Tupolev Tu-160 Beliy Lebed (White Swan, Blackjack) Strategic Bomber
by Tim Wing
Though the strategic bomber feel out of favor with the United Earth Defense Force (UEDF), the Soviet Air Force continued to use them all the way till the Invid Invasion. This was mainly due to the fact that they could not count on their relatively small space fleet to survive in an all-out confrontation with the UEDF. Because of this, they had to rely on the traditional nuclear triad for their deterrent. Of the three weapons systems in this triad (intercontinental missiles, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear armed bombers) the bombers actually had the greatest chance of making through to their targets. ICBMs would have been easily knocked out by the UEDF’s fleet as soon as they left the Earth’s atmosphere. Bombers, on the other hand, would at least have a ghost of a chance of sneaking through air defense coverage far enough to launch their cruise missiles. Of course, as EBSIS cruise missile technology got more and more advance, the bombers that carried them could fire from a greater distance, which only enhanced their effectiveness and relevance.
- Role: Supersonic strategic bomber
- National origin: Soviet Union
- Design group: Tupolev Design Bureau
- Built by: Kazan Aircraft Production Association
- First flight: 19 December 1981
- Introduction: 1987
- Status: Retired
- In Service Dates: 1987-2031
- Primary user: Soviet Air Force
- Produced: 1984–2003
- Number built: 127
The Tupolev Tu-160 Beliy Lebed (or White Swan, UEDF reporting name: Blackjack) was a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. Though thought by most to be little more than a copy of the American B-1 bomber, this is an unfair assessment. Though certainly, the B-1’s basic design served as the jumping off point for the Tu-160, the “White Swan” was significantly larger and introduced a host of Soviet developed technologies. The Tu-160 was both faster and more versatile than its American counterpart, and it carried a heavier bomb load. The Tu-160 did not, however, have the low altitude performance of the B-1.
Entering service in 1987, the Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union before humanity’s brief unification. With unification came the end of the Tu-160’s production run with only 127 built. In the wake of the First Robotech War, and humanity’s re-polarization into East and West, the Tu-160 found itself in high demand once again. By this time, however, most had been lost to the Zentraedi Rain of Death. Only 40 some Blackjacks survived the war. The leadership of the Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States ordered the Tu-160 back into production in the late teens. Tupolev complied of course, but the aircraft that would emerge from their production facility four years later was a radically different plane. This plane, of course, was the Tu-210 Beast.
Though the Tu-160 was rendered redundant by its younger brother, it continued to serve as a high altitude cruise missile carrier. It is curious that the Soviet Union kept this plane in service. It was in-capable of conducting low altitude penetration into United Earth Government territory, nor was it as efficient of a missile carrier as the updated Tu-95 Bears. It can only be surmised that sentimentality alone kept the small fleet of 40 some “White Swans” in service until the Invid Invasion.
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Content by Tim Wing
Copyright © 2015 Tim Wing