Russia's Tu-160M2: Next-Generation Bomber Armed with Hypersonic Missiles

Tu-160M2 Bomber from Russia
April 18, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaMilitaryDefenseNATOTu-160Tu-160M2BombersRussian Air Force

Russia's Tu-160M2: Next-Generation Bomber Armed with Hypersonic Missiles

The Russian Tu-160M, known as the "White Swan" or by its NATO reporting name "Blackjack," is undergoing a significant upgrade to the Tu-160M2 variant.

 

Summary: The Russian Tu-160M, known as the "White Swan" or by its NATO reporting name "Blackjack," is undergoing a significant upgrade to the Tu-160M2 variant. This upgrade aims to modernize the bomber with state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems and next-generation radio equipment. First introduced in 1987, the Tu-160 is the world's fastest, heaviest, and largest nuclear-capable bomber. The Tu-160M2 will enhance these capabilities by incorporating the ability to launch hypersonic missiles, including the Kh-101 and its nuclear version, the Kh-102. As of 2023, four of these upgraded bombers have been delivered, with plans to construct up to 50. The Tu-160M2's enhanced offensive capabilities pose a formidable challenge for Western defense strategies, particularly with its potential to deploy multiple hypersonic weapons simultaneously, making it a strategic asset for the Russian military.

Russia's Tu-160M2 Blackjack Bomber: Problem for NATO or Paper Tiger?

The Russian Tu-160M “Blackjack” or “White Swan” nuclear-capable bomber is one of the most fearsome sights in the world.

 

A giant, swept-wing bomber, the white (with the standard Russian red stars on the wingtips, of course) supersonic bomber looks more like the Lambda-class Imperial shuttle from the original Star Wars trilogy than it does a Russian bomber. 

Already the world’s fastest, heaviest, and largest nuclear-capable bomber, is set to get a serious upgrade. It’s not only a clear indication that the Russian defense industry is humming along nicely, despite the hoopla surrounding the Western economic sanctions, but a sign that the Russian regime believes nuclear world war is upon us.

Important Features of the Tu-160M2

The Tu-160M can travel at Mach 2 and is powered by the massive Kuznetsov NK-32 engines. Yet, this bird, by simple dint of its age, has been facing increasing maintenance troubles. So, the Russian states has decided to totally modify the bird, creating the Tu-160M2. 

The “White Swan” bomber was first launched in 1987 by Tupolev Design Bureau, when Russia still marched beneath the banner of the communist hammer-and-sickle. It was one of the last weapons systems delivered to the Soviet Union before the whole place fell onto the ash heap of history.

Tupolev’s new variant of the “Blackjack” bomber is being billed as a totally renovated plane. The new bird will possess state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems along with next-generation radio equipment. The newest variant of the Tu-160 began its air trials in December 2021. It is believed that upwards of 50 new bombers of this upgraded Tu-160 variant could be built by Russia. 

Tu-160

As of 2023, four have been delivered

Russia’s new Tu-160M2 upgrades have a major offensive capability that makes them seriously dangerous for Western forces. The new “White Swans” can fire Russia’s hypersonic missiles. Other than the new hypersonic weapons capability, the Tu-160M2 shares much in common with its older variant. Like the original Blackjacks, the new variant can carry six different types of weapons. 

Notably, the Kh-101 as well as its nuclear version, the Kh-102. 

Not only is the Tu-160M2 a hypersonic weapons delivery system, but it is a giant, flying missile truck. These warbirds can carry the Kh-101’s smaller missile cousin, the Kh-50. The bird possesses significant anti-missile countermeasures and has an incredible ability to puncture air-defense zones. If the Russians receive the entire order of 50 Tu-160M2s and deployed them together, these birds could fire a combined 32 hypersonic weapons at a given target without even blinking. 

Tu-160

Can America Counter This Upgraded Russian Bomber?

If the Russian Tu-160M2 lives up to the hype, it will be a strategic gamechanger for the Russian Armed Forces. The Americans do have systems that can compete with this new Russian plane, such as the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

Although, to truly counter this threat, the US military will need to totally revamp and modernize its air warfare system. There does not appear to be much appetite for doing that anytime soon. So, the Russians, if they can produce enough of these birds, will have a key advantage over their Western rivals until that modernization takes place. 

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

All images are Shutterstock sourced.