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Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack

Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review February 2006 Title Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack
Author Yefim Gordon Publisher Midland Publications
Published 2004 ISBN 1-85780-147-4
Format 128 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $27.95


During the late 1960s, the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a directive for the development of a new strategic bomber. This directive, equivalent to the West's Request For Proposals or Invitation to Tender, was sent to the various design bureaus for consideration. Up until this point, military planners had been focused on the ICBM fleet and the only strategic bombers in the inventory were the Myasishchev M-4 Bison and the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear, both subsonic aircraft. Sukhoi's impressive T-4 (resembling the B-70 Valkyrie) was in the early stages of flight test when it had been summarily cancelled to focus on those very same ICBMs. With the USAF's intention to develop the supersonic B-1A bomber, it was time to counter.

At this time, only Sukhoi and Myasishchev OKBs responded and began development. Sukhoi advanced a derivative of the cancelled T-4, designated T-4MS, which was a very supersonic triangular lifting body with outboard variable geometry wings. This impressive design looks like something you'd see in the skies over Area 51! Myasishchev developed a number of variations based on a core design designated M-18 and M-20. Interestingly enough, the M-18 design was to become the basis for the Blackjack. The Tupolev OKB, which had been previously occupied with other responsibilities, was given the lead of a coalition of design bureaus that included both Sukhoi and Myasishchev OKBs. The Tu-160 was born.

This title provides some fascinating insight into the technical and political processes that evolved into the Tu-160. The author has done some phenominal research to pull together this story, especially since this aircraft was once one of the Soviets' greatest secrets!

Coverage of this title includes:

  • Introduction
  • The Great Contest - You Win Only To Lose
  • Taking Shape - From M-18 to Tu-160
  • Tests and Production - The Blackjack Becomes Reality
  • The Tu-160 in Detail
  • In Soviet Service - And in Later Days
  • Blackjack Versus Bone - Equals or Not?

This title is well-illustrated with lots of excellent color photos, drawings and even color profiles of several of the Tu-160s in service.

This is another nice historical piece from Midland Publications and fills another void in the published information about these aircraft. Definitely recommended!