Russia's Tu-160M Missile Carrier Aircraft Makes Its First Flight After Production

The aircraft rides again after 26 years.
Ameya Paleja
The Tu-160M taking flightUnited Aircraft Corporation

Russia's strategic missile carrier Tu-160M has made its first flight after production at the Kazan Aviation Plant. A video of the flight was also released by a local media outlet. 

The Tu-160, a large and powerful supersonic aircraft with variable wing geometry is a Cold War-era classic that was discontinued in 1995 after the Soviet Union fell. Leftover components were still put together to make three more aircraft, and one of them was delivered as recently as 2017, The Drive reported. The aircraft, however, is now back to life two decades after its discontinuation, thanks to the fact that Russia decided to manufacture it in a much more modernized form.

In the new era, digital technology was used to design the new aircraft and the progress was quick. However, the modernization was easier said than done as the manufacturing facility at Kazan Aviation Plant become outdated when the aircraft was discontinued. It took the cooperation of industrial enterprises across domains to bring back the Tu-160 in its modernized form, called the Tu-160M. 

The equipment at the Kazan Aviation Plant was upgraded by over 40 percent and the team underwent training to improve their technical base and serial production capabilities. The technology to weld titanium products under vacuum was restored along with the production of the aircraft's airframes. Together with the mechanical engineering and instrument divisions, the team at Tupolev has built an aircraft that has been upgraded by 80 percent.

On January 12, the new aircraft took off from the airfield at the Kazan plant and flew at an altitude of 600 meters for about 30 minutes. The pilots performed maneuvers to check "the stability and controllability of the aircraft in the air."

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Russia currently has a fleet of 17 of the original Tu-160s, and although the demand for the upgraded Tu-160s from the Russian Aerospace Forces is expected to be about 50 aircraft, no orders have been placed yet

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