Russia Re-Launching Tu-160 Bomber Production

Russia is planning to reopen production of the supersonic Tu-160 strategic bomber to bridge the gap to the next-generation bomber currently in development, reported Russia’s state-run news service. “No less than 50 aircraft over time will be purchased in order to cover the costs that will go into production,” said Russian air force chief Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, quoted in the May 28 press report. The current operational Tu-160 fleet stands at 13 aircraft, all of which are undergoing upgrades to Tu-160M standards, including new radar, avionics, weapons, and electronic warfare systems. Russian strategic bomber flights in and around NATO airspace in Europe, as well as allied airspace in the Pacific, hit post-Cold War record levels last year. Russia’s defense ministry estimates the new PAK-DA bomber will enter service around 2023, though no timeline was given for Tu-160 production to begin.