On 2 February 2020 the maiden flight of the first prototype of fully modernised TU-160M missile carrier bomber, which is based on the combatant Tu-160, took place at the airfield of KAZ named after S.P. Gorbunov – Tupolev PJSC affiliate.
The aircraft was piloted by the crew under command of Anri Naskidyants, a test pilot of Zhukovskiy Flight Test and Development Centre. The flight altitude was only 5000ft for a duration of was 34 minutes.
During the flight, necessary tests of upgraded systems and equipment installed as part of full modernisation of the aircraft were conducted. According to the crew report, the flight was running in the normal mode; systems and equipment have operated without concerns.
Within the framework of full modernisation, TU-160M was equipped with new flight control and navigation equipment, airborne communications system, control system, radar, electronic countermeasures system. The performed upgrading resulted in the considerable enhancement of the total effectiveness of the aircraft system while in the intended use.
The first ТU-160M prototype was built as part of the extensive upgrading program of combatant aircraft systems of strategic and long-range aviation, which is currently being carried out by Tupolev PJSC. The Tu-160M is a highly modified version of the TU-160’s that visited South Africa late last year.
The Tupolev TU-160 was the Russian response to the USA’s B-1A bomber project and was released to the public for the first time in December 1981. Many critics claim the TU-160 was a “crib” of the B-1A but this is highly unlikely as the TU-160 incorporated many design features from Tupolev Tu-144, the world’s first commercial supersonic transport aircraft and the TU-160 was only flown years after the cancellation of the B-1A project.