Russia's Newly Built 'Valentina' Stealth Bomber Compared to U.S. B-2 Spirit

Russia on Tuesday officially christened the first bomber jet completed as part of its plan to restart production on the Tu-160, a much faster jet than the United States Army's B-2 stealth bombers.

As reported by the state-run news agency, TASS, the new bomber was named in honor of Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet-era cosmonaut, who, in 1963, became the first woman to travel to space. The name, confirmed by United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Chief Yury Slyusar, comes as part of Russia's tradition of naming its Tu-160s after prominent figures in its history of long-range aviation.

The Tu-160, designated "Blackjack" by NATO, was first planned by the Tupelov Design Bureau in the 1970s, entering service in 1987 and reentering production sporadically in the decades since. Today, it remains the fastest bomber jet in service, as well as the heaviest and largest combat aircraft in general. While not a true stealth aircraft like the B-2, its design incorporates features to reduce its detectability by radar and infrared sensors.

russian bomber jet comparison
The above photos show a Russian Tu-160 jet (main) compared to a U.S. B-2 Spirit (inset). Russia officially christened the first completed Tu-160 produced under its new plan to restart the construction of the bomber jet line, on February 14, 2023. Cherie A. Thurlby; Vladimir Astapkovich/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images; Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

The new Valentina unit is part of the improved Tu-160M series, which features numerous upgraded components as well as a greater operational range and new defense systems. It is the first completed unit under Russia's plan to restart production of the series, having undergone test flights and factory tests last year. Further units are still in the works.

The U.S. Air Force's comparable heavy strategic bomber, Northrop Grumman's B-2 Spirit, began production in 1987, the year the Tu-160 entered service, and was deployed in the field by 1997. Production of the crafts continued until 2000, with 20 units still in service out of 21 that were built. They are planned to remain in service until 2032, when they will start being replaced by B-21 Raiders.

The Tu-160s are capable of reaching much greater speeds than the B-2 Spirits, with a maximum speed of roughly 1,380 miles per hour, compared to the latter's maximum of 630 mph. Both are able to hit max speed at up to a height of roughly 40,000 feet.

The Spirit does outclass the Tu-160 in terms of ordnance capacity, at least hypothetically. Officially, the B-2 can carry up to 40,000 pounds of ordnance in its two weapon bays, though estimates put its true limit at around 50,000 pounds. The Tu-160, meanwhile, has an official limit of 45,000 pounds.

According to a recently declassified CBP report, a Russian engineer with experience working on bomber crafts arrived with his family at the southern border of the U.S. in December, seeking asylum and offering information about Russian crafts that the country would find useful.

The man reportedly feared retaliation from the government over his participation in anti-Putin protests. He claimed to have worked "from 2018 to 2021" for Tupelov on "a particular type of military airplane," later determined to be the new Tu-160s.