As The National Interest previously reported, last month Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia would resume production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber, a Soviet-era aircraft that is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons.
On Thursday, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, the commander-in-chief of Russia’s Air Force, revealed that Moscow will purchase at least fifty of the Tu-160 strategic bombers once production resumes.
“No less than 50 aircraft over time will be purchased in order to cover the costs that will go into production,” Bondarev said, according to Russian state media outlets.
This will dramatically increase Russia’s bomber capabilities as only fifteen Tu-160s currently remain in service (about 35 were originally built, according to Russian media outlets). That is at least a 333 percent increase in the number of Tu-160s in Russia’s arsenal.
Bondarev further revealed that the decision to restart production of the Tu-160 was made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The supreme commander [president of Russia] and the Russian defense minister have taken a decision on reviving production of the Tu-160M aircraft,” TASS, a Russian government news outlet, quoted Bondarev as saying.
The decision to restart production on the Tu-160 was made in part because of production delays in Russia’s fifth-generation bomber, the PAK FA. The PAK FA strategic bomber was supposed to be delivered to the Russian Air Force by 2020, however, Bondarev announced earlier this month that this date would be pushed back by three to five years.
As Tom Nichols previously explained on The National Interest:
[The Tu-160] is a perfectly capable nuclear bomber that, in time of war, would fold back its swan-like wings and dart toward its targets at top speed. Once in range, it would launch cruise missiles that would make the last part of their journey low and slow under enemy radar.
Full article: Russia Is Set to Triple Nuclear Supersonic Bomber Force (The National Interest)