It is probably time for a quick update on the status of the Russian strategic bomber modernization program. Russia seems to have quite a big plan. Two years ago, in May 2015, the air force announced that it wants to buy as many 50 new Tu-160 aircraft. This is apparently still very much the plan - in an interview last month the head of the United Aircraft Corporation said that the industry expects to produce from 30 to 50 new aircraft, which are now known as Tu-160M2. Production is expected to begin in 2021. [UPDATE: The first test Tu-160M2 aircraft is expected to be ready in 2019.]

Meanwhile, all 16 "old" Tu-160 bombers that are currently in service will be completely refurbished. Initially, the idea was to complete the overhaul by 2019, but in the most recent announcement, made by Yuri Borisov, the deputy minister of defense last month, the date was left uncertain - it's only that the old Tu-160 will remain in force until the arrival of the new Tu-160M2. Some Tu-160 bomber are already undergoing modernization, but it is difficult to say whether it is a "new" modernization or the "old" one - see the discussion in this post.

According to Borisov, Tu-95MS should be able to stay in service as long as it is necessary to be eventually replaced by the new PAK-DA. The original plan for PAK-DA was that it will make its first flight in 2019 and begin service in 2023. The work on PAK-DA is said to be underway since 2011. The contract was awarded to Tupolev design bureau in 2014.

It's hard to say how realistic (or indeed reasonable) is the plan to have all these modernization and new design and construction programs at the same time. The industry has its share of problems, so it should not surprise anyone if all dates will begin to "move to the right."