Modernising the Tu-95MS to the MSM will expand the bomber’s missile carriage with four additional external pylons – each of which can carry two missiles. The new bomber is designed to operate advanced Kh-101 and Kh-102 cruise missiles, platforms without peer outside Russia and designed for the more modern Tu-160 Blackjack – an elite supersonic swept wing bomber which is currently undergoing its own modernisation program, and is fielded in smaller numbers alongside the Bear in a complementary role. Because of the new missiles’ considerable length, and the Tu-95’s smaller airframe than the Blackjack, the missiles must be carried externally – hence the need for new external pylons – six in total. The pylons are also compatible with the older Kh-55 cruise missiles, which were previously deployed internally using a KMU-6-5 rotary launcher.
While the Kh-55 was restricted to an engagement range of 3000km, still a phenomenal distance allowing the bombers to strike targets as far as Greenland in North America and the entire European continent without leaving Russian airspace, the Kh-101 has an extended range of 5000km and an advanced stealth profile allowing it to better evade enemy air defences. With the standoff missiles lacking the immense hypersonic speeds of shorter ranged platforms such as the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal deployed by Russia’s MiG-31 interceptors, the enhancement to their survivability provided by radar evading capabilities is a highly prized asset. The missile is ca
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