Criticism concerning tu-160 shouldn't be really directed against the plane itself but possibly against non stealthy bombers in general.
What usual roles can a bomber have?
Russia is hardly going to send Tu-160Ms to bomb France or the UK... more likely uses will be against targets in Afghanistan or Chechnia where no other platform could carry such a weapon... weapons like the FAB-3000, FAB-5000, and FAB-9000 plus of course the Father of all bombs would be practical roles for the Tu-160M in a limited war role.
It could still be used against more capable enemies but there would need to be a lot of SEAD done first.
you talked about the all out nuclear exchange scenario, which is exactly what i refuse to talk about. sorry, but i dont believe there is a chance for the nuclear egagement, thus i only consider the tu160's conventional punch. other than that, as i said, tu160 is great for muscle-showing.
So we are going to ignore what it was designed to do and call it a failure because it is not something it was never designed to be?
Is SS-18 also a failure as it has no conventional role?
In a conventional conflict the Tu-160M should be as useful and as effective as any US bomber with a greater payload and range and at higher speed... which is important for weapon range including gliding and powered weapons.
thanks for your detailed repy. Are you absolutely positive they started making NK12 engines again? last i heard was they ceased production...
They are restarting production.
In fact discussions about "another" 5th gen engine suggests they might develop it so that it can be retrofitted to the Tu-22M3M and Tu-160M but also act as an engine for the PAK DA.
if it's true they're rolling the lines again, then i stand corrected. furthermore, i didnt know the M upgade includes the RAM treatement, not so sure about it.
The original Tu-160 had RAM, including on the front blades of the engines to reduce RCS.
Don't you think they might take it a step further when they give it a thorough overhaul that upgrades pretty much all the electronics and increases the weapon load to 45 tons?
btw, you missed the point with mig25 comparison. tu160 is supposed to get real close for LGB/Glonass bomb delivery. if it's detected with airborne IRS on time, well, it's on a one way trip.
Who is Russia going to bomb that has anything like a modern IADS?
The most likely target for Russia at the moment will be Afghanistan in about 3 years time when the Taleban are trying to take over again.
The Blackjack is a tool... an option... when you only have a hammer then you have to treat every problem like it is a nail... having hammers (Bulava, TOPOL-M, Kh-102) and having screwdrivers (Father of All Bombs et al) and having pliers and other tools means the Russian leadership can select any option they like when they like.
Problem with somali pirates they could send a Tu-160M with Kh-101 conventionally armed cruise missiles to attack several point targets in Somalia within a few hours. Or they could wait a couple of days for an attack sub to sail there from Russia with a few Kalibr missiles on board to do the same thing... either way the Somali military will likely know nothing about it till there are explosions lighting up the night sky.
is RuAF able to provide such an environment for their bombers?
By the time all the Tu-160s are Tu-160Ms they will have Su-34s, PAKFAs, Su-35s, and Mig-35s... what makes you think they wont be able to suppress the enemies air defences?
using it as a standoff ALCM platform is great, as i said, i just think this machine is too expensive if that's its only role.
Against a modern IADS the biggest problem is having enough platforms that can launch long range cruise missiles outside the range of air defence systems. Your fighter aircraft with JDAM will be shot down... JDAMS and all by S-400. A long range bomber however, able to carry much larger weapons and to fly around the enemy and attack from directions he least expects to be attacked from can give you an enormous edge.
Even just 45 tons of very heavy bombs (ie 1,500kg and up) can have an effect no other conventional aircraft can deliver... as the allies in WWII showed... HE bombs first to blow open the building structures and then incendiary bombs to ignite the contents creates a fire storm far more effective than just more HE could have achieved.
And being able to loiter over the battlefield for days able to support the troops at a moments notice.
The Tu-160 was a one trick pony for a very long time, but it was the best at what it was designed for. Now they will use it for more... and with new avionics it will be even better.
The previous production of the Tu-160 meant each plane was slightly different as the plane slowly got better and better.
The new upgrade to Tu-160M means for the first time they will all be the same with the same radar and the same systems and able to use a wide range of the weapons of the Russian arsenal.
The only bad thing about the Blackjack is that they aren't making any more because the heavy aluminium one piece box structure the swing wing design is built around was made in the Ukraine by a company that does not exist now, and even if it did couldn't make a paper clip let alone a huge aluminium forging for the centre section of a supersonic bomber.
Should i remind you there are other birds built with a nuclear delivery in mind, yet, those planes now employ the full array of advanced conventional punch? In doing so, they, at least partially, justify their drain on the budget.
I am pleased to see the Tu-95MSM, Tu-160M and Tu-22M3M get upgrades to allow the use of conventional weapons and the unification of radars and systems and weapons should reduce operational costs for all three aircraft but at the end of the day there are very few cases where they will likely be used in anger, and even less cases where they might come up against any IADS... Russia is not the US remember and has no world police role to play out when it suits.
I therefore think it is funny that spending even more money on these aircraft and adding a wide range of very expensive new air to ground ordinance to their pools of weapons makes them better in your eyes.
Those 6 which wont undergo the M upgrade (if that's a true upgrade in terms of weapons integration) will be better off retired.
The 6 that wont be upgraded by 2020 have already been upgraded.
Still, i accept you see it differently than myself. You'll have to accept the same and live with it.
The most valuable role the Blackjack and Bear play today is nuclear deterrent... you might not recognise that but that doesn't make it not true.
Right, i just had doubts that even after the M upgrade, the platform would still remain a dedicated cruise missile launcher. It would be a shame cause those toys dont come cheap so you immediately have only a limited usage opportunity for a quite expensive aircraft.
Do you plow fields with Rolls Royces?
The Kh-555 cruise missile is not that expensive... they are already made as Kh-55 cruise missiles anyway.
Why risk an expensive large bomber hauling 250kg or 500kg bombs when you already have a range of planes that can already do that?
Which plane in the US inventory can carry FAB-3000 bombs or FAB-5000 bombs... or for that matter FAB-9000 or FOAB bombs?
Saying the Tu-160M is a failure because it would need an escort for missions over a modern battlefield is like saying the B-2 is a failure for the very same reasons.
There is no evidence that the B-2 can fly over Russian airspace with impunity from air and ground based radars and EO systems.
British thermal cameras easily tracked B-2s at UK airshows... why wouldn't Russian thermal cameras in Su-35 and Mig-35 aircraft do the same... a B-2 could not out run or hide from either fighter and even if the B-2 rendered all their radar guided missiles useless they both have cannon and IR guided weapons.
At the end of the day Russia has a range of tools for a range of roles... they already have Su-24s and Su-34s and Tu-22M3Ms for bomb trucks over considerable distances and with fairly heavy payloads.
The Tu-22M3M can carry more 250kg bombs than a B-52 can carry, though obviously over a shorter flight range.
The main value of the Bear and Blackjack is their speed and range with a heavy payload which is truly strategic... saying using cruise missiles is expensive is dishonest... the fuel the attack would use and pretty much any other kind of modern guided payload would not be that much cheaper anyway. The cruise missiles they would use are re-engineered ex-nukes... in other words they are recycling them anyway.
If the Blackjack was American it would be the biggest and heaviest and fastest bomber in the world today... because it is Russian it is "not stealthy".
The US would love to paint the Blackjack as some sort of white elephant, but I rather suspect the PAK DA will be influenced by the experience with the Blackjack.