Russia is to increase the size of its Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ fleet by a factor of three over the coming years as it looks to build up its strategic bomber capabilities in the face of ever deteriorating relations with the West.
The expansion of the fleet from 16 to a proposed 50 bombers was announced by Russian Air Force Commander Colonel General Viktor Bondarev on 28 May, the Sputnik state news organisation reported.
Gen Bondarev did not disclose when production might begin or be complete. The general’s statement follows comments made by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu who previously called for Tu-160 production to be restarted to see the air force through to the introduction into service in 2023 of the new PAK-DA bomber.
Over recent years, and especially since the crisis in Ukraine began in late 2013, President Vladimir Putin has used his bomber force to demonstrate his military capabilities and political resolve to the United States and the West.