Tu-160 Bomber
A Russian Tu-160 bomber flies during a joint Kazakh-Russian military exercise at Otar military range, about 90 miles west of Almaty, Kazakhstan, Oct. 3, 2008. Reuters


  • Russia is ramping up the production of Tu-160M White Swan, an upgraded and modern version of Tu-160
  • Tu-160 is reportedly the largest, most advanced supersonic military aircraft in military aviation history
  • The new Tu-160M White Swans can carry a wide array of conventional and nuclear weapons

With the war in Ukraine still raging, Russia is going full-swing on producing more combat aircraft by focusing on its fleet of Tu-160M White Swan bombers.

For Ukraine and the West, the production of the Tu-160M is worrying because these deadly warplanes are upgraded versions of the Tu-160, the largest and heaviest supersonic aircraft ever built. Russia deploying more of these lethal machines armed with, say, its hypersonic missiles could change the strategic equation in Europe massively.

Russia's state firm Rostec announced last week that the company would be increasing its production of Tu-160M along with the civilian Tu-214.

"The company is increasing production of the famous White Swans, which are the signature piece of our strategic aviation. They are unique machines, beautiful on the outside and formidable in terms of their capabilities," Rostec Director General Sergey Chemezov said in a statement, as quoted by TASS.

Rostec said last Friday that the Tu-160M will be able to carry new weapons, including modern armaments.

"The company produces upgraded Tu-160M strategic missile-carrying bombers. The decision to resume their production was made by the president of Russia," Rostec said. "Upgraded planes have expanded combat capabilities and considerable potential. Further development of the platform will enable it to use new types of weapons, including advanced weapons."

Manufacturers of the Tu-160M are looking to produce three of these aircraft a year and aim at having about 50 Tu-160M aircraft in the coming years, according to EurAsian Times. As for the Tu-214 airplane, Chemezov said they aim to produce 10 per year.

The original Tu-160 White Swan has a legacy of its own and was first used in 1987. It was the last strategic bomber developed for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. NATO's reporting name for these bombers is Blackjack.

Russia has made efforts to modernize Tu-160 and upgrade its electronics system since the early 2000s.

Moscow announced in 2015 that they would resume production of the new White Swan, and the first upgraded model made its debut flight in January 2022.

The upgraded strategic bomber, which is designed to strike enemy targets in remote areas with nuclear and conventional weapons, completed a 30-minute flight at 600 meters during its maiden flight.

"On Jan. 12, the first newly-built Tu-160M strategic missile-carrying bomber performed its debut flight from the aerodrome of the Kazan Aviation Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Tupolev Company [part of the United Aircraft Corporation within Rostec]," Rostec announced, as quoted by TASS.

"The new aircraft has 80% of its systems and equipment modernized," Rostec's chief executive reportedly said.

Another upgraded Tu-160M took to the skies last December.

The new White Swans have powerful engines, stealth coatings and new avionics. They can be deadly in the hands of trained Russian pilots because of their combination of high speed and endurance. Moreover, they have the capacity to carry a wide array of conventional and nuclear weapons.

The massive warplane is capable at a speed of Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound.

Tu-160 is often compared to the American Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber, which is smaller in comparison. Both are supersonic and have variable-sweep wings.

The B-1 Lancer is more of a classic bomber that flies to its targets and deploys its bomb load. On the other hand, the Tu-160 can be used as a stand-off weapons platform from which missiles can be launched, according to the National Interest.