SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Soviet-era long-range bombers like Tu-95 Bears, Tu-22M Backfires, and Tu-160 Blackjacks are old and, at times, questionably maintained and have all experienced maintenance issues of some sort post fall of the Soviet Union. Yet they are reports that India might be considering leasing six Tu-160 Blackjacks from Russia to reinforce its second-strike nuclear capability.
At first Russian Air Force inventory has only 17 Soviet-built Tu-160s still in service, the latest one was the Tu-160M2 which was made from the unused airframe that was lying after the fall of the Soviet Union but Russia plans to eventually buy more about 50 Tu-160M bombers and is upgrading 16 existing Tu-160s to the standard first one to come in 2023.
Russia likely will follow its old playbook and offer older Tu-160s to India after modernization with limited airframe life left in them as they do with their leased nuclear submarine to India so that once the lease is over they are scrapped or kept in storage since they will have little utility for them after the lease period is over. keeping in mind the advanced age of this aircraft it will end up more of a Hangar Queen than having any actual utility.
Indian Navy operated Tupolev Tu-142 an aircraft derived from the Tu-95 turboprop strategic bomber in past and very well knows a thing or two about how cumbersome are this soviet era jets to operate and maintain that in 29 years fleet of 8 aircraft accumulated only 30,000 flight hours at the time of retirement when compared to P-8I fleet that has already surpassed 35,000 flight hours in less than 10 years.
Indian Naval Arm a few years back had made plans to lease 4 Tu-22M a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber but the overhaul cost of modernization of this aircraft and operation +flight hour cost was a major reason why the deal fell through and since then Navy has rejected the idea of ever acquiring a maritime strike bomber for its operations requirements.
Indian Air force doesn’t need a long-range strategic bomber, especially one that is not fully owned by them and comes with various No can do clauses that will further limit its usage in an operational role. Su-30MKI should be utilized for long-range strike missions that it needs to be equipped with a long-range cruise or hypersonic missile weapon system.
India in long run can work on a stealth 6th generation fighter bomber that can be used for Nuclear delivery or long-range maritime strikes by both the Navy and Airforce.
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