Jun 13, 2015

Experts skeptical about Russia's Tu-160 bomber production plans

Recent declarations by Russian officials regarding plans to re-start production of the Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber, combined with various other announced procurements, are being met with scepticism by a number of experts. The two reasons most commonly cited for this are that Russian industry lacks the numbers of qualified personnel necessary to support so many procurements taking place simultaneously and that the funding available is nowhere close to what would be required.
The Russian deputy defence minister for procurement, Yury Borisov, told news outlets on 4 June that the envisioned new-build Tu-160 would essentially be a new aircraft due to its onboard systems being several generations beyond the 1980s-era avionics suite of the original Tu-160. "This aircraft would be designated the Tu-160M2," he said, adding that, "according to our plans, this will most likely happen sometime after 2023".
In addition to the plan for a modernised Tu-160, another initiative calls for 130 Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptors to be brought up to the MiG-31BM configuration. Central to that upgrade is the installation of a new avionics suite, modernised crew stations fitted with state-of-the-art displays and a new variant of the onboard radar set.
In addition, the chief of staff of the Russian Air Force (VVS), Colonel General Viktor Bondarev, is also calling for large numbers of Sukhoi Su-30MK, Su-35 and T-50/PFI fifth-generation fighters, Su-34 fighter-bombers, and a new domestic version of the MiG-35 that was formerly proposed for export to India.
A commonly cited weakness of today's Russian defence sector is that the workforce is only a small fraction of its former, Soviet-era size, with a commensurate drop in its capacity.

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