MOSCOW, December 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers and Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range bombers will undergo major modernization in 2009, a strategic aviation commander said on Tuesday.
"Our aircraft have been in service for about 15 years, which is only a fraction of their lifespan. So next year we plan to conduct a deep modernization of our aircraft," said Maj. Gen. Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Army.
He said the bombers would be provided with new targeting and navigation systems, which would enable them, in particular, to use unguided bombs with a very high degree of accuracy - effectively engaging any target within 20 meters.
He added that the strategic bombers would have their operational range increased and their onboard defense systems significantly upgraded.
The general said that more than 60 strategic and long-range bombers, as well as 15 fuel tankers, had flown patrol missions in 2008.
He said they had carried out more than 60 sorties, launching over 100 tactical missiles and clocking a total of 660 flight hours.
He added that, for the first time in the history of Russia's strategic aviation, Tu-160 bombers had made two 15-hour flights with midair refueling of up to 25 tons of fuel on each mission.
The commander said that in 2008, Russian warplanes had accomplished successful patrol missions in various parts of the world, including over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as the Black Sea.