A couple of months ago the Commander of the Russian Air Force (RFAF) Vladimir Mikhailov mentioned that the development of the Russian strategic aviation will not be focused just on further upgrade of the Tu-160, today’s world best strategic bomber. It was the first time when an official of such level mentioned principally new aircraft. This week this information was publicly confirmed by the Deputy Commander of the 37th Air Army major-general Anatoly Zhiharev, who also gave some details of the project. According to him the designers received technical specifications from the Air Force necessary to implement. R&D on the new aircraft has been already included in the federal budget. The militaries claim that the new aviation complex will be totally different from the existing planes and surpass the characteristics of the foreign analogies. It will be able to take off from different types of runways, including unpaved and short, to penetrate through any systems of air defense, to fulfill mission on any battlefields (over land and sea), in any weather and climatic conditions. It will carry conventional and high precision weapons (missiles and bombs). Unlike the Commander of the RFAF, who earlier said that the new aircraft will hardly appear in the next ten years, Zhiharev speaks about ten years as a usual time between the begging of the R&D and appearance of the new aircraft.
However, in the foreseeable future Tu-160 will be able to fulfill all missions of the strategic aviation. At least in the next ten years even older Тu-95МС and Тu-22М3 “will have no noticeable disadvantages”. All have a perfect platform for upgrade. Combat opportunities of the upgraded aircraft increased drastically. During last experimental bombing the deviation of the bomb dropped from Tu-22M3 did not exceed one meter. Such accuracy can be regarded as high precision arms. According to the official estimation of the Russian Air Force representative existing planes can stay on duty another 20 years, even 50. First of all it concerns Tu-160.
One of the most important developments that took place with Tu-160 is fitting it for conventional arms. This process started in 2005 with the aim of making the Air Force ready to fight terrorism. Then there were several successful tests of the strategic bombers in the Far East, including one held in the presence of the President of the nation. Once the President himself flew the aircraft as a co-pilot. In 2006 the tests continued in the Atlantic, Northern and Indian Oceans. Each year the Air Force gets one or two upgraded Tu-160. Modernization is viewed also as the R&D for the construction of the next generation aircraft, which will carry cruise missiles with the extended range and principally new equipment. Tu-95 will be decommissioned not sooner than in 10 years. Tu-95 is very economic, has excellent take off weight characteristics and can stay in the air for 25 hours. Its upgrade is also focused on using conventional and high precision arms.
Some of the new high precision arms have been commissioned with the Russian Air Force. One of the most recent developments is guided bomb KAB-500S-E. This is Russian analogy of the American JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition). KAB-500S-E will be used by the new aviation complexes at the altitudes of 500- 10000 meters with the speed of the carrier between 550-1100 km/h. Its accuracy is 5-10m. The “brain” of the all weather bomb is 24-channel GLONASS/Navstar PSN-2001 designed by the Moscow based KB Compass. KAB-500S-E is deemed also for export to India and China. Technically it can be used on the newest aircraft Su-32 and Su-35.