Russia has surprised the world by announcing the successful test flight of a Cold War-era Tu-160M heavy strategic bomber equipped with new NK-32-02 engines.
on Nov. 3, 2020, The latest version of the Russian massive Tu-160 (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) has flown from Kazan, Russia, powered by the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a military aircraft.
The first flight of the modernized Tu-160M2 strategic bomber with the new turbofans lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes and was conducted at an altitude of 6,000 meters.
“The aircraft was piloted by a crew led by Anri Naskidyants,” said in a United Aircraft Corporation’s statement. “The flight took place at an altitude of 6,000 meters and lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.”
Interestingly, no image of the aircraft’s new engines, whose testing began in 2017, was released for “security reasons” and the photographs used in social media by UAC show the the extensively upgraded Tu-160M, named “Igor Sikorsky’”, during a previous flight.
With its 55,000 lbs of thrust, the original Kuznetsov NK-32, an afterburning three-spool low bypass turbofan engine is already the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted on a military aircraft. The new NK-32-02, also known as NK-32 series 2, has improved performance and efficiency: thanks to the new engines the Tu-160 will increase its range of flight by at least 1,000 km, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov announced in 2015.
The Tu-160 is a multimode supersonic strategic missile-carrying bomber with a variable-sweep wing. Russia’s top brass announced its decision in 2015 to restart the production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber in its upgraded Tu-160M version at the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise.
The bomber is capable of carrying up to 12 strategic cruise missiles on two multi-position rotating launchers inside the fuselage.
The newly manufactured Tu-160 bombers and their heavily upgraded versions will not differ from each other but technically they have received different labels from the Defense Ministry: the Tu-160M for upgraded operational aircraft and the Tu-160M2 for bombers manufactured “from scratch”.