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The Story of the Blackjack is also the story of Russia and Ukraine

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By Vitaly V. Kuzmin – http://vitalykuzmin.net/?q=node/498, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26283786

Over at 1945 I take a look at the new Blackjacks:

The decision to restart the Tu-160 line was driven by a perception that Russia did not possess enough fast, long-range bombers. The operational fleet has hovered in the low double digits over the last decade, but the Russians have figured out how to use the Blackjack for strategic messaging purposes (visiting Venezuela and bombing Syria), and as a test-bed for new systems. Options for acquisition from other countries simply weren’t available, because no one else build long-range supersonic bombers. Finally and perhaps most importantly, Russia’s effort at developing a stealth bomber has seen significant delays.

This is also a story of Russia and Ukraine. Back in the day important components of the bomber were built in Ukraine, as was the case with many Soviet military aircraft. When the Russians cranked up the production line in 2015 they had to re-source that part of the supply chain, given how the Moscow-Kiev relationship soured after the war. But that’s not all; after the collapse of the USSR a good many of the existing Blackjack fleet came into the ownership of newly-independent Ukraine. The Ukrainians didn’t have much use for the exceedingly expensive jets, but the Americans did; we tried to buy three to use as space launch vehicles in the 1990s. Couldn’t close the deal, and about half the Tu-160 fleet was eventually sold back to Russia. Russia put them back in service and used them in the Syria war. I suspect we’ll see them put to some use in the upcoming fracas…

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