RUSSIA IS TESTING a next-generation air-launched long-range cruise missile at the air force's Ahktubinsk air-weapons evaluation centre.

The development, thought to have been initiated in the late 1980s, is probably the recently, reported Raduga Kh-101 subsonic-cruise-missile programme.

The missile is being tested from a modified Tupolev Tu-95, thought to carry either the Tu-95MA or Tu-95PA designation. The aircraft was photographed in Ahktubinsk in July.

A large weapons pylon of a new design is visible close to the fuselage under the port wing. On the starboard wing, a camera fairing is also visible suggesting that, a similar weapons station is also located inboard of the starboard inner-engine nacelle.

The Kh-101 is thought to be a subsonic cruise missile with a range of over 2,770km (1500nm), according to previous reports. The programme may have been given added impetus by the cancellation of the Kh-90 supersonic-cruise-missile project. The latter is thought to correspond to the Nato designation AS-19.

The AS-19 programme was cancelled in 1992 because of a lack of funding, according to sources. The AS-19 was intended for the Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear H strategic-bombers. Test flights had been carried out.

The Kh-101 is believed to have a conventional warhead, although it is still likely to be fitted to the Bear-H, and to the air force's few Blackjacks remaining in service, along with the Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire.

Source: Flight International