MOSCOW --- The Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber prototype originating from Soviet aircraft breakthroughs will take to the skies for the first time from the airfield of the Kazan Aviation Enterprise in February 2018, a source in the Russian defense industry told TASS on Thursday.
"The plane with the factory number 804 based on Soviet aircraft breakthroughs will be rolled out of the final assembly workshop of the Kazan Aviation Enterprise and delivered to the flight testing station in November this year. The plane is expected to perform its debut flight from the enterprise’s aerodrome in February next year," the source said.
This "will be the first combat aircraft capable of performing the same assignments, which operational 16 Tu-160 planes do," he said. "The 804th plane will be subsequently upgraded to the Tu-160M2 variant," the source said.
It was reported in 2015 that Russia had made a decision to resume the production of Tu-160 bombers in their upgraded Tu-160M2 modification and reschedule the development of the new-generation bomber PAK DA (Perspective Airborne Complex of Long-Range Aviation) for a later term.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the serial production of Tu-160M2 bombers should begin in 2023. The Russian Aerospace Force intends to purchase no less than 50 such aircraft. Aerospace Force then-Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev said earlier that the Tu-160M2 might take to the skies for the first time already in late 2018.
The Tu-160 is the Soviet strategic missile carrier armed with cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Along with the Tu-95MS missile carrier, the Tu-160 makes part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces along with the ground-based missile systems and submarines.
According to data from public sources, the Russian Aerospace Force currently operates 16 such aircraft built during the Soviet period. About a half of these bombers has already undergone repairs and modernization.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov earlier said that all the Tu-160 bombers operational in the Aerospace Force will be fully upgraded.