Development The first competition for a supersonic strategic heavy bomber was launched in the Soviet Union in 1967. In 1972, the Soviet Union launched a new multi-mission bomber competition to create a new supersonic, variable-geometry ("swing-wing") heavy bomber with a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, in direct response to the US Air Force B-1 bomber project. The Tupolev design, dubbed Aircraft 160M, with a lengthened flying wing layout and incorporating some elements of the Tu-144, competed against the Myasishchev M-18 and the Sukhoi T-4 designs.[1] Tu-160 in flight Work on the new Soviet bomber continued despite an end to the B-1A, and in the same year, the design was accepted by the government committee. The prototype was photographed by an airline passenger at a Zhukovsky Airfield in November 1981, about a month before the aircraft's first flight on 18 December 1981. Production was authorized in 1984, beginning at Kazan Aircraft Production Association. Production of the aircraft, designated Tu-160 (factory designation "aircraft K" or "product 70"), was originally intended to total 100 aircraft, although only 35 have been produced, including three prototypes. [edit]Modernization In 2006, the Russian Air Force was expected to receive five modernised and one new-built Tu-160.[2] The Russian Air Force will receive a further five modernized Tu-160s each year, which means that modernization of the fleet could be achieved within three years if the schedule is kept up.[3] Changes announced include completely digital, multireserved, neutron and other nuclear emissions resistant avionics; full support of cruising and steering through GLONASS global satellite positioning system; and an updated version the of the NK-32 engine with increased reliability.[3] Weapon upgrades will allow the use of new nuclear/non-nuclear GLONASS-navigated cruise missiles (Kh-55),[4] and drop laser-guided bombs.[5] Planned upgrades are also to add the ability to handle missiles that launch military or civil satellites;[6] and addition of advanced radar emissions absorbing coating

johnbr, Nov 23, 2012
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