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Russia bares its nuclear teeth as NATO meets in Lithuania

Nicknamed 'White Swan' by Russian forces - and 'Blackjack' by NATO - the Tu-160M is equipped with the latest on-board defence system and unique weapons (Images courtesy: United Aircraft Corporation)

Russia has begun tactical flight exercises of its long-range aviation forces on upgraded strategic missile carrier Tu-160M and Tu-95ms aircraft just before several leaders of the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) started converging in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for the 74th Summit of the transatlantic alliance.

Starting Tuesday, Vilnius is hosting the two-day NATO Summit that the local government officials have said will be the largest event held in Lithuania’s history.

The much-awaited meeting takes place at a time when Russia continues to test its largest nuclear missile-carrying supersonic bomber – the newly manufactured Tu-160M strategic missile carrier – from the military air base in the Murmansk region, a couple of thousand kilometers away from the Lithuanian border.

“The exercise is of a planned nature and is carried out in accordance with the combat training plan. Upon completion of all activities carried out as part of the exercises, the crews will return to their base airfields to summarise the results,” said Colonel Nikolai Varpakhovich, Commander of the Russian long-range aviation unit.

Nicknamed ‘White Swan’ by Russian forces – and ‘Blackjack’ by NATO – the Tu-160M is equipped with the latest on-board defence system, a modern reliable communication system with enhanced noise immunity, and unique weapons that will significantly expand its combat capabilities when using conventional and nuclear weapons.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.come earlier, Tu-160M made its first flight from the airfield of the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant, the Tupolev branch of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), in January 2022.

Russia Tupolev

The plant manufactures the new generation strategic bomber Tu-160 and the Tu-214 specialised planes for the Russian Defence Ministry and also maintains the Russian Air Force’s long-range aviation fleet.

Supplying two Tu-160M strategic missile carriers to its aviation strategic nuclear forces was listed as one of the priority tasks for 2022 by the Russian Defence Ministry.

The entire modernization programme for the reproduction of Tu-160 aircraft was launched by the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has taken special interest in the project, including personally witnessing the progress at the plant located in Tatarstan.

“It is necessary to continue the planned, balanced equipping of the troops with modern weapons and equipment, and pay special attention to the supply of high-precision systems, the latest reconnaissance, navigation, communications and control systems,” Putin said.

The aircraft retains its appearance, but is created on a completely new technological base using digital technologies, say the men involved in the project.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in 2019 that the NK-32 engines of the second series have been installed on the strategic bomber which significantly increase the range and duration of the flight.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s accession to the transatlantic military alliance and challenges to the NATO geography amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war will be discussed at the Vilnius summit.

“The decisions we will take in Vilnius will bring Ukraine closer to NATO… Bolstering NATO’s deterrence and defence will also be high on the agenda of our summit,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the summit.

As Turkey agreed to support Sweden’s NATO application late Monday, US President Joe Biden said that he is looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Kristersson and Sweden as the alliance’s 32nd member.