Russia’s Tu-160 strategic bombers may be armed with hypersonic ballistic missiles.
The Russian military is studying whether to arm the Tu-160 (NATO code name: Blackjack) with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“dagger”), a nuclear-capable missile with an estimated range of 1,200 miles and a speed of up to Mach 10. If true, it would vastly extend the Blackjack’s target reach.
“The possibility of deploying Kinzhal missiles on Tu-160 aircraft is being considered,” said Russian news agency TASS, quoting an unidentified source in the defense industry. “The work on this option is due to be completed this year,” the source said.
TASS is a state-owned news organization, so presumably, the “leak” indicates that Russia either plans to arm the Tu-160 with hypersonic missiles—or wants the rest of the world to think so.
The supersonic Blackjack wouldn’t be the first Russian aircraft to be armed with the Kinzhal, an air-launched version of the ground-based, nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missile. In 2018, Russian officials announced the missile had been fitted to the MiG-31 fighter (NATO code name: Foxhound), a descendant of the Cold War MiG-25 Foxbat. “Currently, a squadron of MiG-31K aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles is on experimental combat duty in Russia’s Southern Military District,” TASS said.