The Russian military and United Aircraft Corporation have released footage of the maiden flight of a heavily upgraded Tupolev Tu-95MSM (NATO reporting name ‘Bear’) bomber.
The video shows the plane preparing for takeoff, its massive turboprop engines hearkening back to a tried and tested aviation engine technology that’s since been abandoned by most designers. The aircraft then lifts off from the ground and conducts aerial manoeuvres before touching back down at its home airfield.
The maiden flight took place on August 22 and lasted over two and a half hours, with the bomber taking to heights of up to ten thousand meters. The testing took place in Taganrog, home to the Taganrog Aviation Plant.
During the course of modernisation, the workhorse bomber received a brand new phased array radar, a new flight control and information display system, and the Meteore-NM2 defence complex, capable of jamming enemy ground and aircraft-based radar. Other new features include new navigation equipment and a new weapons control system, as well as upgraded engines.
Yuri Slyusar, general director of United Aircraft Corporation, says that the modernised Tu-95MSM is more reliable, has improved takeoff and landing characteristics, and improved navigation accuracy, with the upgrades expected to extend the airframe’s life considerably.
“This is an aircraft with a new set of weapons, new onboard electronic equipment, new modified engines, new propellers. The combat capabilities of the plane have doubled after this modernisation,” Slyusar said, speaking to the Zvezda television channel.
Along with the Tupolev Tu-160 ‘White Swan’, the Tu-95 makes up the backbone of the air-based component Russia’s nuclear triad deterrent. The veteran bomber, first introduced in 1956, can be armed with up to 15,000 kilograms of weaponry, including cruise missiles, to attack both ground and naval targets. Despite its age, the Aerospace Forces have no plans to retire the veteran aircraft, with upgraded Tu-95s expected to serve until at least 2040.