Two strategic Tu-160 bombers of Russia’s Air Force completed the flight in accordance with the plan to patrol remote geographical territories and returned to the airbase in Russia’s Saratov region from Venezuela, RIA Novosti reports with reference to a senior Air Force official, Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Drik. The two planes landed Friday at 01:16 a.m. Moscow time.
Alexander Anfinogentov, Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force, told the news agency that the two bombers set two world records during the flight from the Russian air base to Venezuela and back. The flight duration of the planes made up over 15 hours for the first time ever. In addition, for the first time ever, the planes accepted 25 tons of fuel during the process of aerial refueling over Great Britain.
As for the rest, the flights did not differ much from usual flights, although they were complicated with weather conditions in Venezuela.
The flight experience will be taken into consideration during the modernization and the development of new aircraft. The crews of the two bombers spent over ten hours in the textureless area above the ocean with no radio aids whatsoever.
“The flight demonstrated the professionalism of the crew and the reliability of the aircraft, Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force said.
The official pointed out that never before had strategic aircraft approached the equator so close (about 400 kilometers were left). “Flights have their own peculiarities in those latitudes. This experience will be summed up and used to train young pilots in the future,” Anfinogentov said.
The Tupolev 160 bombers completed the air alert mission along the coast of South America and took off from the air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday at 10:00 Moscow time. The flight route was designated above neutral waters of the Atlantic and the Arctic oceans.
The flights were performed in strict correspondence with the international rules for airspace use over neutral waters with no transgression of other countries’ borders.
The Tu-160 bombers landed in Venezuela September 10, after 13 hours of continuous flight. NATO’s F-16 fighters accompanied the Russian bombers over Iceland and the Norwegian Sea. There were no nuclear weapons on board the Tu-160 bombers, although the planes are capable of carrying 12 long-range cruise missiles on board.
The planes performed several flights over neutral waters in the water area of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber designed by the Soviet Union. The Tu-160 is the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. The aircraft is similar to the B-1 Lancer, but 430mph (692 km/h) faster than the Lancer, and possesses greater range and payload capabilities. Produced 10 years later than the B-1, it flies at 10,000 ft (3,048 m) lower maximum altitude.
Introduced in 1987, it was the last Soviet strategic bomber designed, but production of the aircraft still continues, with at least 16 currently in service with the Russian Air Force.
Its pilots call the Tu-160 the “White Swan”, due to the surprising maneuverability and antiflash white finish of the aircraft. Russia currently has 16 strategic Tu-160 bombers.