KAZAN - President Vladimir Putin praised a newly-built supersonic strategic bomber on Thursday after watching it in flight, saying it would beef up Russia's nuclear weapons capability.
Under a contract signed on Thursday, 10 of the modernized TU-160M nuclear bombers, codenamed Blackjacks by NATO, will be delivered to the Russian Air Force at a cost of 15 billion roubles ($269 million) each between now and 2027.
The giant swing-wing plane is a substantially modernized-version of a Soviet-era bomber that the USSR would have deployed in the event of a nuclear war with the West to deliver nuclear weapons at long distances.
"This is a serious step towards developing our hi-tech sphere and strengthening the country's ability to defend itself," said Putin, who said the new plane would strengthen Russia's nuclear weapons capability.
The TU-160M is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 12,000 km (7,500 miles) non—stop without re-fueling.