The Tu-160 Russias supersonic strategic bomber set a world record for non-stop flight range and duration time for this class of aircraft. The information was given by the commander of long-range aviation of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Sergey Kobylash.
“A new record for the range and duration of a flight on the Tu-160 supersonic strategic missile carriers was set by two long-range aviation crews. The pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces were in the air for more than 25 hours and covered over 20,000 km", said Kobylash. He added that "no one has flown an aircraft of this class longer".
A previous record set in 2010 was also set on Tu-160s, which were in the air for 24 hours and 24 minutes.
According to the Ministry of Defence, the flight of two Tu-160s took place over the neutral waters of the central part of the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea, the Chukchi Sea, and the Barents Sea. The missile carriers took off and landed at the Engels airfield. The crew commanders were Major General Oleg Pchela and Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Volkovitskiy.
The Department added that during the flight the Tu-160s performed three in-flight refuelling sessions from six Il-78 aircraft. "At certain stages of the route, the Tu-160 strategic missile carriers were accompanied by Su-35S fighters, as well as aircraft from foreign countries," said the Ministry. The flight of the Russian bombers took place in strict compliance with international rules for the use of airspace.
The Tu-160 is powered by four Kuznetsov NK-32 afterburning turbofan engines, the most powerful ever fitted to a combat aircraft. Unlike the American B-1B Lancer, which reduced the original Mach 2+ requirement for the B-1A to achieve a smaller radar cross-section, the Tu-160 retains variable intake ramps, and is capable of reaching Mach 2.05 speed at altitude. The Tu-160 is equipped with a probe-and-drogue in-flight refuelling system for extended-range missions, although it is rarely used. The Tu-160's internal fuel capacity of 130 tons gives the aircraft a roughly 15-hour flight endurance at a cruise speed of around 530 mph, Mach 0.77, at 30,000 ft.
South African Aviation enthusiast will remember two Tu-160’s visited South Africa Last year on a goodwill mission.