Russia Flirts with SSBJ Version of Tu-160 Bomber

 - January 30, 2018, 11:26 AM

Russian president Vladimir Putin suggested manufacturing a civilian, supersonic business jet (SSBJ) version of the Tupolev Tu-160M2 swing-wing strategic bomber during a visit late last week to the Kazan Aviation Production Association (KAPO) to watch the maiden flight of the Mach 2 airplane. Then yesterday, Russia’s ministry for industry and trade released a statement saying the demand for supersonic business jets (SSBJs) in Russia alone is estimated at 20 to 30 units, with each selling at $100 million to $120 million, and saying the global market would also be “substantial.”

At first blush, Putin’s idea was taken as a part of the rhetoric associated with the March 18 presidential elections. However, United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) president Yuri Slyusar has since announced that his company has started working on “a supersonic civilian airplane” and said “technologies and design solutions from the Tu-160 can be applied.”

Seemingly, UAC’s announcement was about an SSBJ scale model on display at MAKS’2017 at the stand of the Central Aero-hydra-dynamics Institute. Industry sources believe an SSBJ can be designed and built in seven years, provided it uses an existing engine such as the Nukolai Kuznetsov NK-32-02 afterburner-equipped turbofans being tested on the Tu-160M2 prototype.

A number of Russian government officials and industry leaders who spoke to the media in recent days insisted that a number of local and foreign wealthy individuals want a supersonic jet. In fact, they said some have even asked Russia to make one available.

Even though they admit the production run would be limited, the expected flyaway price of $150 million (including interior and options) would make it worth an effort, the officials said. “The main thing to consider is that the plant in Kazan has mastered production of long members in the force-bearing structure [made of titanium], [and] that we have a capable engineering team and technologies mastered on the Tu-160, which are applicable to both military and civilian airplanes,” said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister responsible for the military industrial complex.

He stressed that adding commercial orders to the one placed by the Russian defense ministry for 10 Tu-160M2s (with an option for 40 more) would “increase the production run and decrease unit cost.”