Strategic bomber aviation has been a long-time pride of the Soviet and Russian Air Force, and now the time has come for it to enter a new era of warfare. This is the story of the first new Russian bomber after 40 years of silence. Is it a new cutting-edge design or just another expensive project with no future?
Let’s dive into the secrecy behind the PAK-DA, or as the Russians call it – the Messenger.
Top Secret Bomber Project
Until this plane is cruising in the skies, at this point, it can be quite hard to tell if this is just fact or ambitious propaganda. That’s because its specifications are still rather up in the clouds as we speak.
Dubbed the PAK-DA, this aircraft is touted to be a next-generation strategic bomber still under development at the Tupolev Design Bureau.
PAK-DA stands for Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation. With a 12,000 km operational range, the PAK-DA can fly from Moscow to any city in North America, Brazil, and even Australia.
Refueling isn’t an issue since it can fly its crew members subsonically for up to 30 hours to circle targets or to hide deep in the clouds until needed.
New Miracle Plane?
Although there were rumors about this project back in the 1990s, the first concrete effort to create a new bomber project was in 2007. This was when the Russian Air Force gave out the first set of technical and tactical requirements for a new bomber.
The main idea was to build a new plane that could surpass the current characteristics of the TU-160. A number of TU-160s have been lost during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the Russian bomber fleet has been lacking in that area, leading to the need for the PAK-DA and the modernization and renewal of the TU-160 production line.
In Full Swing
In 2019, it was finally confirmed that the prototyping was in full swing and is expected to have ground testing sometime in 2022, with a possible first light between 2023 and 2024.
Also, the focus will be on missiles as its main weaponry. Hypersonic missiles such as the Kinzhal will be featured for sure. This leads to the idea of Russia building a pre-emptive strike jet, hitting anywhere in the world. With US-Russia relations getting worse in recent years, this might also be a clear sign that the latter wants to be in the same position as the US with its first-strike capabilities, using this to either further escalate or de-escalate the current situation.
Not the Only Stealth Strategic Bomber
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only stealth strategic bomber under development – there’s also the Chinese Xian H-20, which looks similar to the B-2 flying wing bomber.
However, like the PAK-DA, it’s more of a paper project than a reality, with ever-evolving timelines.