Russians Speed Bomber Upgrades

Russian officials now plan to complete modernization of the Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber fleet in 2019—a year earlier than expected, IHS Jane’s reported. Aircraft upgraded to Tu-160M standards incorporate both modern avionics and new radar, in addition to expanded weapons capability. Weapons upgrade enable carriage of both conventional and nuclear-armed cruise missiles—previously carried only by Russia’s older generation of bombers, and laser-guided conventional bombs, according to press reports. The first aircraft upgraded to Tu-160M standards flew its maiden evaluation flight last November, reported Combat Aircraft earlier this year. All 13 of Russia’s Tu-160s have reportedly completed weapons upgrades that allow them to carry 12 cruise missiles each, according to Jane’s, while avionics, radar, and engine upgrades are slated for completion by 2019. Russia is currently developing the next-generation PAK-DA strategic bomber to replace the Tu-160, Tu-95, and Tu-22 fleets, starting in 2023.