A new Russian supersonic bomber variant, the upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M2 Blackjack, is expected to make its first flight in 2019.
The upgraded aircraft features new weaponry, improved electronics and avionics. The bomber will carry the hypersonic Kh-90 (3M25 Meteorit-A) missile.
The Russian Air Force will receive more than 10 modernised Tu-160M2s by 2020.
Entering service in 1987, the Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union.
As of 2016, the Russian Air Force, Long Range Aviation branch has 16 aircraft remaining, with fewer being airworthy and in service.
The Tu-160 active fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s. The Tu-160M modernisation programme has begun with the first updated aircraft delivered in December 2014.
Russian media reports in August 2011 claimed that only four of the sixteen Tu-160 were flight worthy.
By mid-2012 Flight reported eleven were combat-ready and between 2011 and 2013 eleven were photographed in flight.
In November 2013, Aleksandr Golovanov and Aleksandr Novikov went into Colombian airspace in two different occasions without receiving previous clearance from the Colombian Government.
The aircraft were going from Venezuela to Nicaragua and headed for Managua. The Colombian Government issued a letter of protest to the Russian Government following the first violation. Two Colombian Air Force IAI Kfirs stationed at Barranquilla intercepted and escorted the two Blackjacks out of Colombian airspace after the second violation.
In November 2015, Russia started using Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M strategic long-range bombers against targets in Syria, along with Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the Mediterranean. This marked the combat debut of the Tu-160 and Tu-95.