After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West heaved a sigh of relief as the successor state Russia was comparatively weak. The USA and NATO were also thankful that the balance to US power had gone with the wind. This euphoria was short-lived, as a man who believed in restoring old Russian power emerged. He was Vladimir Putin, who had a one-point agenda to make Russia a great power again and the west and the USA were alarmed.

The TU-160

Great power status can only be conferred on a nation on the basis of its #military and strike capability. In particular the capability to strike deep into the enemy heartland with an offensive strike force. Part of this capability to Russia is given by the Tupolev-160.  This is a supersonic strategic bomber and its effectiveness can be gauged by the massive and precession bombing of ISIS targets and opponents of Assad in Syria.

The plane has its roots in the erstwhile Soviet Union and first flew in 1981. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the  development of the bomber was also stalled. However, after Putin became president the bomber was taken out of mothballs and fresh development started. To date, 8 prototypes of the plane have been commissioned.

A force multiplier

The TU-160 is a lethal force multiplier. It has a crew of 4 and is a variable geometry wing plane. The bomber reaches a speed of Mach 2.05( 2200Km/hr) at a height of 40,000 ft. The plane has tremendous endurance and range with a combat radius of 7300km. The plane is capable of carrying nuclear weapons or 40,000 kg of deep penetration bombs. It also carries cruise missiles and ship attack weapons. 

The beauty of the plane is the sweep of its wings which move in an arc from 20-65 degrees. This gives the plane great maneuverability and operational capability. Putin has been flexing his muscles and two planes took part in exercises in Venezuela in 2013 and from November 2015 are being used to bolster the Assad regime. The Russians are building 2 of these supersonic planes every year and hope to have a fleet of 40 bombers by 2025-2030. The TU-160 has changed the strategic scenario and the west and the USA are wary of it. #war