Monday, December 12, 2011


Tu-160 Blackjack


Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack

The Tu-160 is Russia's most modern strategic bomber.  It is the largest combat aircraft in existence today.  It is considerably faster than America's B-1 and it has greater range.  The original plan was to build 100 of these formidable bombers but production stopped at 36 with the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation agreement with the United States.  


Crew:                    4 - pilot, co-pilot
                                  Weapons Systems Officer
                                  Defense System Operator

Power:                  4 - Kuznetsov 25,000 kg / 55,025 lb thrust NK-321 turbofans

Max. Speed:         2220 kph / 1378 mph
Ceiling:                 15,006 m / 49,235 ft
Range:                 12,300 km / 7638 miles
Climb:                   4203 m / 13,780 ft per minute

Weight -
Empty:                 110,000 kg / 242,110 lb
Max. Take Off:     275,000 kg / 605,275 lb

Size -
Wingspan:           55.7 m / 182 ft 9 in, unswept
Wing Area:          360 sq m / 3875 sq ft
Length:                54.1 m / 177 ft 6 in
Height:                13.1 m / 43 ft

                          up to 16,500 kg / 36,316 lb of ordinance
                          6 - Kh-55 long-range missiles or
                          12 - Kh-15 short-range missiles or
                          free fall nuclear or conventional weapons



All four crew members of the Tu-160 have ejection seats.  For long flights there is a crew rest area, toilet and a galley.  The pilots use fighter-type control sticks but the original aircraft came with steam gauges - the familiar analog dials as opposed to CRT screens.  Plans were made in 2003 to modernize the Blackjack with a new digital flight control system.  

Wings extended.

The variable-geometry wings of the Tu-160 can be manually set in one of three positions:  20 degrees for take-offs and landings, 35 degrees at cruise speed and 65 degrees for high speed flight.  For cost cutting reasons the B-1B was designed for low-level subsonic flight in order to penetrate enemy defenses.  The more expensive Tu-160 is capable of both low level subsonic and high-level Mach 1.9 penetration to its target.  Leaders subsequent to the Soviet regime have determined the craft too costly to maintain and there may be no more than 16 of these bombers in service today.  

Fighter Escort

The fall of the Soviet Union left 19 Tu-160s in the hands of the Ukrainians.  Attempts by Russia to buy back the bombers fell through in 1997.  Further upsetting to Russia was the decision by Ukraine to allow American intelligence officials to inspect one of the bombers.  These Ukrainian aircraft were eventually scrapped under the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.  

Swept wing at 35 degrees.

One of the problems with the Tupolev Tu 160 program was that aircraft were being delivered before there was an agreed upon common standard for configuration.  Basic specifications differ somewhat from aircraft to aircraft adding to maintenance complexity.  



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