The Tu-160 strategic supersonic missile carrier is the world`s largest combat aircraft, it is intended for strikes with nuclear or conventional weapons on the most important objects located in remote areas or deeply in the enemy territory. The plane is also a world`s champion with 44 records to its credit.
Research studies on a future multi-regime supersonic bomber started at Tupolev in the late Sixties. Throughout the work on the Tu-160, Tupolev designers paid considerable attention to reducing its radar and IR signature.
On 19 December 1981 the crew headed by test-pilot B.Veremei flem the prototype for the first time from the aerodrome of Gromov`s institute in Zhukovsky near Moscov. The first operational Tu-160 was delivered to the Long Range Aviation Priluki air base (in the Ukraine) in May 1987.
Initial plans called for 100 airframes, but in January 1992 President Yeltsin ordered to stop Tu-160 production. By that moment 24 airframes had been completed. However, when the USSR collapsed, 19 Tu-160s fell into the Ukrainian hands; the only RusAF bomber regiment operating the Tu-160 is one based at Engels.
The Tu-160`s navigation and aiming complex allows the aircraft to perform automatic flight and weapons release by day and night in all weathers. The Tu-160 has a doubled inertial navigation and digital multi-channel communications systems, as well as powerful electronic warfare complex. The electronic optical sight provides a highly-accurate bombing in daylight and moderate luminosity conditions. In the future the aircraft may be fitted with laser designator system for aiming laser-guided munitions.
Twelve X-55 compact winged cruise missiles are placed in two launchers inside of the fuselage. Alternatively, the bomber can carry missiles of other types, or guded and free-fall bombs, or other means of destruction, which makes it effective against ground and sea targets.