Russia begins production of engines for upgraded Tu-160M strategic bomber

The Russian long-range aviation is acquiring new combat capabilities. Engine development is one of the guidelines. The production of NK-32-02 engines for upgraded strategic Tu-160M bombers has begun. In November 2020, the aircraft with the new serial engines made the maiden flight at the airfield of Kazan Aircraft Plant, the Army Standard writes.

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Russia begins production of engines for upgraded Tu 160M strategic bomber 1 Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber (Picture source: Russian MoD)

NK-32-02 engines will increase Tu-160 range by 1,000 kilometers. The absence of the engines impeded the ambitious plans to resume Tu-160 production, which was stopped in 1994. Turbojet NK-32 is a Soviet engine designed in 1977 for Tu-160. Its creation was a major success of Soviet engine manufacturing. The engine was compact and reliable.

Trud enterprise launched NK-32 batch production in 1983. It continued up to 1993 and was stopped. Most of the technical documentation was lost. In ten years, over 30 bombers were equipped and a stock of 250 engines and components was accumulated. The production of Tu-160 stopped in the same time. The overhaul of available aircraft was done with spare parts and engines produced before 1994.

The long-range aviation had to rely on the stocks of NK-32 for a long time. They were sufficient, as the fleet of Tu-160 radically decreased after the Soviet collapse. Some bombers remained in Ukraine and were scrapped upon an agreement with the United States. The latest bombers with a big resource were scrapped.

The reduced fleet of bombers and low flight intensity because of a lack of fuel saved Tu-160 resource and decreased the need for new engines. However, it was necessary to resume engine production and upgrade Tu-160. Production programs were numerously launched, but stalled because of the absence of NK-32 engines.

The engine technology was likely lost forever. However, the Kuznetsov enterprise in Samara restored some documentation and advanced towards the production of the engine. Large-size magnesium and titanium casting revived the engine and improved its characteristics.

The new NK-32-02 retained the compact size of the predecessor, but decreased fuel consumption 10 percent. The range of Tu-160 increased over a thousand kilometers depending on the operational regime. NK-32-02 has a new cooling system. Compressor and turbine blades are made of modern heat-resistant materials. The engine thrust is over 25 tons. It is to be used as the basis for the design of the power plant for Prospective Airborne Complex of Long-range Aviation (PAK DA).

The Kuznetsov enterprise had to be upgraded with new production lines, modern logistics and unique technologies to launch NK-32-02 production, the Army Standard said.

Russia begins production of engines for upgraded Tu 160M strategic bomber 2 Tupolev Tu-160 cockpit (Picture source: Rostec)

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