Warplanes: Blackjack Back in Production

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May 2,2008: Russia has received its first new Tu-160 heavy bomber, since it revived production two years ago. It plans to produce one new Tu-160 every 18 months, until another 14 are build. Currently, there are 16 Tu-160s in service.

Production of the Tu-160 had ceased in 1994, with several of them partially completed. Apparently, this new aircraft is one of those left uncompleted in the 1990s. Lots of Russian weapons factories were shut down after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. That occurred, in part, because the Soviet Union was, literally, bankrupt. The defense budget was cut by more than two-thirds, and weapons production got hurt the most. The only plants that kept operating were those producing items for export. But many of the shuttered factories were preserved, and now many of them are in operation again, picking up where they left off.

The Tu-160 "Blackjack" is very similar to the U.S. B-1, but never really lived up to its potential. Still, it is the most modern heavy bomber the Russians have. It's a 267 ton aircraft, that can carry up to 40 tons of bombs and missiles, for up to 12,000 kilometers. The aircraft can refuel in the air. It originally entered service in 1987, and was built mainly to deliver cruise missiles. Noting the success of the B-1 in Afghanistan and Iraq with smart bombs, the Tu-160s were modified to do the same, in addition to retaining their cruise missile carrying capability.

 


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