Tupolev Design Bureau has received a contract from the Russian Ministry of Defence's (MoD) for modernisation of the national air force's Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber aircraft.
Awarded along with Kazan Aircraft Plant, the RUB3.4bn ($103m) contract covers upgrade of a total of three Tu-160 bombers, RIA Novosti reports.
The move follows the Russian MoD's February 2012 decision to equip the service with at least ten refurbished Tu-160 bombers by 2020.
Designated as Tu-160M, the modernised aircraft is expected to feature new weaponry and enhanced electronics and avionics, which will double its combat effectiveness, as reported earlier by the news agency.
The bomber is scheduled to remain in operational service until the production of a new-generation strategic bomber, also called as perspective aviation complex for long-range aviation (PAK-DA) is completed.
Powered by four Samara NK-321 turbofan engines, the Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber is primarily designed for the delivery of nuclear and conventional weapons, including long-range nuclear missiles deep inside continental theatres of operation during day and night and in all weather conditions.
Capable of operating at all geographical latitudes, the bomber features low-mounted, swept-back and tapered, variable geometry wings with a large fixed-centre section, and advanced avionics systems, including an integrated aiming, navigation and flight control system, navigation and attack radar, electronic countermeasures system, and automatic controls.
Available in eight variants, the aircraft entered operational service in 1987, and 16 are currently serving the Russian Air Force's 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment in various roles.
Meanwhile, the air force is also planning to increase the number of Tu-160 bombers to 30 in the future.
Deliveries of the supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bombers are scheduled to be completed by December 2015.
Image: A Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber aircraft of the Russian Air Force. Photo: courtesy of Sergey Krivchikov - Russian AviaPhoto team.