Russia’s top military brass plans to arm Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bombers with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, a source in the defense industry told TASS on Monday.
“The possibility of deploying Kinzhal missiles on Tu-160 aircraft is being considered. The work on this option is due to be completed this year,” the source said.
The source did not specify, however, whether operational or upgraded Tu-160 bombers would be armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.
TASS has no official confirmation of this information yet.
Another source in the Russian defense industry told TASS in July 2018 that there were plans to test Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems aboard a Tu-22M3 long-range bomber.
The Tu-160 is a multimode supersonic strategic missile-carrying bomber with a variable sweep wing. Russia’s top brass announced its decision in 2015 to restart the production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber in its upgraded Tu-160M version at the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise.
On February 2, an upgraded Tu-160M prototype derived from an operational Tu-160 bomber took to the skies for the first time. The upgraded bomber features advanced flight and navigation equipment, communications, a new radar and electronic countermeasures system. The bomber is capable of carrying up to 12 strategic cruise missiles on two multi-position rotating launchers inside the fuselage.
Kinzhal hypersonic missile system
The Kinzhal is the latest Russia airborne system that consists of a MiG-31K aircraft as a delivery vehicle and a hypersonic missile. According to media reports, a Kinzhal missile is the airborne version of the Iskander tactical missile system. Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile system in his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in March 2018. Currently, a squadron of MiG-31K aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles is on experimental combat duty in Russia’s Southern Military District.