|KIT:||Zvezda 1/144 Tu-160 'Blackjack'|
The Tupolev Tu-160, NATO code name ‘Blackjack’, was a bomber project first started in the early 1970s by the Soviet Union as a response to the U.S. B-1 program. The B-1 went through much controversy before being cancelled, then resurrected as the B-1B. Similarly, the TU-160 had a long and expensive development period before becoming operational, having had to survive the breakup of the Soviet Union, among many other hurdles.
The aircraft that emerged has more than a passing resemblance to the B-1, although it is much larger. It also has the capability of flying at slightly over Mach 2, significantly faster than the B-1B, to deliver its payload of cruise missiles or short range attack rockets. An almost death blow to the program was that when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, almost all of the aircraft produced to that point, 19, were based in the now independent Ukrainian Republic! Eventually a deal was worked out to return the 8 most airworthy examples to the Russian Federation, while the Ukraine, having no interest in nuclear weapons or the assets to deliver them, destroyed the other aircraft except for one retained as a static display. Today, there are just over a dozen of these aircraft in Russian Federation service.
Zvezda has recently started offering their version of the Tu-160 in a 1/144 scale kit, not long after Trumpeter’s 1/72 kit appeared. Zvezda’s box and instructions make mention that their kit was designed with the help of the Tupolev design bureau. So what’s inside then? 6 sprues of light gray plastic and a small clear sprue will make up a TU-160 kit that even in this scale will be larger than most 1/72 WW2 bombers. All of the sprues were loose in the box, and my clear canopy had broken free, but none of the parts were damaged.
2 sprues account for upper and lower fuselage halves, with some separate nose and tail pieces. Another has the wings, while a fourth has the engine pods. 2 identical sprues provide common details like wheels and the weapons bay parts. The sprues feature recessed panel line detail and I did not find any sink marks or flash on my example. The kit has a cockpit with seats and sticks, but there will be little to be seen through the small windows. The swing wings can be built at fully forward, intermediate, or full sweep positions. The weapons bays can be posed open, and two rotary launchers and 6 Kh-55 Raduga cruise missiles are given. This seems to be short of a full load, as most references state 6 missiles can be carried in each bay, for a total of 12. The landing gear can also be extended or retracted, although no stand is provided.
A large sheet of paper folded into 8 pages gives a brief history, parts map, 35 construction steps, and a painting guide. Colors are keyed to Testors Model Master and Zvezda paints. All the TU-160s are overall white with natural metal areas on the engine pods. The markings are all pretty similar too, differing in only some minor details and aircraft names. If you’re interested, the options given in the kit are ‘Ilya Mourmets’, after the mythical Russian knight who also gave his name to Sikorsky’s WW1 Russian bombers. ‘Pavel Taran’ was a WW2 bomber pilot and twice Hero of the Soviet Union award winner who also had a long post war career in the Soviet Air Force and with the Tupolev bureau. The last option is named ‘Ivan Yarigin’, a Soviet two time Olympic champion wrestler. I knew that year of Russian I took in school would come in handy some day!
This kit looks to be a nice option for those interested in the TU-160, but don’t have the space or budget for Trumpeter’s kit. I bet it would look great parked next to one of the Panda Models 1/144 B-1 kits.
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