PAK DA strategic bomber taking shape

PAK DA is to replace the strategic Tupolev-95 (photo) and Tupolev-22M long-distance bombers. Source: Press Photo

PAK DA is to replace the strategic Tupolev-95 (photo) and Tupolev-22M long-distance bombers. Source: Press Photo

Media reports again focus on Russia’s plans to develop the new bomber for use in the next decade but some experts remain critical of Tupolev’s ability to undertake such a large project independently.

The development of the Russian Perspective Aviation Complex of Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) which is to replace Tupolev-95MC and Tupolev-22M3 planes, except the latest Tupolev-160, in the 2020s-2030s is being discussed in the press again.

According to some reports, the Russian Air Force has already chosen the shape of the new plane. It is to be a small inconspicuous long-distance subsonic plane. The media reports that the development of the new plane is being carried out by the Tupolev Design Bureau.

Some information published by the media raises experts’ doubts. First of all, many experts do not believe that the Tupolev Design Bureau is capable of independently developing such a large-scale project. In this connection it is believed that one of the participants in the project, if not the chief developer, will be the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It has enough experience in designing heavy planes, though it has never designed long-distance bombers.

It is believed that the PAK DA project could be based on the results obtained while making the T-50 fifth-generation fighter.

It is not the ultimate truth either that the speed of the new plane would not exceed the speed of the sound. One should take it into consideration that the prospective bomber is not only to replace the strategic Tupolev-95 but also Tupolev-22M long-distance bombers one of whose tasks is fighting against the enemy’s Navy. In this case supersonic speeds are essential.

Russia has inherited the USSR’s huge experience in the development and operation of the Air Force long-distance supersonic aircraft and naval missile-carrying supersonic aircraft. A platform for long-distance flights at maximum supersonic speeds could also be useful for reconnaissance and targeting in the Russian Navy. The Navy always stakes on the fire power of rocket launchers and submarines. For these vessels an outside firing pointer is of paramount importance.

Hard to say how much this reasoning coincides with the train of thought of the Russian Defence Ministry or the United Aircraft-Building Corporation. However, it is not too long to wait now, as the new aircraft is to rise into the sky before the end of this decade.

First published in The Voice of Russia.

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