Russia's new supersonic bomber can outrun Britain's best fighter jet

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to unleash a supersonic bomber towards Britain which can outrun the Royal Air Force’s fastest fighter jets.

The introduction of the Blackjack follows sorties by other Russian aircraft near Cornwall last month which disrupted commercial flights and sparked major security fears.

On that occasion, RAF pilots flying Typhoon jets easily caught up with two propeller-driven Bear bombers and directed their crews away from UK airspace.

The top speed is the same... but our range is less: British Typhoon compared to the Russian Blackjack

The incident led to Russia’s ambassador to Britain being summoned to the Foreign Office to explain the mission.

But the Blackjack (Tu-160M) is three times faster than the Bear and can fly four times further than the fighters that make up Britain’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) squadrons, according to experts.

The bomber, also known as the White Swan because of its shape and huge wingspan, has just re-entered service in the Russian air force following a design overhaul.

Experts say it is now more than a match for any UK aircraft, including the Typhoon, which is used to protect British airspace.

Like the Blackjack, the Typhoon can reach Mach 2 – about 1,500mph.

But while the Russian aircraft has a range of 7,600 miles without refuelling, the Typhoon’s limit is 1,800 miles, meaning the Blackjack could maintain its maximum speed for much longer than its British counterpart without air-to-air refuelling.

Dr Igor Sutyagin, Senior Russian Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, said: ‘The Tu-160M now has greater thrust and fuel efficiency and it can carry a larger payload of conventional missiles.

‘The test flights were successful and the aircraft is now very potent. There is simply no British aircraft of its calibre or purpose. It is the largest bomber in the world.’

The first two revamped Blackjacks passed a series of test flights last December and have now been passed for service. 

They are being prepared for possible action at air bases in Russia that are within easy striking distance of Britain. 

One, Monchegorsk air base near Murmansk, northern Russia, is just 1,000 miles from the British Isles.

Ten more Blackjacks will be modernised before 2020.

Dr Sutyagin added that the Blackjacks’ revamp was part of a plan by President Putin to boost both Russia’s arsenal of military hardware and its troop numbers. 

It comes at a time of heightened tension between Russia and the West, and while Britain’s Armed Forces are shrinking due to spending cuts.

‘President Putin has prioritised areas of defence where he thinks he can be superior to the West,’ said Dr Sutyagin. 

‘He has also improved his long-range nuclear missiles such as the Bulava, which is now very hard to detect on launch. It is lighter and more compact, too, so more warheads can be fitted into a submarine. 

'He has also committed to the T-50 low-visibility jet. This stealth jet could lead to potentially massive changes in the distribution of military power around the world. 

'He is doubling the number of his Special Forces troops, as well.’

Between now and 2020, the size of the Spetsnaz (Special Forces) regiments will increase from 15,000 to 32,000. 

Trained to the same level as Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS), they were used in Chechnya and, most recently, in eastern Ukraine where they are understood to have organised a guerilla campaign by Russian separatists. 

Experts also believe Putin could send the Spetsnaz to the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, both Nato members, to organise resistance among ethnic Russians.

Dr Sutyagin added: ‘Military activity in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has borne all the hallmarks of the special Russian units – it would be a mistake to believe the same tactics might not be applied elsewhere.’

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been following the Blackjack and Russian stealth-jet programmes. But while the Typhoon cannot match the Blackjack’s range, RAF sources insist it is a superior aircraft overall given its set of air-to-air weapons and its agility.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘The primary role of the Royal Air Force is to defend the UK. We are aware of recent Russian military activity.

'RAF Typhoon fighters will continue to routinely intercept, identify and escort Russian aircraft that travel through international airspace within the UK’s area of interest.’

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