bendalla
(Military Affairs Researcher)
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