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Russia has showed off the first modernised Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber, which a senior air force official said would help Moscow match the nuclear capability of a potential enemy.
Russian television showed the giant, white-painted airplane releasing parachutes to slow down the speed as it landed at Engels airbase in the Volga region of Saratov after being upgraded at the Kazan Aviation Association.
The supersonic jet with variable-sweep wings is the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. Along with the Tu-95 turbo-prop, it resumed round-the-clock patrols across the world last year on the order of President Vladimir Putin after a break of 15 years.
The Russian Air Force is planning a limited upgrade for their Tu-160 fleet. First stage of the upgrade will equip the aircraft with the conventional armed Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles and a new fire control system for these missiles, called Sigma. The Kh-101 uses a electro-optical terminal homing system and the Tu-160 will be able to carry up to 12 of these missiles. The Kh-555 is a reworked Kh-55SM with uses the Kh-101 homing system and replaces the nuclear warhead with a conventional one. Second stage of the upgrade will include upgraded mission equipment and a new search-attack radar. Besides the Kh-101, this will enable the Tu-160 to be equipped with the Kh-102 strategic missile, medium range subsonic Kh-SD and a medium range supersonic weapon, presumable designated the Kh-41. Other upgraded system include navigation, communication and self-defence systems. The upgrade will be carried out by KAPO at Kazan and will extend the service life of the Tu-160 until at least 2020-2025.