USSR Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack Relic Display by Ron Cole

The Mach 2+ ‘Blackjack’ strategic bomber entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1987, shortly before the dissolution of the USSR. Built in limited numbers, the Tu-160 established 78 world records recognized by the FAI - 44 of which it still holds. Often believed to be a copy of the Rockwell B-1, the Tu-160 is actually more comparable to the experimental XB-70 Mach 2+ aircraft - larger and faster then the B-1. The fragment, at right, was salvaged from a ‘Blackjack’ in post-USSR Ukrainian Air Force service that was broken up in accordance with the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act.

Only 28 Tu-160s entered service, and many have been destroyed since production ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. When Ukraine gained its independence, most of the Soviet Tu-160 fleet was left on their side of the border. In 1999, most of those aircraft were returned to Russia in exchange for debt relief, while the remaining Blackjacks were 'demilitarized' under the supervision of the United States. U.S. crews broke up the last of these aircraft (see photos) and those involved were permitted to take small pieces from the wreckage after the operation was complete.   

Each display is ready to hang, in a black 13x19-inch frame (artwork size is 11x17-inches), signed and numbered. Edition size will not exceed 50 and will likely be less, as only one exterior panel from the collection is practical to be cut and shared. 


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