What is White Swan-TU160? Report Says Rogue Russian Engineer Gives US Secret Info on Largest Military Aircraft

A high-level Russian defector has offered the US military secrets including details of Russia's Tupolev Swan-TU160 aircraft, according to a report.

Yahoo News exclusively reported that the bomber engineer drove up to the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), seeking asylum and offering top level military secrets. The engineer, who drove up to the CBP in an armored SUV at an unnamed border outpost, said he was working at the Tupolev aircraft production facility in Kazan, west-central Russia.

Tupolev TU-160
Tupolev TU-160, Russian hypersonic fighter aircraft Wikimedia Commons / Kiril Naumenko

Credible Information

The defector arrived at the CBP outpost in December, and the US officials held weeks-long questioning to verify the claims of the engineer, whose personal details were not disclosed. The civil engineer, who feared arrest and persecution in Russia over his support of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, said he worked at the plant from 2018 to 2021.

Yahoo News said it was in possession of an unclassified Customs and Border Protection report detailing the episode.

The engineer described the aircraft type as 'an attack jet', adding that it was called White Swan-TU160, 'the largest military aircraft', the report said.

Tupolev TU-160
Tupolev TU-160, Russian hypersonic fighter jet Wikimedia Commons

Most Powerful Supersonic Aircraft

According to the Defense Bridge, White Swan-TU160 is 'the most powerful supersonic aircraft with variable geometry wings ever built in aviation for military purposes'. "It is also the world's largest combat aircraft with the highest take-off gross weight of bombers. With its power and grace, Tu-160 was unofficially named 'White Swan,'" the defense publication says.

The TU-160 White Swan is code-named by the NATO as 'Blackjack,. The aircraft, deemed to be the most advanced strategic bomber in use by Russia, was employed in tactical airstrike during the ongoing Ukraine war. "According to open-source reporting, a major new construction program of an improved version of the aircraft as well as an upgrade program of existing aircraft got underway at the Tupolev facility during the past few years," the CBP report highlights.

Critical Information

The Americans have significant information on the Tupolev TU-160 but the details the defector might be able to pass on are tactically important for the US military strategists. "We of course know the Russian bomber well. But specs, the real specs, nuclear capabilities — there are certainly things we would be interested in hearing about, if this guy is credible. The big thing is: Did they retrofit it for hypersonic missiles?" a military official told Yahoo News.