Moscow - Tupolev repeatedly receives requests to develop a business jet based on its deadly supersonic bomber Tu-160. But there are big obstacles.
The Russian bomber Tupolev Tu-160 is considered as an ultimate killer on the combat areas. The strategic swing-wing supersonic bomber, nicknamed Blackjack by NATO, holds numerous records. It is the largest and heaviest bomber jet in the world that is able to reach a speed of Mach 2. In the event of a nuclear war, the Tu-160 would be the backbone of the Russian Air Force.
No wonder, such an ultra-machine also awakens the appetite of the super rich. "We keep receiving inquiries from important business people who want a private supersonic aircraft based on the Tupolev Tu-160 or the long-range bomber Tupolev Tu-22M3," said chief designer Valery Solozobov to the Russian news agency Tass. "So far, Tupolev received inquiries from an Arab sheikh, an Australian and a Greek businessman," he added.
With a range of 12,300 kilometers (7643 NM), and a speed of around Mach 2, a Tu-160 would be far ahead of the competition as a business jet.
But the requests were all rejected. "Although a conversion is technically possible, there are big obstacles. "Converting the Tupolev Tu-160 into a business jet would be very expensive. Even the development of a completely new aircraft would be cheaper than using the know-how from the development of the Tu-160," Solozobov said.
For example, the swing wings are not suitable for a business jet. And that's not all: "Most of the technologies used in the Tu-160 are secret. It is therefore not a good idea to build a passenger version for private customers," says Solozobov. According to the Russian news agency Tass, it is more likely that Tupolev will develop a separate supersonic business jet in the near future if investors or future clients finance the project.
Today, the Tu-160 is used solely by the Russian Air Force (11 Tu-160s and 5 modernized Tu-160Ms in service). Completed at the very end of the Cold War, the aircraft had its first combat mission in late 2015 in Syria, bombing Daesh installations. In November 2017, a newly developed Tu-160M2 was revealed by Russian Military for the first time, which will have its maiden flight next year and secure the program until 2040.
With a range of 12,300 kilometers (7643 NM), a speed of around Mach 2 (at 40.000 feet), and a maximum takeoff weight of 275 tons, a Tu-160 would be far ahead of the competition as a business jet. If Tupolev decides in the future to put even a part of this concentrated power into a private jet, the cards will be reshuffled throughout the industry.