It looks like the new Tu-160 bomber that the Air Force was planning to bring to active service in 2005 may not be a new bomber at all.

According to a report at, which quotes a source in the defense industry, this is an aircraft that was built in 1987 and has been in active service ever since. The only thing it lacked was a formal order that would "accept it for service". This order was reportedly signed in the end of December 2005, but no actual new aircraft has been added to the strategic aviation.

If this information is correct (and I tend to think it is), the total number of Tu-160 bombers will remain at 14 through the end of 2006, when a new Tu-160 is expected to be added to the force. If we believe the words of the commander of the Long-Range Aviation and the 2006 acquisition plan, that is. The source was quite skeptical about this aircraft, hinting that the construction hasn't begun yet.

I guess sorting through this situation and finding out how many aircraft are really in service is going to take some time. Stay tuned.