Developed by Tupolev since 2009, the future Russian strategic bomber, known by the acronym PAK-DA (something like advanced long-range aircraft) should begin to be built soon. According to a Russian publication, the aircraft, which will replace the veteran TU-95, TU-26 and TU-160 bombers, received the government’s green light, which listed a number of requirements for the project in recent months.
Details of the new aircraft are not very clear, but it is almost certain that Russia has given up a supersonic jet in favor of a subsonic and stealth layout. The best-known PAK-DA illustrations show a winged-wing aircraft. It is expected to fly for at least 12,000km with about 30 tons of armaments, including smart bombs and missiles.
With the first flight planned for 2021, the PAK-DA will be significantly simpler and cheaper than the future B-21 bomber being developed by Northrop Grumman. If that does happen, it will have been 40 years since the last Russian bomber, the TU-160 ‘Blackjack’, first flew in December 1981 in the midst of the Cold War.
Cold War Giant
The largest and fastest bomber to go into service in history, the TU-160, however, had restricted production: only 27 series units. Another problem with the Tupolev aircraft was that it became operational a few years before the end of the Soviet Union in 1987. At the time, the country was already under the effects of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost guidelines and with several budget cuts.
PAK-DA should find a much more uncertain scenario in the next decade. As presidents Donald Trump and Vladimiu Putin approach, strategists in both countries must have plenty of work to do.