Russia’s Tu-160 strategic bombers (NATO reporting name: Blackjack) could receive a major addition to their arsenal of supported weapons – the cutting-edge hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missiles, Russian media reported, citing anonymous defence sources. The possibility of such an upgrade will be looked into, with the conclusions expected by the end of the year. The Russian Defence Ministry has not commented on the report.
It's not clear from the source's comments whether the Kinzhal missiles are expected to be fitted on all Tu-160 bombers or only on the new, modernised Tu-160M2. The missile is a cutting-edge Russian weapon that is capable of reaching a speed of Mach 10 and manoeuvring mid-flight in order to penetrate enemy defences.
The Tu-160, one of the biggest strategic bombers in the world – dubbed the White Swan due to its incredibly large variable wings in the corresponding colour, will receive new engines, avionics, low-observable coating, and cutting-edge on-board electronics as part of its upgrade, which was chosen over the development of a new bomber from scratch. The Tu-160M2 successfully underwent a test flight on 2 February that lasted for 34 minutes and is expected to start entering service with the Russian Air Force in 2021.
The original Tu-160s are capable of travelling up to 12,300 kilometres without refuelling and can reach a speed of Mach 2.