Tu-160M trials with new engines

On November 3, 2020, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation announced that the modernised Tu-160M strategic bomber had successfully completed its first flight with new-production NK-32-02 engines. Led by Tupolev’s test pilot Anri Naskidiants, the aircraft departed the Kazan plant on a mission that lasted for two hours and 20 minutes, reaching an altitude of 19,700ft.

Resumption of the Kuznetsov NK-32 engine production at Samara is one of the most ambitious stages of restarting the Tu-160 Blackjack bomber programme, in addition to modernising the current fleet. Samara’s Kuznetsov company was awarded a contract for the new NK-32-02 turbofan engines in 2014, after an almost 25-year hiatus. The current powerplant – a modernised NK-32-02 (or NK-32 series 02) – was built in 1987, but due to a lack of money it did not undergo a full test programme or enter production. 

The improvements to the NK-32-02 include new blade profiles, both of the compressor and the turbine, as well as improved internal aerodynamics and more efficient cooling. As a result, the fuel consumption has been reduced, although the 25-tonne thrust remains unchanged. Tupolev claimed during tests with the new engine back in the 1980s that a Tu-160 achieved a range of 13,950km, with a nominal load of six cruise missiles dropped midway. That is more than 1,650km further than the basic version of the bomber.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active subscription to view. You can also access it if you’re subscribed to one of our Key Publishing magazines.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Why not join our community of aviation enthusiasts? Pick one of our introductory offers and access a wealth of world-class aviation content

Subscribe now