The heaviest combat aircraft ever to be built, the Tupolev TU-160 (NATO codename Blackjack) is a supersonic, variable geometry heavy bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau.
Due to the antiflash white finish and excellent maneuverability the TU-160 was nicknamed by its pilots the White Swan.There are currently 14 White Swans in service with the Russian Air Force.
In 1967 the Soviet Union launched a competition for a new supersonic strategic bomber.Both the Tupolev Design Bureau and Myasishchev Design Bureau responded to the challenge.Myasishchev proposed a variable geometry configuration and in 1973 Tupolev was assigned with the development of the new aircraft as it was considered that it had more chances of completing the project.Tupolev was to improve the Myasishchev M-18 design using all the knowledge gained with the TU-144 Concordski, the world’s first supersonic civilian transport aircraft and also the Tu-22 Blinder supersonic bomber.
On 18 December 1981 the TU-160 made its maiden flight and in 1984 production was authorized at the Kazan Aviation Association.
Under the factory designation “aircraft K” or “product 70” production was given green light for 100 to be built.In 1987 the Blackjack officially entered service. Due to lack of funds out of the 100 only 35 were manufactured including the prototypes and production was halted in 1994.Today the Blackjack is again in production, after president Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will resume strategic aviation flights.The Russian Air Force is expected to have a total number of 30 operational Tupolev TU-160 Blackjack strategic bombers by the year 2012.
Often compared with the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the TU-160, although similar with its american counterpart, is bigger and able to carry a greater payload.The White Swan has an operational range of 14,000 km and a service ceiling of 16,000 m.Between 1989 and 1990 the aircraft set 44 new world speed records in its class.
On 25 April 2006 Commander Igor Khvorov claimed that the North American airspace was penetrated by the Tupolev TU-160 without detection, claim that led to a NATO investigation.
Wingspan, Wings Forward 55.7m
Wingspan With Wings Swept 35.6m
Maximum Take-Off Weight 275t
Normal Combat Load Weight 9,000t
Maximum Combat Load Weight 40,000t
Fuel Weight 148,000t
Operational Flight Range With Normal Combat Load 14,000km
Operational Flight Range With Maximum Combat Load 10,500km
Maximum Flight Speed at High Altitude 2,000km/h
Maximum Flight Speed Near Ground 1,030km/h
Service Ceiling 16,000m
Concrete Runway Length 3,050m