As follows from the video, the first prototype of the upgraded Tu-160M, it was not the Tu-160 plane with serial number 2-02 (the fourth built serial Tu-160, board number "19", proper name "Valentin Bliznyuk") that was converted, as our blog earlier mistakenly reported, but another board - combat bomber with serial number 4-05 and the name "Igor Sikorsky" (previously had tail number "14" and registration number RF-94103). This aircraft made its first flight in 1988 and was one of the eight Tu-160s received by the Russian side in 1999 from Ukraine from the former 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment in Priluki. The aircraft has been on KAP since 2014.
It was reported that the Tu-160 aircraft modernization project into the Tu-160M variant (“70M product”) was approved on October 23, 2014. In total, 15 Tu-160 combat aircraft of the Russian Air Force should be upgraded to the level of Tu-160M, and under the contract of the Russian Ministry of Defense with PJSC Tupolev in January 2018 worth 160 billion rubles at KAZ, ten new Tu-160M bombers should be built by 2027. According to known data, the first flight of the first of them is planned for 2021 with the beginning of deliveries in 2023.
Министерство обороны Российской Федерации распространило видео первого полета первого опытного модернизированного стратегического бомбардировщика Ту-160М, состоявшегося 2 февраля 2020 года на аэродроме Казанского авиационного завода (КАЗ) имени С.П. Горбунова филиала ПАО…
so 25 Tu-160M in total. 15 upgraded Tu-160s and 10 new built
Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia
BY REBECCA KHEEL1TWEETSHAREMORE Supporters of a key arms control treaty between the United States and Russia are raising pressure on the Trump administration to renew the pact after the one-year deadline to do so passed. Democratic lawmakers, arms control advocates and at least one Republican issued a flood of statements this week urging President Trump to renew the New START Treaty, which they fear he will allow to lapse. Whether their pressure campaign is working is another question.
Administration officials have said they want to update the treaty by adding China and expanding it to cover new weapons, but there has been no apparent movement on talks as the agreement’s expiration looms. National security advisor Robert O’Brien said this past week arms control talks with Russia would begin “soon.” "We'll start negotiations soon on arms control and on the nuclear issue, which is, you know, important to the safety of the world, to every country, not just the US and Russia," O’Brien said in an address at the Meridian International Center.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) represents the last major treaty binding the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The agreement, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads each country can have at 1,550 a piece. There are also limits on deploying weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, that could deliver the warheads. And the treaty lays out a verification regime that includes 18 on-site inspections per year. The agreement expires Feb. 5, 2021, but there is an option to extend it another five years after that. Russia has offered to extend the treaty immediately with no-preconditions. China, meanwhile, has rejected joining the talks.
Arms control advocates have been sounding the alarm on New START since Trump withdrew last year from a separate arms pact with Russia known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The demise of the INF Treaty left New START as the lone treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, and Trump letting New START expire would mean the world’s two largest nuclear powers have no legal constraints on their arsenals for the first time in five decades, advocates warn. The New START’s expiration date comes a couple weeks after the next presidential inauguration date, meaning the decision to renew it could be left to Trump’s successor if he’s defeated in November. Major Democratic candidates -- including former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) -- have backed renewing the treaty. But it’s unclear whether a new president would have enough time to act. Russia has suggested it won’t wait until the last minute to renew the treaty. “I would think there would be enough time, but I don’t know for sure,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said.
Smith said it’s imperative lawmakers keep pressure on the Trump administration to stay in the treaty, but acknowledged “there’s only so much we can do.” “We’ve had a sense of urgency for some time because the administration has signaled reluctance to extend it. As far as if there’s anything we can do, we have to put pressure on them to keep going, to continue the treaty,” he said, adding that pressure can come by bringing “public attention to the issue of how dangerous a nuclear arms race would be.” To that end, supporters of renewing the treaty put out a slew of statements this past week as the agreement reached its ninth anniversary and final year before expiration. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tweeted out a page on its website titled “The Last Nuclear Arms Treaty” with a red countdown clock ticking down the seconds until New START expires. Global Zero, which advocates for the elimination of nuclear weapons, released a statement from executive director Derek Johnson marking the start of “a countdown to nuclear chaos.”
“If Donald Trump lets New START expire, there will be no restraint, no inspection, no verification whatsoever of American and Russian nuclear activities for the first time since 1972,” Johnson said in the eight-paragraph statement. “Both nations will be free to build even more nuclear weapons, with no obligation to declare, display or control any of them. It will be a return to the most dangerous days of the Cold War, and the security of the entire planet hangs in the balance.” While covering China and new Russian weapons systems in an agreement are “worthy goals,” Johnson added, “they won’t happen unless the current system of restraint and verification is maintained and strengthened.” Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball similarly warned in his own statement that a lapse in New START would “open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition that President Trump says he wants to avoid.” In Congress, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) released a joint statement urging Trump to extend the treaty. “It is time for President Trump to listen to reason, expertise, and our allies who recognize the treaty as an indispensable pillar of security,” Engel and Menendez said. Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) tweeted that New START “has reduced the threat posed by nuclear weapons around the globe and helped maintain our world order,” while Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) tweeted that “we risk a 21st-century nuclear arms race” if Trump doesn’t extend the “indispensable pillar of security” of New START. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), co-sponsors of a resolution supporting New START’s extension, also put out statements about the impending expiration. “Today, New START remains critically important as relations between the U.S. and Russia become increasingly strained and with our own nuclear arsenal in desperate need of modernization,” Young said. “With nuclear threats emanating from Russia and emerging from China, it is paramount that we work together to curb the threats posed by nuclear war and extend the New START Treaty.” Many of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, though, oppose the treaty, arguing it handcuffs the United States when China is not a party to it and Russia may not be trusted to comply. Russia violated the INF Treaty ahead of the U.S. withdrawal, but it has complied with New START. China, meanwhile, is known to have a fraction of the number of nuclear warheads possessed by the United States or Russia.
Last year, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Tom Cotton(R-Ark.) introduced companion bills in their respective chambers to limit funding for New START unless it covers China and all Russian nuclear forces. In his address to dozens of foreign ambassadors, O’Brien said there’s “no more serious issue” a president can face than nuclear weapons, but suggested the administration has not yet settled on a structure for arms control. “How the framework is set up for those negotiations, whether it’s a new treaty, whether it’s an extension of New START, those are things that we’ll have to work out,” he added. “But I also think, and more importantly the president believes, that it shouldn’t just be the United States and Russia. We think that China is going to need to become involved in any serious arms control negotiation. And so we’re going to work on those talks in the coming months and year.”
The source did not specify, however, whether operational or upgraded Tu-160 bombers would be armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. TASS has no official confirmation of this information yet.
Another source in the Russian defense industry told TASS in July 2018 that there were plans to test Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems aboard a Tu-22M3 long-range bomber. The Tu-160 is a multimode supersonic strategic missile-carrying bomber with a variable sweep wing. Russia’s top brass announced its decision in 2015 to restart the production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber in its upgraded Tu-160M version at the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise. On February 2, an upgraded Tu-160M prototype derived from an operational Tu-160 bomber took to the skies for the first time. The upgraded bomber features advanced flight and navigation equipment, communications, a new radar and electronic countermeasures system. The bomber is capable of carrying up to 12 strategic cruise missiles on two multi-position rotating launchers inside the fuselage. Kinzhal hypersonic missile system The Kinzhal is the latest Russia airborne system that consists of a MiG-31K aircraft as a delivery vehicle and a hypersonic missile. According to media reports, a Kinzhal missile is the airborne version of the Iskander tactical missile system. Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile system in his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in March 2018. Currently, a squadron of MiG-31K aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles is on experimental combat duty in Russia’s Southern Military District.
New economic realities makes constitutional amendments necessary, says Putin Putin said that in the 1990s "the condition that our country is experiencing now didn’t exist"
NOVO-OGARYOVO, February 13. /TASS/. The changing situation in the Russian economy makes it possible and even necessary to amend the constitution, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with the working group on amendments to the Russian constitution Thursday. "It was impossible back in 1993 to enshrine certain things in the law, not only in the constitution, but in any law whatsoever, because they didn’t exist," Putin said, pointing to insufficient access to the Internet and other phenomena common for the present-day world. "The condition that our country is experiencing now didn’t exist back then," he highlighted. Back then, it was difficult to formulate certain things connected with Russia’s role in the world and its sovereignty. Social guarantees could not be ensured, "since the economy was in such a state that any law could be passed in the parliament, but were it not propped up by financing, it would have been senseless, and moreover harmful," Putin said. READ ALSO Constitutional amendments should enter into force only after nationwide vote, says Putin
It became clear in the 1990s that many laws were being passed without their expected implementation, since there were no resources for that.
Due to this, social guarantees could be formulated only generally. "Now we have a different situation, we do have such a possibility, taking, for example, adjusting pensions to inflation, minimum monthly wage, and so on," the president stressed. "It was impossible to enshrine all that then, yet now we can do this because the condition of our economy is different. And if we can, we must do this,’ Putin emphasized. Addressing the working group, Putin praised its activity, noting that many of its members were traveling to regions, communicating with people, staying in touch with professional communities. On January 23, Russia’s State Duma (lower house) unanimously voted to approve the bill in the first reading on the constitutional amendments submitted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The document, in particular, stipulates expanding the powers of the legislature and the Constitutional Court, a ban on high-ranking officials from holding residency permits in other countries, limiting the number of presidential terms, placing the supremacy of Russia’s constitution over international agreements and strengthening the state’s social obligations. The presidential bill also provides for a nationwide public vote on the law on amendments to Russia’s constitution.
Putin says inflation in Russia declines to 2.4% Putin also noted that unemployment was at a steadily low level
MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Inflation declines in the country and the inflation level is "confidently low," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday at a meeting on economic issues. "Inflation declined to 3% in 2019; now this indicator amounts to 2.4% in annual terms," the president said. "Unemployment is at a steadily low level: it is 4.6% in average over the last year," Putin noted. Growth of domestic GDP was 1.3% in the last year, with upward dynamics in the fourth quarter of 2019. "All these factors provide us with macroeconomic stability, reduce sensitivity of the national economy to fluctuations of the global market situation. Accumulated reserves provide the safety margin for the domestic economy and the financial; system of the country, the president said.
All the social and investment plans stated by Russian authorities should be supported with funding in full scope, the head of state said. "All the declared social, investment plans must be supported with funding to the full extent," Putin added.
NEW YORK, February 11. /TASS/. Gazprom expects natural gas production increase by 21% by 2030, compared to 2019, when the company produced 500 bln cubic meters of gas, according to the company’s presentation on the Investor Day. The company can therefore reach the figure of 605 bln cubic meters of gas. Gazprom also expects an annual reduction in investments by 11% within the period from 2020 to 2030.
"In 2019, Gazprom’s export to non-CIS countries amounted to 199.3 bln cubic meters of gas, taking into account 382 mln cubic meters delivered to our new destination - to China ... One thing is clear - Gazprom was and remains the largest exporter of natural gas in Europe and the world. In the mid-term, we expect export to Europe to remain at the level that has been achieved over the past years with adjustments that are related to weather conditions," Burmistrova said. According to her, despite the growth of LNG supplies to Europe, Gazprom's gas exports only slightly decreased from the record level of 2018. "Some people think that liquefied gas is more competitive than pipeline gas. You can often hear that LNG is pushing Russian pipeline gas out of the European market," Burmistrova said.
She noted that the main shortcoming of LNG, is its "limited ability to quickly meet demand during peak periods of consumption." "Therefore, for Europe, we continue to rely on pipeline gas, which will provide stability and reliability along with contract flexibility. In this region, pipeline deliveries are simply a more profitable solution," she concluded.