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Putin takes to the sky in modernised White Swan strategic bomber

Vladimir Putin flies a Tu-160M missile carrier in Kazan. Photo: Dmitry Azarov, Kommersant, President of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken to the skies as he approves modernised Tu-160M “White Swan” strategic missile bomber aircraft for use by the Russian Armed Forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken to the skies as he approves modernised Tu-160M “White Swan” strategic missile bomber aircraft for use by the Russian Armed Forces.

After pre-flight preparation, the Russian head of state took off on the Tu-160M aircraft from United Aircraft Corporation’s Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant for the 30-minute test flight in Kazan, Russia, on 22 February.

Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft were originally developed in the early 1980s as a supersonic, swing-wing heavy strategic bomber designed to deliver nuclear weapons at extended range. The NATO-designated “Blackjack” aircraft have reportedly received significant upgrades since the early-2000s under a Tu-160M modernisation program.

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It’s understood President Putin complimented the updates to the bomber/missile carrier such as high reliability, armed capability, better aircraft control, and increased level of crew comfort.

“The technology is excellent. It really belongs to a new generation. Of course, it can be accepted by the Armed Forces,” he said, according to an official statement from the President’s office.

“This is truly a new machine, new in many ways. It’s easier to control. Reliability is very high. Armament (also). This is a new plane.”

The Russian president had previously visited Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant to view workshops and production lines for the updated strategic missile carrier and inspect four modernised Tu-160M aircraft, according to Russian Rostec State Corporation.

Putin has also piloted Tu-160 aircraft in August 2005 and a Russian Su-27 air-superiority flight jet from Krasnodar in South Russia to the Chechnya Republic in March 2000.

The newly upgraded 54-metre-long Tu-160M aircraft, the largest and heaviest Mach 2.05 supersonic military aircraft ever built, likely features new weaponry, electronic countermeasures, improved electronics and avionics with a four-person crew and range of 12,300 kilometres without inflight refuelling, according to the OE Data Integration Network.

The aircraft also has access to either 12 Kh-55SM cruise missiles or 12 AS-16 Kickback short-range nuclear missiles.

“The resumption of production of the Tu-160 strategic missile carriers became a real challenge for the entire cooperation of Rostec enterprises; in a short time, design documentation was completely digitised, the technology of vacuum welding of titanium products was restored, and the production of aircraft airframe units was resumed,” according to Rostec State Corporation general director Sergey Chemezov.

“Today we can confidently say that we have successfully overcome this challenge. The modernised Tu-160M ​​aircraft retains its appearance but is created on a completely new technological basis using digital solutions. Currently, this is one of the most powerful combat aircraft in the world.”

Robert Dougherty

Robert Dougherty

Robert is a senior journalist who has previously worked for Seven West Media in Western Australia, as well as Fairfax Media and Australian Community Media in New South Wales. He has produced national headlines, photography and videography of emergency services, business, community, defence and government news across Australia. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Curtin University, attended student exchange program with Fudan University and holds Tier 1 General Advice certification for Kaplan Professional. Reach out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via LinkedIn.
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