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Putin inspects nuclear-capable bombers (VIDEO)

President Vladimir Putin visited the Kazan aircraft plant in Russia’s Tatarstan Republic on Wednesday, inspecting four Tu-160M strategic bombers.

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The nuclear-capable aircraft were significantly modernized at the plant, with up to 80% of their systems and mechanisms replaced. The modernization process effectively turns the Tu-160M into a new plane, retaining only the airframe of the iconic bomber, which was introduced in the late 1980s.

The president boarded one of the planes, spending some ten minutes in the cockpit, footage from the scene shows. Putin descended from the aircraft via a steep ladder before speaking to plant officials about the aircraft.

After learning that the aircraft has yet to be named – Tu-160s are usually given monikers in Russia – the president proposed naming it after Mintimer Shaimiev, the first president of Tatarstan, who he said “had done a lot for the whole country.”

The Tu-160M aircraft, along with the Tu-22M and veteran Tu-95 strategic bombers, remains a pillar of Russian long-range aviation. The plane was created primarily to carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, but it can also be equipped with a wide range of conventional munitions.

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