The commander of the 37th Air Army, which comprises Russian long-range and strategic bombers, in his interview to the VPK newspaper, clarified the situation with bomber modernizations and construction plans.

The Tu-160 aircraft that the 37th army will recieve later this month is indeed an old plane that just underwent some modernization. As Gen.-Lt. Khvorov mentioned, the modernization was not as deep as the Air Force hoped it would be - the bomber did not get new avionics, although it will be capable of using conventional weapons.

According to Khvorov, all Tu-160 bomber will eventually get a complete overhaul, which will include new (digital) avionics and upgrade to conventional-weapon capabilities. The first aircraft of this kind will probably be the new Tu-160 that the Air Force is planning to get by the end of 2006. As far as I understand, this will be the 15th Tu-160 aircraft (not 16th as I suggested earlier).