Russia's strategic aviation to be modernized

MOSCOW, June 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Air Force has announced plans to modernize its long-range aviation fleet. The overhaul of missile carrier aircraft will take at least 10 years, help to develop an entirely new plane and cost the treasury more than $139.96 million, Biznes, a daily, reported Tuesday.

"We have good Tu-160 aircraft. Our main task is to modernize them," Army General Vladimir Mikhailov, the commander-in-chief of Russia's Air Force, said.

Various sources estimate Russia's air force has at least than 12 Tu-160 strategic bombers.

The air force is slated to get a bomber with a modern digital machine on board that will enable it to maximize the use of outer space and will alter the striking system, said Lieutenant-General Igor Khvorov, commander of the 37th Air Army. With the new navigation system and new avionics, the Tu-160 should remain airworthy until 2060.

The emphasis on the new aircraft will be on non-nuclear weapons. The standard Kh-55 missile, used for destroying fixed position targets, has been used as the basis for developing a new missile, the Kh-555, ideal for striking terrorist bases, said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

According to the Air Force commander Mikhailov, apart from modernizing existing planes, plans call for purchasing new ones. Resources have been secured for two more Tu-160 planes, Makiyenko said. A new Tu-160 bomber costs no less than $100 million.

The modernization of aircraft will be carried out at the Kazan aviation production association. Experts said work on each Tu-160 would involve an estimated 250 million rubles ($8.75 million) of work. Streamlining the fleet of strategic bombers will cost the treasury 4 billion rubles ($139.96 million), minimum.

The Tu-160, also known by its NATO classification Blackjack, is the world's largest serially produced bomber. It has a maximum operational load of 40 tons. It can be armed with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM strategic cruise missiles, or 12 Kh-15P air-to-surface guided missiles, or conventional bombs.

Plans are in the works to install new Kh-101 longer-range cruise missiles with conventional warheads to deliver pinpoint strikes. The Tu-160's maximum speed is 2,220 km/hr, it has a service ceiling of 15,500 meters and a maximum operational range without refueling of 12,300 kilometers.

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