Russia’s ‘Highly Modernized’ Tu-95 Bomber ‘Roars’ With New Weapons, Electronics & Modified Engines

While Russia has deployed its Tu-95 strategic bomber to strike Ukraine with conventional missiles, a highly modified variant of the Tu-95 strategic bomber recently undertook a second test flight.

A press release published by United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) on January 16 revealed that the Tu-95MSM strategic missile carrier had conducted another test flight. The UAC claimed that all the established parameters were met during the flight, and the aircraft’s enhanced systems were reviewed, RIA Novosti reported.

“As part of the test program, another flight of a deeply modernized Tu-95MSM missile carrier took place. During the flight, the necessary checks of systems and equipment were carried out,” the UAC said in a release. Work on the Tu-95MSM is carried out jointly by specialists from Tupolev and Beriev.

The UAC added, “as part of a deep modernization, the necessary complexes of improvements were carried out on the aircraft to improve performance.”

The Tu-95MSM is a prototype strategic missile carrier, a highly modified variant of the Tu-95MS that will significantly bolster the efficiency and reliability of the bomber. The Tu-95MS is currently in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces and forms the mainstay of Russia’s bomber fleet.

On its part, the base model of the Tu-95 took its maiden flight in 1952 and was inducted into service with the Soviet Air Force in 1956. The original Tu-95 models were gradually modified over time and given state-of-the-art capabilities, reaching the current stage.

The Tu-95MS has widely been deployed in Russia’s special military operations, regularly delivering strikes with long-range cruise missiles on infrastructure and military facilities in Ukraine.

One Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) suffered significant damage when the Engels Air Force Base housing it came under a drone attack by Ukraine on December 5. The aircraft has been moved to the hangars and is not expected to return soon.

Tupolev Tu-95 - Wikipedia
Tupolev Tu-95 – Wikipedia

Russia has since moved its Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers from the Engels AFB to a location in Russia’s Far East. The reduction in the number of combat-ready aircraft has been seen by commentators as a setback for the Russian military, given that these aircraft have been essential in Russia’s protracted conflict with Ukraine.

The flight test of the Tu-95MSM variant comes at a time when Russia has intensified its attack on Ukraine while simultaneously bolstering its military strength. The VKS, for one, is expected to receive several new aircraft and auxiliary systems in the ongoing year.

What Is The Tu-95MSM Variant?

The Tu-95MSM is a strategic missile-carrying bomber powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12MPM turboprop engines made by Tupolev. The MSM variant is likely to feature a more powerful variant of the NK-12MP turboprop engine.

According to details available in the public domain, the new upgraded Tu-95MSM is also equipped with a modern radar and navigation system and an airborne defensive complex.

Further, the designers have reportedly developed a drive gear for the strategic bomber that generates more torque without any weight penalty.

The first flight of the bomber was conducted in August 2020 at the Taganrog Aviation Plant, and the UAC released the footage of the flight in 2020. The video showed the iconic Russian bomber with coaxial contra-rotating propellers that were seen taxiing, taking off, and landing after what was known to be 2.5 hours of the test flight.

According to previous reports, the upgraded aircraft includes the Novella-NV1.021 phased array radar, a new flight control and information display system, and the Meteore-NM2 airborne defense complex, capable of jamming opponent ground and aircraft-based radar.

Additionally, the “new” Bear model has enhanced Kuznetsov NK-12MPM turboprop engines, a new SOI-021 information display system, a new weapons control system, and new engines. These are believed to extend the strategic bomber’s range and cut the vibration from the motors in half.

A statement previously obtained by TASS read, “The NK-12MPM engine developed by the Samara-based Kuznetsov public company (part of the UEC [United Engine Corporation] within Rostec) is a modification of the NK-12MP, the world’s most powerful (15,000 hp) serial-produced turboprop engine.”

It improves the aircraft’s take-off characteristics and increases the load-carrying capacity and the flight range of the missile-carrying bomber. The new power plant uses more powerful propellers created by Aerosila Research and Production Enterprise while the unique design solutions have almost halved the vibration level,” the statement reads.

“This is an aircraft with a new set of weapons, new onboard electronic equipment, new modified engines, new propellers. The combat capabilities of the plane have doubled after this modernization,” Yuri Slyusar, general director of United Aircraft Corporation, said, commenting on the first flight of the Tu-95MSM, according to the Zvezda television channel.

Compared to the Tu-95MS variant of the aircraft, the upgraded Tu-95MSM variant is reportedly capable of carrying eight to ten more missiles under its reinforced wings.

Even though the aircraft was launched several decades ago, in the 1950s, it is anticipated to fly until 2040 after the upgrade with the MSM variant.