Thirty years later, continuing its program to modernize its existing 15 Tu-160s, Russia has announced that it will restart production of the unique plane at the Kazan Aircraft Production Association, complete with all new avionics, and, quite possibly, new engines. Built on the same airframe, the new aircraft is expected to be 2.5 times more effective than its predecessor.
Now, the designers over at Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET), charged with developing the weapons control systems for the new plane, have confirmed that the upgraded plane will be receiving totally-new weapons control and electronic warfare systems, RIA Novosti reports, citing the company's press service.
"KRET is actively working on the creation of avionics systems for this aircraft. Today we can say with confidence that the new aircraft will be constructed using the elements of integrated modular avionics (IMA). In the project to modernize the Tu-160, KRET will be creating new on-board systems, controls, a gimballless inertial navigation system, electronic warfare complex, fuel use monitoring systems, as well as weapons control systems."
"The resumption of production of the Tu-160," according to KRET, "will allow us to mobilize all the research and production facilities of the Concern in this area and to create an ideational framework for a fundamentally new approach, to be implemented in the framework of the creation of the PAK DA [the Russian fifth generation stealth bomber currently under development]. Equipping the modernized Tu-160M2 with new avionics will mean the creation of a completely new aircraft, simultaneously allowing for the completion of the ongoing repairs and upgrades to the machines of this type already in service."
Video footage recently released by the Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that the Tu-160, better known in the West as the Blackjack, made its combat debut in Syria earlier this month, as Russian Aerospace Forces upped their attacks on Daesh (ISIL) positions in retaliation for the terrorist group's destruction of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt.
The updated and modernized Tu-160 is expected to take to the skies after 2023.