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    Russian Air Force to get two strategic bombers every three years

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    Two strategic bombers will be commissioned to the Russian Air Force every three years, the Air Force commander-in-chief said Thursday.

    ZARYA (Moscow region), January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Two strategic bombers will be commissioned to the Russian Air Force every three years, the Air Force commander-in-chief said Thursday.

    Russia is currently carrying out an ambitious program to upgrade and modernize its strategic Air Force assets.

    "We will be receiving two [strategic] aircraft every three years, and we are satisfied with that," Army General Vladimir Mikhailov said, adding that the upgraded fleet will include both new and modernized Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-22 Blinder and Tu-95 Bear bombers.

    Mikhailov said the Air Force commissioned a modernized Tu-160 bomber in 2006, and will add another to its fleet in February 2007.

    He said the main purpose of the modernization is to upgrade the bomber's outdated avionics, which could double or even triple the aircraft's effectiveness.

    The Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber, which first flew December 19, 1981, will continue to be the mainstay of Russia's strategic air assets, the general said.

    According to various sources, 16 Tu-160 bombers are currently in service with the Russian Air Force.

    The Tu-160 has a strong resemblance to the U.S. B-1B Lancer, although it is larger and faster, and is powered by four afterburning turbofan engines, allowing supersonic speeds of over Mach 2.

    It has a flight range of 12,300 kilometers (7,640 miles) and can carry up to 40,000 kilograms (88,200 pounds) of weaponry, including nuclear missiles.

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